Using a three-pronged approach, a new study has revealed some of the mechanical forces that metal horse shoes apply to equine hooves. A single Thoroughbred was used for the preliminary case study, which was completed by Olga Panagiotopoulou, Jeffery Rankin, Stephen Gatesy and John Hutchinson. The movement of one Thoroughbred was first studied unshod, then with stainless steel front shoes applied, reports Horse Talk.
The preliminary study illustrated that the shoes may influence the mechanics of a horse's front feet during slow walking. Researchers note that their study is inconclusive on some important aspects, such as those needed to quantify the effects of the shoe on the equine front feet during the stance phase, while working at faster speeds, on the hind feet and under different trimming protocols.
They hope to expand their research, which will help better understand the function, form and pathological relationships of the tissues of the foot.
Musculoskeletal injuries in racehorses are caused by many things, including track surface, working at higher speeds and pre-existing conditions. The hoof, which is the third digit upon which a horse stands, is adapted for fast speeds, but the hoof and joints in the leg received most of the impact as a horse's foot strikes the ground. At fast speeds, this can be a load more than 2.5 times the weight of the horse.
When a horse loads his leg with weight while in motion, the coronary and distal borders of the hoof expand, the dorsal hoof wall rotates and the heel expands naturally. Adding shoes to the hooves, which can be made of different types of materials, at differing angles, can greatly affect the hoof's ability to expand.
Previous studies have shown that elevating the hoof increased pressure on the coffin joint, which could increase the likelihood of degenerative joint diseases. Other studies have assessed different shoe designs and their stresses on locomotion, but no study has ever measures the effect of horse shoes and their stresses on the foot of the living horse.
For this study, researchers measured the effects of horse shoes by combining three-dimensional data from inverse dynamics methods, X-rays on two planes and finite element analysis.
A 1,190-pound horse previously trained for locomotion research was used for the study. He was led across a platform 344 times while unshod over the course of 2 weeks. Each pass took between 2 and 4 seconds, during which time x-ray imaging and high-definition video from two high-speed digital cameras were collected.
The horse's front feet were then trimmed slightly and fitted with stainless steel shoes with toe clips. The shoes were held in place by six nails. The horse was then walked over the platform 65 times. Fewer passes with the horse wearing shoes were done because there was a lot of incomplete data from the shod passes.
Preliminary study results suggest that the stainless steel shoe shifts mediolateral, craniocaudal and vertical ground reaction forces at mid-stance, the study team reported. A similar pattern of flexion-extension in the pastern and coffin joints between the unshod and shod conditions was observed, as well as a slight variation in rotation angles throughout the stance phase in both shod and unshod trails.
When shod, the horse was more extended in his pastern joint, while the unshod horse was more extended in his coffin joint. The coffin joint extended more than the pastern joint in both shod and unshod horses.
Mid-stance, stresses on the phalanges occurred in the shod horse, which tentatively concludes that a steel shoe might increase mechanical loading. Researchers suggest that more study is needed.
Read more at Horse Talk.
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