“To shoe or not to shoe?” Equine joint study looks at pressure loading

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A new research project at Canada’s University of Guelph is taking a look at pressure loading on horse’s joints to shed light on the age-old question of whether horses should be shod.

Most of the current research in this area has focused on thoroughbreds and standardbreds, but Dr Jeff Thomason is using quarter horses for the new study, investigating the changes of loading pressure on the joints of the horse as it relates to shoeing for the summer.

Danielle Halucha with one of the sensors used in the study looking at loading pressure on the joints of the horse.
Danielle Halucha with one of the sensors used in the study looking at loading pressure on the joints of the horse. © Jackie Zions

The study aims to help researchers better understand how the loading pressure placed on horses’ joints may change when we horses are shod.

Danielle Halucha, a student in Thomason’s lab, is working on the project for the summer. She said that first, horses with shoes on are evaluated while performing several different exercises at different gaits with a rider on.

“Then, the shoes are removed and the horses are allowed time to adjust. The same horses are then re-evaluated performing the same exercises and gaits, with the same rider on, but without shoes.”

Halucha said the horses are evaluated moving in a straight line and around corners, and researchers use four different sensors, as well as reflective equipment, to monitor the horses speed and movements. The effects of shoe versus no shoe are investigated with several variables, including differences in footing/surfaces (e.g. concrete, rubber mat, dirt), direction (using a figure eight pattern), gait, and lead and counter-lead (at a canter).

Halucha is excited at what the findings will reveal. She is starting a Master of Science degree with Dr Thomason in the fall, investigating asymmetrical limb loading in thoroughbreds.

Visit Equine Guelph’s interactive Journey through the Joints to learn more about equine joints.

Reporting: Nicole Weidner

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One thought on ““To shoe or not to shoe?” Equine joint study looks at pressure loading

  • August 4, 2017 at 11:39 pm
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    If this is a “summer project”, just how much time are the horses being given to “adjust” to barefoot? What actions are they taking to make the adjustments? Are they following a proper complete protocol of correct diet and environment for bare hooves? Too many holes in this “study”!!

    Reply

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