Steel horse shoes with polyurethane soles reduce risk of overloading front legs, findings suggest

Horseshoe types used in the present study. (a) A steel shoe covered with screwed-on polyurethane on the ground surface, a front shoe is shown in unused condition; (b) A traditional carriage-driving steel shoe with toe grab, two studs, and four pins (two of them in the toe grab and one in each stud) of a hind shoe in used condition. Photos: Moore et al.

Steel horseshoes with a soft polyurethane covering on their base may aid in reducing overload in the front legs of horses, study findings suggest.

Researchers set out to see how steel shoes whose ground surface is covered with soft polyurethane compared with traditional steel shoes.

Lauren Veneta Moore and her colleagues used four horses commonly used for carriage driving in Vienna, Austria, for their study.

In Vienna, which has cobbled streets, asphalt, concrete, and a variety of other surfaces, Landau carriages drawn by two-horse teams are common.

Most of these carriage horses wear steel shoes with a variety of anti-slip features, such as toe grabs, studs, and pins.

The polyurethane shoes were applied by nailing a steel shoe to the hoof, after which the polyurethane segments comprising the sole were screwed on to the ground surface of the steel shoe.

When the conventional steel shoes were tested, two horses had grabs and pins fitted, while two had only pins and no grabs in the toe area.

For the experiment, accelerometers were attached to the front of the hooves to measure hoof acceleration during trotting in hand on an asphalt track, intended to replicate a city street. The animals were permitted to trot at their self-selected speed.

The positioning of the acceleromter. Photo: Moore et al.

The study team found that hooves experienced less abrupt deceleration during landing with the polyurethane-covered shoes. They also experienced more acceleration after push-off from the ground.

Front and hind hooves showed similar accelerations when shod with the polyurethane-covered shoe, they said, while front hooves were undergoing harder deceleration than hind hooves when shod with the traditional steel shoe.

“Finally, with the softer shoes horses trotted faster and with longer strides than with the steel shoes,” they reported in the open-access journal Animals.

The polyurethane shoes led to a more even distribution of accelerations between fore and hindlimbs than the steel shoes.

“This indicates that polyurethane shoes may aid in reducing the overload present in the front limbs of horses.”

The researchers noted that, while the trotting speed was different, the number of motion cycles used for each length was not significantly different.

“Therefore, horses mainly made slower strides when shod with steel shoes than when shod with polyurethane shoes.

“It would be of great interest to associate this finding with the level of comfort that the horses experienced when trotting with either of the two shoe types; unfortunately, the present study did not investigate this complex, but relevant question.”

The study team comprised Lauren Veneta Moore and Theresia Franziska Licka from the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna; Rebeka Roza Zsoldos, from the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, also in Vienna.

Trot Accelerations of Equine Front and Hind Hooves Shod with Polyurethane Composite Shoes and Steel Shoes on Asphalt
Lauren Veneta Moore, Rebeka Roza Zsoldos and Theresia Franziska Licka.
Animals 2019, 9(12), 1119;

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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One thought on “Steel horse shoes with polyurethane soles reduce risk of overloading front legs, findings suggest

  • December 30, 2019 at 1:13 am

    I find this to be an interesting study. Although to increase the level of research it would be interesting to see the same test on horses without shoes too. Dispite their being a period for habitation it may provide a basis as to what is more ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ for the horse. It would also be interesting to see the level of force going through the limbs with each shoe type.


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