The effect of gallop training on hoof angle in Thoroughbred racehorses

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Abstract

Reasons for performing study:

The economic impact of soundness problems in racehorses is very high and low hoof angle at the toe has been associated with a lack of soundness. However, it is not clear what environmental and management factors might contribute to a low hoof angle.

Objectives:

To investigate the hypothesis that the hooves of racehorses become flatter when in gallop training, as well as to determine factors contributing to this trend.

Methods:

Weekly hoof measurements were taken with a hoof gauge from 45 Thoroughbred racehorses; 4 Thoroughbred show horses kept in consistent conditions and shod by the same farrier as some of the racehorses; and 6 unshod free-ranging horses. A further 15 horses were measured twice in one day to determine the repeatability of the method.

Results:

Repeatability coefficients were 0.31° for the left hoof and 0.37° for the right. Racehorses in training showed a significant decrease in hoof angle over time while free ranging horses and show horses did not. Free-ranging horses had a significantly lower angle in winter (wet) compared with summer (dry) in both left (P = 0.040) and right (P = 0.017). Show horses had no significant change in hoof angle. Racehorses that had a period of rest during the experiment (n = 11) showed a decrease in hoof angle during training and an increase over their rest period for both hooves (P = 0.005 for the left hoof, P = 0.0009 for the right).

Conclusions:

Training for fast exercise in Thoroughbred racehorses is associated with a reduction in hoof angle and wet pasture conditions may also be associated with a reduced hoof angle in free-ranging horses.

Potential relevance:

Gallop exercise has a potentially large effect on hoof angle and therefore, a change in angle should be expected to occur in racehorses starting fast exercise work. Hence management of horses with abnormally low hoof angles may require an adaptation to their training regime in order to minimise this effect.

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