A Finite Element Model of an Equine Hoof

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Abstract

One of the most critical equine hoof diseases is laminitis, which can cause lameness. For its assessment and treatment, deep comprehension of the biomechanics of a horse's hoof is crucial. The aim of this research was therefore to create a finite element model of a horse's hoof to understand how laminitis could affect the overall performance of the hoof. The model contains all the relevant tissues, including the distal phalanx, navicular bone, middle phalanx, flexor and extensor tendon, laminar junction, hoof wall, sole, frog, and digital cushion. Material parameters of most of the components are based on available literature data; the least squares fitting on a uniaxial traction test is used in the case of the laminar junction. The model is validated by comparisons with experimental values and data in the literature. The effect of the decreasing stiffness of the laminar junction as a symptom of laminitis on the overall mechanical response of the model is studied. This effect results in the rotation and sinking of the distal phalanx, which is experimentally observed for laminitic horses. That is, the model created allows for the study of the aspects of the behavior of the hoof that are affected by laminitis by varying the material properties of the laminar junction. This approach can be useful for veterinary specialists to assess the severity of the laminitis and the treatment approach that they choose.

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