Modifying the Height of Horseshoes: Effects of Wedge Shoes, Studs, and Rocker Shoes on the Phalangeal Alignment, Pressure Distribution, and Hoof-Ground Contact During Motion

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Abstract

This study was designed as a comparative study with the intention to accumulate fundamental data on a wide variety of farriery methods. Twenty-five warmblood/crossbred horses, allocated into five groups (n = 5), underwent radiological and kinetic examination of the barefoot hoof, the shod hoof with a standard horseshoe, and finally a modified horseshoe. For radiographic measurements, a special podoblock with embedded reference points and changeable ground surfaces was used. Kinetic examinations were performed by placing one sensor between the shoe and the hoof and the second sensor between the shoe and the ground and then walking the horses on four different ground surfaces. When wedges were applied, the palmar angle increased by approximately 5° on all surfaces. However, this effect was only seen on firm surfaces combined with studs. Using a rocker shoe, the palmar angle increased on a firm surface (0.6 ± 0.3°) and decreased on a deformable surface (0.8 ± 0.3°). No consistent data were noted for the orientation of the proximal and middle phalanx in relation to the palmar angle. Pressure distribution showed wedges and studs to cause an increased pressure load on both the toe and the heels on a firm surface. Rocker shoes led to pressure peaks at the inner section of the toe, and high pressure was exerted on the quarters. In conclusion, all modified horseshoes showed unintended side effects and their influence on biomechanical parameters varied depending on the ground surface.

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