The Effect of Horse Shoes on Equine Hoof Shape

Tue, 08/28/2012 - 11:27
Veterinary News

Limited data exist on the effect of horse shoes on hoof shape. Researchers Malone and Davies of the University of Melbourne carried out a randomised, controlled, crossover study designed to test the hypothesis that significantly different changes in hoof shape would occur when horses were shod versus barefoot.

Eleven adult Quarter Horse mares (mean age 15.4 years; range 8 to 22 years) underwent both treatments; control (barefoot) and shod (standard steel shoe). At the beginning and the end of each 7 week treatment period duplicate measurements of proximal hoof circumference (PHC) and hoof angle (HA) were taken of both forelimbs using a flexible seamstress tape and an aluminium hoof gauge, respectively.

Horses were barefoot and maintained on a 7 week trimming interval prior to the start of the study. All horses were managed under the same conditions, fed the same diet, and underwent no forced exercise during the trial (June-September). Horse’s hooves were trimmed before the start of each 7 week period.

Changes in PHC and HA were compared using a paired t-test with significance set at p<0.05. PHC decreased more when horses were shod compared to barefoot by 0.65 cm (SE 0.15; p<0.001) in the left forelimb and by 0.78 cm (SE 0.12; p<0.001) in the right forelimb. HA decreased more when horses were shod compared to barefoot by 1.5 degrees (SE 0.61; p<0.05) in the left forelimb and by 1.8 degrees (SE 0.57; p<0.05) in the right forelimb.

This study indicated significant differences in PHC and HA changes between the two treatments, with horses showing significantly larger decreases in PHC and HA when shod. This difference in hoof shape could have a significant effect on the horse, and additional research is necessary for a better understanding of the factors that contribute to hoof shape changes and the potential consequences.

This study indicated that horses had significantly different changes in proximal hoof circumference and hoof angle when shod compared to when the same horses were barefoot over a 7 week trimming interval. A better understanding of the relationship between hoof shape and
shoeing may lead to better management practices

- 2012 ISES Conference Abstract
Photo © Astrid Appels

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