Some surfaces are better than others for hoof health measure its change in shape when bearing weight.
The gauges detected differences in hoof strain when the horses were moving at various speeds and gaits, on a turn or straight, with or without a horseshoe or rider, and before and after trimming by a blacksmith. “It’s surprising how sensitive the hoof actually is to external changes,” says Thomason.“It’s so sensitive that we can even detect the rider’s movement on the horse’s back.” He and graduate student Heather McClinchey used their findings to create a computer model that illustrates the changes in hoof shape each time it hits the ground.
As the foot lands, the bone inside it, which is suspended in soft tissue, initially moves down under the horse’s weight, depressing the front of the hoof capsule and spreading the heel area of the hoof.
When the foot pushes off, the bone moves and the hoof regains its resting shape. T “By understanding how these changes affect weight-bearing capabilities, we can expect to make horse shoeing an individual science.” – Jeff Thomason All these fluctuations in the hoof capsule and soft tissue actually create long-term permanent changes in the shape of the continuously growing hoof, says Thomason, who is currently investigating this effect with master’s student Babak Faramarzi and technician Warren Bignell.
They will soon be measuring internal and external hoof structures using MRI scans in 20 horses at rest and in training, to identify patterns in the changes over a seven-month period. “Eventually, we hope to take information about how different shoeing techniques affect the hoof function and shape back to the industry,” says Thomason. “With better management of equine athlete’s feet, many short-lived performance careers could perhaps be extended.” This research is sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Ontario Harness Racing Industry Association and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.
Graduate students Janet Douglas and Linda Franchetto were also involved.
R Equine Guelph he thunder of hooves pounding the racetrack excites an audience, but horses may see it differently.
At racing speeds, a horse’s hoof hits the ground at least 150 times a minute, sending vibrations up the leg that cause concussions in the joints.
This may lead to chronic and irreversible arthritis and other career-ending injuries.
Jim Dickey, Human Biology and Nutritional Sciences, is looking at Ontario racetracks to see if their surfaces vary, possibly increasing injury potential.The harder the track surface, the more concussion (vibrations induced by impact with the track) felt by the horse’s hoof and leg as they make contact with the ground. “We believe different racetracks have higher or lower concussion properties that may be related to acute and chronic injury in the horse,” says Dickey. “We intend to determine surface variability among Ontario tracks as felt by the horse’s hoof.” In horses and humans, arthritis results from damage to cartilage (the tissue between bones), which causes joint stiffness and pain.
Acute injuries, including damage to ligaments and tendons, are slow to heal and require lengthy recoveries.
Countless horses have met their career’s end after incurring such injuries.
Dickey tested four standardbreds trotting at racing speeds (a two-minute mile) on three Ontario racetracks last summer.
The horses wore the same style of horseshoe because his previous research has shown that as horseshoe style and running speed vary, so does hoof concussion.
His research team used an accelerometer — a device that measures machinery vibrations — to determine concussion that causes injury.
The dice-sized accelerometer was glued to the inside front hoof because the inside forelimb takes a greater load around turns and is most commonly injured, says Dickey.
The data gathered were examined using a process called “filterbank analysis,” in which computer software determines the concussion from the recorded vibrations.
Originally, filterbank analysis was applied to human studies, but it has adapted well to this equine counterpart.
Dickey found clear differences among the track surfaces, which will be reported back to track operators. “All Ontario tracks are constructed to specifications and use similar stone dust from local quarries,” says Dickey. “If these tracks can be further modified to reduce injury to horses, then we should do so.” In the future, the research team hopes to determine variables that influence track conditions, including water retention and grooming practices.
Also involved in this study were Profs.
Mark Hurtig, Clinical Studies; Jeff Thomason, Biomedical Sciences; and John Runciman, Engineering.
This research was sponsored by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food.
R RESEARCH Spring 2003 33 MAKING HORSES BETTER Feed gone foul Fusarium-contaminated feed can put horses at risk by Lisa Caines or corn that’s contaminated with Fusarium mycotoxins — toxins produced by fungus — affect the animals that eat it. “High levels of Fusarium mycotoxin contamination produce symptoms that horse owners and caregivers can see, but the effects of low levels of contamination on horses haven’t been explored extensively,” ?
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