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Hard Surface Impacts on Horse's Limbs
Published: May 24, 2017

Several years ago, a group of French scientists developed a pressure sensitive horse shoe called a dynamometric shoe. They believed the shoe would help determine the effects of different surfaces on injury. These veterinarians recently presented a paper proving that a hard track does increase the chance of injury. And although this may be expected by many horsemen, it has not been looked a scientifically until now. The scientists used the dynamometric shoe on selected fore and hind hooves of ridden and driven horses, and the shoe provided information about forces and loading rates at each instance of the stance. Synchronized cameras provided high-speed video footage to allow the scientists to monitor the movement frame by frame so they could measure all angles of joints, tendons and ligaments.

During the stance, the horse’s hooves come in contact with the surface, and slide and sink into the surface; how far depends on the surface. The study looked at different kinds of footing, top layer thickness and surface maintenance methods. It was found that hard tracks are associated with a much higher injury rate than softer ones. A recent study followed 12 standard bred horses over four months and those training on a hard sand track developed 50 percent more tendon injuries than those training on a soft sand track. They also studied jumping horses on sand footing with three different thicknesses of 3, 5, and 8 inches, and the 3-inch thick surface was the most likely to cause injury. They also found that harrowing the surface was much better to prevent injury than rolling the surface. Consequently, frequent harrowing and using a sand surface greater than 5 inches or more is recommended to prevent injury.

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