Researchers Explain Short Shoeing Intervals

Farriers and veterinarians have said for years that shoeing intervals should be at most six to eight weeks, but why? Researchers from the Equine Performance Laboratory at Utrecht University (Netherlands) say it's because horses must compensate for the extra hoof growth by lowering the coffin joint angle, which places additional strain on their deep digital flexor tendons (DDFT).

Meike van Heel, MSc, BSc, PhD, and her colleagues examined the hoof growth and angle of nine sound Warmblood horses over an eight-week period. Two days after shoeing, the researchers measured the horses' placement of their hooves using a pressure plate designed by Heel. Researchers also used X rays of hoof angles to determine its relationship to the proximal (pastern) and distal (coffin) interphalangeal joints (DIPJ). These measurements were repeated at the end of the eight-week interval, and the data were compared.

The study results showed that the hoof angle decreases significantly during a shoeing interval of eight weeks, and horses must compensate for this change in hoof angle by rocking the hoof-pastern axis backward, thereby increasing the extension in the coffin joint. This places increased strain and risk of injury on lesion-prone tissues, such as the DDFT.

The study stated, "The substantial effect of the change in hoof angle during the shoeing interval on the joint angle of the DIPJ emphasizes the need for a relatively short shoeing interval and for an individually determined interval for each horse."

Heel explained, "Instead of using a shoeing interval based on tradition, we should use an interval based on the individual horse--on his conformation and hoof growth. We saw in this study horses adapt, to a certain extent, to a shoeing interval, but if the horse is reshod after that interval, the horse has to make a relatively large adaptation and might therefore be predisposed to injuries. So it is not a good idea to shoe a horse one or two days before a competition."

She recommends, "Trim toward a straight hoof-pastern axis, and aim at a flat landing. Shoe the horse with a rolled toe; maintain an individual shoeing interval for each horse depending on its limb/hoof conformation and hoof growth.

"A short, tailor-made shoeing interval, and a well balanced hoof and shoe are very important in the prevention of overload injuries in our sport horses."

Researchers in the study, which was published in the March 2006 Equine Veterinary Journal, included Heel; A. Barneveld, DVM, PhD; P.R. van Weeren, DVM, PhD; M. Moleman, DVM, MSc, Vet Res; and W. Back, DVM, PhD.

About the Author

Chad Mendell

Chad Mendell is the former Managing Editor for .

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