Horse Hoof Changes Over an 8-Week Growth Period  

Researchers evaluated changes in kinematic parameters due to changes in hoof length and form over an eight-week shoeing period.  
Horse hooves wearing shoes.
The greatest differences over an eight-week shoeing period were in stride length, longitudinal balance, and palmar/plantar angle. | Getty Images

Over an eight-week period, a horse’s dorsal hoof wall generally grows about 1 centimeter in length. To determine how a horse’s gait changes over this eight-week period, researchers used inertial sensor measurements to evaluate changes in kinematic parameters due to changes in hoof length and form.  

The study included 20 Swiss Warmbloods. Researchers excluded horses with lameness greater than Grade 1 (AAEP scale 1-5) from the analysis. The horses were shod on Day 1, radiographed on Days 3 and 58, and subjected to dynamic testing on Days 4 and 57. 

Changes in Kinematic Parameters Over 8-Week Shoeing Period

The authors reported that the greatest differences over an eight-week shoeing period were in stride length, longitudinal balance, and palmar/plantar angle. (Stride length is the horizontal distance covered in one stride. Longitudinal balance refers to the horse’s position in space on the X-Y plane.) These changes occurred gradually over many weeks, but trimming and shoeing reversed them immediately. 

As time progressed in the shoeing cycle, stride length increased. The trot stride lengthened 20-22%, and the canter stride increased 13-15%. The horses tended to lean more forward toward the end of the eight-week period. This corresponds to a more positive palmar/plantar angle that shifts a horse’s weight toward the front, but it is not a causal relationship. In addition, horses carry more weight on their forelimbs as speed increases. Stride length “remains specific to the individual and is not necessarily primarily the result of a horse’s size/height.”

Smaller vs. Larger Horses

Smaller horses have greater difficulty adapting to longer hoof length, especially because they carry more weight on their forelimbs compared to larger horses. When longed, larger horses tended to lean into the circle toward the end of the shoeing period, possibly because they are compensating for a lack of lateral balance. 

Reference

Benn M, Montavon S, Furst A. Difference in radiographic findings and gait analysis between horses that are freshly shod and at the end of their shoeing period. Pferdehlkunde Nov/Dec 2023, vol 39 (6); doi: 10.21836/PEM20230603. 

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