Articles & Information
FROM THE HOOFCARE & LAMENESS ARCHIVES
Hoof Research 1992 Report
hoof is a bio-engineering miracle," said Australia's Chris
Pollitt softly, almost reverently, from the podium at the Bluegrass
Laminitis Symposium in Kentucky in January 1992. "The hoof is
alive. It's dynamic," he asserted.
A few hours later, a Belgian researcher, Francis Verschooten, agreed with Pollitt: the foot is incredible, yet unmeasurable, because of its unique asymmetry. But a worthy topic for his life's studies? Yes, said this man who has documented thousands of hoofs in ten years of intense searching for the normal. Or is it the ideal he seeks?
Computer-based researchers disagree about what is normal and what is ideal. They say the horse's foot can be modeled, analyzed, categorized. But is it a digitally-describable entity?
presented their work at the Association for Equine Sports Medicine
annual meeting in California in March think so. Despite being an
asymmetric appendage, the hoof has been engineered onto the screen
through three-dimensional hoof modeling labs at Texas A&M
University, lead by David Hood. Dr. Hood narrowed the normal hoof down
to 37 parameters, and distinguished between front and hind, left and
right, and factored in characteristics for breeds, use, and age.
Consistent patterns could be ascribed and a computerized foot, on
which all sorts of data and variables may be tested, is now reality.
Also at A&M,
the characteristics of the distal phalanx (P3) were put to
computerized analysis. Dr. Hood compared the bones of term fetuses,
yearling non-trained horses, and horses in training. Among his
findings was the fact that in all adult horses, the palmar surface of
P3 was both thicker and denser than the dorsal surface.
At the University
of Ghent in Belgium, De. Verschooten's department gathered data from
12,000 horses radiographed over a ten-year period.
defined foot mass, which he called the total volume of the hoof and
all the structures contained within it. While no formula is available
to measure the foot, its characteristics can be collected and analyzed
by declaring what is "normal" for a horse of a given age and
breed, height and weight.
front feet is a special interest for Dr. Verschooten, who finds that
foals are born with identical front feet that quickly acquire
individual characteristics of size and shape.
like the findings from Dr. Verschooten, Texas A&M and other universities, the
subtle effects of good horseshoeing may gain new validity in the
equine science field. While the information will probably be
manipulated by those who wish to make horses with imperfect feet run
faster or jump higher, it would be possible to model the ideally
conformed foot and ask breeders to compare their stallions or
offspring to the ideal and strive to improve breeding programs until
closer-to-ideal hoof and leg conformation and soundness become valued
aspects of selection criteria for breeding.
What is more
likely to happen is that if a computer-generated model could show that
a horse will perform better with an ideally conformed foot (which may
not resemble what we call normal today), technology will be developed
to artificially create new devices to nail, glue, epoxy, or graft onto
technology and studies will eventually affect the way horses' feet are
trimmed and shod. How soon is hard to tell.
This article originally appeared in Hoofcare & Lameness: The Journal of Equine Foot Science and is available for your personal use only. Re-publication is prohibited without the express written permission of Hoofcare & Lameness.
Detailed information on this and many other hoofcare topics can be found in Hoofcare & Lameness publisher Fran Jurga's award-winning guide to hoofcare, "Understanding the Equine Foot".
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