Virginia Therapeutic Farriery

Can the hoof be shod without limiting the heel movement? A comparative study between barefoot, shoeing with conventional shoes and a split-toe shoe

 J. Brunstinga,1, M. Dumoulina,1, *, M. Oosterlincka, M. Haspeslagha, L. Lefèreb, F. Pillea

 a Department of Surgery and Anaesthesiology of Domestic Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium

 b Department of Internal Medicine and Clinical Biology of Large Animals, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Salisburylaan 133, 9820 Merelbeke, Belgium



Conventional shoeing restricts heel movement, which may have a negative effect on the orthopedic health of the horse. A randomized crossover experimental study using noninvasive techniques was performed to compare the mediolateral heel movement in barefoot horses, horses shod with a conventional toe clipped shoe and with a new type of shoe with a split toe. In eight horses, 16 forelimbs were tested barefoot, shod with a conventional shoe and with the split-toe (ST) shoe, in random order. A displacement sensor was secured on the heels and measurements were collected continuously at a frequency of 679 Hz while horses were exercised on a treadmill at the walk (1.8 m/s), trot (3.5 m/s) and canter (8 m/s). Differences in heel movement between the conditions were analyzed using a generalized estimating equations approach. The conventional shoe was associated with significantly less heel expansion compared with the ST shoe and barefoot situation in all gaits (P ≤ 0.001). Heel expansion with the ST shoe was not significantly different from the barefoot condition. For all gaits, shoeing was associated with a significant reduction in heel contraction compared with the barefoot situation (P ≤ 0.038), except for the heel contraction at the canter using a conventional shoe. In conclusion, the heel expansion with the ST shoe did not differ significantly from when the horse was barefoot, in contrast with the significant restriction of the heel movement when a conventional shoe was used.

This is an excellent paper from Dr. Maarten Oosterlinck’s group in Belgium that should be of interest to all veterinarians and farriers with an interest in farriery / podiatry. The above paper was published in The Veterinary Journal 246 (2019) 7–11. Those interested in a copy of this paper can follow this link.