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Keywords:

  • biomechanics;
  • deep digital flexor tendon;
  • equine;
  • heel wedge;
  • musculo-skeletal;
  • superficial digital flexor tendon;
  • toe wedge

Abstract

The sagittal alteration of hoof balance is a common intervention in horses, with corrective shoeing being one of the most frequently applied methods of managing tendonitis. However, the effect of toe or heel elevation on tendon strains is poorly understood. This study aimed to examine the effect of toe and heel wedges on the superficial digital flexor tendon, deep digital flexor tendon, and the third interosseous muscle or suspensory ligament strains using in vivo data and an accurate subject-specific model. Kinematic data were recorded using invasive markers at the walk and trot. Computerized tomography was then used to create a subject-specific model of an equine distal forelimb and strains were calculated for the superficial digital flexor tendon, the deep digital flexor tendon accessory ligament and the suspensory ligament for seven trials each of normal shoes, and toe and heel elevation. As the proximal interphalangeal joint is often ignored in strain calculations, its influence on the strain calculations was also tested. The deep ligament showed the same results for walk and trot with the heel wedge decreasing peak strain and the toe wedge increasing it. The opposite results were seen in the suspensory ligament and the superficial digital flexor tendon with the heel wedge increasing peak strain and the toe wedge decreasing it. The proximal interphalangeal joint was shown to be influential on the strains calculated with normal shoes and the calculated effect of the wedges. Our results imply that corrective shoeing appears to decrease strain in the tendon being targeted; the possibility of increases in strain in other structures should also be considered.