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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • hoof

Summary

A rider modifies the weight distribution and dynamic balance of the horse. But what effect does a rider have on the mechanical behaviour of the hoof during each stance phase? Does riding style have any effect on this behaviour? We attempted to answer these questions using strains recorded from 5 rosette strain gauges glued to the surface of the front hooves of 4 Warmblood horses. Comparisons were made between strains with and without a rider, and when the rider was sitting, rising at a trot, or in a forward seated position. The change in strains from trot to lead or nonlead at a canter, and the effect of turning were also studied.

Changing lead at a canter had as least as much effect on strain magnitudes as did turning; strains were up to 43% higher for the nonlead foot, but with little redistribution. Perhaps surprisingly, strains were significantly lower on the quarters by up to 30% with a rider than without, with a 10% increase or decrease at the toe, depending on the individual. Riding style changed strain magnitudes by up to 20% and also caused strain redistribution: strains were higher medially for sitting, and laterally for forward seat, with strains for a rising trot being more evenly distributed and intermediate in magnitude. Studying the range of, and causes of variation in hoof wall strain gives baseline data aimed, in the long term, at providing a biomechanical definition of hoof balance.