The objective of this study was to validate a simple method to measure the mediolateral expansion of the heels and to apply this method in an in vivo experiment. It was also the aim to quantify the mediolateral expansion in different areas of the heel using an in vitro model.
In the in vitro study, 5 right and 5 left distal forelimb specimens from 5 Standardbreds were mounted vertically in a custom-made compressive test machine. The heel expansion was measured using optical kinematic analysis and a potentiometer system. Specimens were tested unshod, with frog pressure and with the weightbearing rim raised. In the in vivo study, a potentiometer system was fitted to the left forelimb of 5 Standardbred trotters. Measurements were performed with the horses at hand, in walk and in trot. They were tested unshod, shod with a standard 8 mm iron shoe and finally with a shoe combined with an inflatable hoof-cushion. The results showed a good correlation between the 2 measurement systems (r = 0.98).
This study describes the effect of different frog pressures on heel movement. Increased pressure on the frog and the sole increased heel expansion, but some heel expansion still occurred when the frog and sole were unsupported. The study supports, therefore, both the depression and the pressure theory. The significance of these results is the manipulation of heel movement as affected by farrier techniques and its possible relationship to health of the hoof. Further studies are needed to apply this knowledge correctly to farrier practice.