Reasons for performing study: Whereas the effect of heel configuration on the tension of the suspensory apparatus is well documented in the literature, there are few reports of joint contact force components in the equine distal forelimb.
Objectives: To improve understanding of the effect of heel configuration on equine digit joint loading, a sensitivity analysis was performed to compare the effect of a raised heel on joint contact force components in the coffin and fetlock joints during the stance phase of the trot.
Materials and methods: Four Warmblood horses were used. An inverse dynamic analysis was carried out using kinematic and kinetic data. Taking into account the tendon wrapping forces (WF) around the sesamoid bones in the calculations, the joint contact forces (CF) were estimated for the coffin and fetlock joints during the trot stance phase (4 m/s). To test the sensitivity of the results to heel configuration changes, calculations were performed repeatedly for different heel configurations (raised by 0, 6 and 12°). A one-way ANOVA with repeated measures was used to test the effect of heel configuration (at the 3 levels) (α= 0.05; P<0.05; post hoc testing: Bonferroni).
Results: For heel configurations raised from 0–12°: whereas the tension of the deep digital flexor tendon decreased and the tension of the superficial digital flexor tendon increased, for the coffin joint the peak WF (1.4 ± 0.25 bwt; 1.2 ± 0.2 bwt; 0.95 ± 0.1 bwt) and the peak CF (2.45 ± 0.25 bwt; 2.2 ± 0.2 bwt; 2 ± 0.1 bwt) decreased significantly (P<0.05). For the fetlock joint, the peak WF (3.8 ± 0.7 bwt; 4.1 ± 0.3 bwt; 4.4 ± 0.25 bwt) and the peak CF (4.35 ± 0.7 bwt; 4.7 ± 0.35 bwt; 5 ± 0.3 bwt) increased, but not significantly.
Conclusion: This analysis suggests that the coffin joint loading and fetlock joint loading are strongly connected. The heel configuration may influence both coffin joint and fetlock joint contact force components.