• horse;
  • finite element analysis;
  • hoof;
  • principal strain;
  • stress distribution


Finite-element (FE) methods have great potential in equine biomechanics in evaluating mechanical stresses and strains in tissues deep within the hoof. In this study, we critically assessed that potential by comparing results of FE analyses of capsular strain with in vivo data. Nine FE models were developed, corresponding to the shape of hooves for which in vivo principal strain data are available. Each model had the wall, laminarjunction, sole and distal phalanx (PIII). In a first loading condition (LC1), force is distributed uniformly to the bearing surface of the wall to determine reaction forces and moment on PIII. These reaction forces were subsequently applied to PIII in loading condition 2 (LC2) to simulate loading via the skeleton. Magnitude of the force resultant was equivalent to the vertical force on the hoof at midstance. Principal compressive strains ε2 were calculated at the locations of 5 rosette gauges on the real hooves and are compared with the in vivo strains at midstance.

FE strains were from 16 to 221% of comparable in vivo values, averaging 104%. All models in this, and reports by other workers, show predominance of stress and strain at the toe to a greater extent than in the real hoof. The primary conclusion is that FE modelling of strain in the hoof capsule or deeper tissues of individual horses should not be attempted without corroborating experimental data.