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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • accelerometry;
  • impact;
  • shock;
  • track;
  • surface

Summary

Reasons for performing study: Little is known about the interaction of the hoof with the ground at the onset of stance phase although is it widely believed that high power collisions are involved in the aetiopathology of several conditions causing lameness.

Objectives: To answer 3 questions regarding the fundamental nature of hoof-ground collision: (1) is the collision process deterministic for ground surfaces that present a consistent mechanical interface (2) do collision forces act on the hoof in a small or large range of directions and (3) Is the hoof decelerated to near-zero velocity by the initial deceleration peak following ground contact?

Methods: Hoof acceleration during the onset of stance phase was recorded using biaxial accelerometry for horses trotting on a tarmac surface and on a sand surface. Characteristics of the collision process were identified both from vector plots and time series representations of hoof acceleration, velocity and displacement.

Results: The response of the hoof to collision with smooth tarmac was predominantly deterministic and consistent with the response of a spring-damper system following shock excitation. The response to collision with sand was predominantly random. The deceleration peak following ground contact did not decelerate the hoof to near-zero velocity on tarmac but appeared to on sand. On both surfaces, collision forces acted on the hoof in a wide range of directions.

Conclusions: The study suggests the presence of stiff, visco-elastic structures within the foot that may act as shock absorbers isolating the limb from large collision forces.

Potential relevance: The study indicates objectives for future in vivo and in vitro research into the shock absorbing mechanism within the equine foot; and the effects of shoe type and track surface properties on the collision forces experienced during locomotion. Studies of this nature should help to establish a link between musculoskeletal injury, hoof function and hoof-ground interaction if, indeed, one exists.