Few studies exist on the effects of shoeing on hoof size and shape so it is heartening to see researchers starting to look at this. Researchers at the University of Melbourne compared the effect of shoes vs. barefoot on eleven mares. They measured the hoof circumference and hoof angle and found that the hoof circumference in the shod feet decreased after an interval of only seven weeks compared to the bare feet.
Eleven adult Quarter Horse mares underwent both treatments; control (barefoot) and shod (standard steel shoe). At the beginning and the end of each 7 week treatment period duplicate measurements of proximal hoof circumference and hoof angle were taken of both forelimbs using a felxible seasmstress tape and an aluminum hoof gauge, respectively.
Horses were barefoot and maintained on a 7 week trimming interval prior to the start of the study. All horses were managed under the same conditions, fed the same diet, and underwent no forced exerise during the trial (June-September). HOrse’s hooves were trimmed before the start of each 7 week period.
The study indicated that horses had significantly different changes in proximal hoof circumference and hoof angle when shod compared to when the same horses were barefoot over a 7 week trimming interval. A better understanding of the relationship between hoof shape and shoeing may lead to better management practices.
It’s interesting that the article describing the study appeared in Eurodressage magazine. The study evaluated plain steel shoes, while dressage horses increasingly are shod in bar shoes in front, and even behind, more and more, for ‘stability’. And the more restrictive eggbar shoe would presumably decrease the hoof mechanism and thus the circumference, even more. As far as leading to better management practices? What could that possibly entail other than switching to barefoot, which is a long way on the horizon in the upper competitive echelons.