July 7, 2008
Researchers Use Special Horseshoes To Reduce Horse Injury
The most frequent injuries that horses suffer are derived from pressure exerted by riders, and knowing which forces are involved when horses move can prove highly informative when considering treatment for such injuries. A team of scientists from Wageningen University, led by Professor Johan van Leeuwen, has carried out studies both into the advantages of different rider techniques in reducing injury risk, and into the benefits of a method of equine rehabilitation. By using computer modeling and specialist horseshoes to measure acceleration, these investigations suggest that aqua-training rehabilitation is beneficial due to lower impact accelerations. However, rising trot may not be as advantageous as previously thought. Results will be presented on Monday 7th July at the Society for Experimental Biology's Annual Meeting in Marseille [Session A3].
Rehabilitation after equine joint and muscle injuries, including those of the back, shoulders and legs, now often involves 'aquatraining', whereby horses move in water-filled treadmills. Due to buoyancy, this treatment is currently thought to reduce weight-bearing forces, which can otherwise have detrimental effects on joints, but to date there has been a virtual absence of studies into the magnitude of these benefits. Professor van Leeuwen's team has used special horseshoes to measure accelerations of horses undergoing aquatraining, as well as walking normally, which provide a good indication of the impact forces involved. "Our results, based on data from seven horses, show the accelerations are significantly lower during 'aquatic walking'," he asserts. "We will be carrying out further experiments to confirm these results, but at this stage, it appears that aquatraining may indeed be beneficial for rehabilitation after joint injury."
This work involved collaboration with the Department of Equine Sciences, Utrecht University, the Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center, Michigan State University and the Dutch Equestrian Centre.
Equine aquatraining, employing water-filled treadmills, is used in rehabilitation regimes when horses begin to exercise after injury. Depending on the condition of the horse, different workloads can be obtained by regulating water level and walking velocity.
Sitting trot is a technique whereby the rider keeps their seat in the saddle constantly.
Rising trot involves rising out of the saddle and lowering back down on alternate beats of the trotting gait.
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