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Abstract

Objective—To investigate the density of the primary epidermal lamellae (PEL) around the solar circumference of the forefeet of near-term fetal feral and nonferal (ie, domesticated) horses.

Sample—Left forefeet from near-term Australian feral (n = 14) and domesticated (4) horse fetuses.

Procedures—Near-term feral horse fetuses were obtained from culled mares within 10 minutes of death; fetuses that had died in utero 2 weeks prior to anticipated birth date and were delivered from live Thoroughbred mares were also obtained. Following disarticulation at the carpus, the left forefoot of each fetus was frozen during dissection and data collection. In a standard section of each hoof, the stratum internum PEL density was calculated at the midline center (12 o'clock) and the medial and lateral break-over points (11 and 1 o'clock), toe quarters (10 and 2 o'clock), and quarters (4 and 6 o'clock). Values for matching lateral and medial zones were averaged and expressed as 1 density. Density differences at the 4 locations between the feral and domesticated horse feet were assessed by use of imaging software analysis.

Results—In fetal domesticated horse feet, PEL density did not differ among the 4 locations. In fetal feral horse feet, PEL density differed significantly among locations, with a pattern of gradual reduction from the dorsal to the palmar aspect of the foot. The PEL density distribution differed significantly between fetal domesticated and feral horse feet.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Results indicated that PEL density distribution differs between fetal feral and domesticated horse feet, suggestive of an adaptation of feral horses to environment challenges.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research

Abstract

Objective—To determine solar load-bearing structures in the feet of feral horses and investigate morphological characteristics of the sole in feral horses and domestic Thoroughbreds.

Sample—Forelimbs from cadavers of 70 feral horses and 20 domestic Thoroughbreds in Australia.

Procedures—Left forefeet were obtained from 3 feral horse populations from habitats of soft substrate (SS [n = 10 horses]), hard substrate (HS [10]), and a combination of SS and HS (10) and loaded in vitro. Pressure distribution was measured with a pressure plate. Sole depth was measured at 12 points across the solar plane in feet obtained from feral horses from SS (n = 20 horses) and HS (20) habitats and domestic Thoroughbreds (20).

Results—Feet of feral horses from HS habitats loaded the periphery of the sole and hoof wall on a flat surface. Feral horses from HS or SS habitats had greater mean sole depth than did domestic Thoroughbreds. Sole depth was greatest peripherally and was correlated with the loading pattern.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—The peripheral aspect of the sole in the feet of feral horses had a load-bearing function. Because of the robust nature of the tissue architecture, the hoof capsule of feral horses may be less flexible than that of typical domestic horses. The application of narrow-web horseshoes may not take full advantage of the load-bearing and force-dissipating properties of the peripheral aspect of the sole. Further studies are required to understand the effects of biomechanical stimulation on the adaptive responses of equine feet.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research