Objective—To investigate forelimb hoof wall strains and shape changes in unshod horses undergoing regular moderate exercise on a treadmill at selected speeds and gaits.
Animals—6 horses of various body types.
Procedures—Each horse was exercised on a treadmill (walking, trotting, and cantering, with or without galloping at 12.5 m/s) 3 times a week for 4 consecutive weeks; duration of each exercise session ranged from 10 to 14 minutes. During the 4-week period, the proximal hoof circumference (PHC) and toe angle (TA) of each forelimb hoof were measured weekly with a flexible measuring tape and a hoof gauge, respectively. Forelimb hoof wall strains were measured bilaterally at the toe and each quarter (3 strain gauges) immediately before the first and after the last exercise session.
Results—Strain measurements revealed a consistent pattern of deformation of the hoof wall in both forelimbs at all gaits; strains increased during the stance phase of the stride. Strain values were dependent on site and gait. Compared with initial findings, mean TA increased significantly, whereas mean PHC did not, after the 4-week exercise period. A relationship between TA changes and hoof wall strains could not be established.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—In unshod horses, forelimb hoof wall strains were affected by site and gait, but not by discrete changes in TA; PHC did not change in response to moderate regular exercise. The pattern of hoof loading was consistent despite significant changes in TA.