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Objective—To determine the mechanism that enables horses to partially counteract the shift of the center of pressure under the hoof induced by changes in hoof morphology attributable to growth and wear during a shoeing interval.

Animals—18 clinically sound Warmblood horses.

Procedures—Horses were evaluated 2 days and 8 weeks after shoeing during trotting on a track containing pressure-force measuring plates and by use of a synchronous infrared gait analysis system set at a frequency of 240 Hz. All feet were trimmed toward straight alignment of the proximal, middle, and distal phalanges and shod with standard flat shoes.

Results—Temporal characteristics such as stance time and the time between heel lift and toe off (ie, breakover duration) did not change significantly as a result of shoeing interval. Protraction and retraction angles of the limbs did not change. Compensation was achieved through an increase in the dorsal angle of the metacarpohalangeal or metarsophalangeal (fetlock) joint and a concomitant decrease of the dorsal angle of the hoof wall and fetlock. There was an additional compensatory mechanism in the hind limbs during the landing phase.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Horses compensate for changes in hoof morphology that develop during an 8-week shoeing interval such that they are able to maintain their neuromuscular pattern of movement. The compensation consists of slight alterations in the angles between the distal segments of the limb. Insight into natural compensation mechanisms for hoof imbalance will aid in the understanding and treatment of pathologic conditions in horses.

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in American Journal of Veterinary Research