Calculating the power of equine kicks

Kicks from horses wearing metal shoes are more likely to cause serious injury to pasturemates than those from unshod horses.
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For the safety of your horse’s pasturemates, remove his hind shoes or fit him with plastic ones when he’s not in regular work—that seems to be the message of a new study from Switzerland.

A chestnut horse kicking out at a grey horse while both are in a dirt paddock.

Kicks from horses wearing metal shoes are more likely to cause serious injury than those from unshod horses.

Researchers at the University of Zurich used drop-impact test apparatus to simulate the speed and force of a typical horse’s kick. Then they subjected the long bones of the equine leg (radii and tibiae) to “kicks” with the impactor head covered with a steel, aluminum or polyurethane block, to simulate various shoe materials. The impactor head was also covered with hoof horn to mimic the blow from an unshod horse.

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The data showed that kicks delivered by horses wearing metal shoes were very likely to cause serious injury, with a 75 percent probability of fracture from a blow with steel and an 81 percent probability with aluminum. In contrast, when the bones were struck with polyurethane or hoof material, they sustained no significant damage.

This article first appeared in the December 2017 issue of EQUUS (Volume #483)

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