Dutch researchers report that polyurethane horseshoes provide more shock absorption than do conventional steel shoes and may help protect the joints of the horse's lower limb.
Using accelerometers, Utrecht University researchers measured the vertical, horizontal and forward/backward forces placed on the hooves of 12 Warmblood horses when they trotted over an asphalt surface barefoot, wearing steel shoes or wearing polyurethane shoes. The data showed that the maximum peak forces were significantly lower when the horses were wearing polyurethane shoes.
Noting that concussive forces have been implicated in the development of chronic joint disorders, such as osteoarthritis, the researchers say that if these results are replicated in long-term field trials, synthetic shoes may find a role in the prevention and recuperation of damaged equine joints.
Reference: "Synthetic shoes attenuate hoof impact in the trotting Warmblood horse," Equine and Comparative Exercise Physiology, August 2006.
This article originally appeared in the April 2007 issue of EQUUS magazine.