This just in: A new research report from the University of Vienna details a thoughtful project that many on the practical side of hoof research have wondered about for a long time.
At the recent International Conference on Equine Exercise Physiology (ICEEP) held in Fontainebleu, France in August 2006, researchers Girtler, Licka, Kicker, and Peham walked around to the back end of the horse to compare their colleagues' research findings from the front end.
They evaluated the horses barefoot, then added a 2 cm and finally a 4 cm wedge to the hind feet and worked the horses at a walk and a trot on a treadmill, with 8 markers per limb and 15 cycles per effort, per horse.
Among their findings: the angle of the coffin joint changed significantly between the walk and the trot; raising the heels increased the angle more at the walk than at the trot. Fetlock extension in the mid-stance phase was reduced when the wedges were added.
They concluded: "Raised heels decrease hind fetlock extension, which is different to the effect of raised heels on the fore fetlock. Additionally, raised heels led to a significant reduction of hock extension during stance phase at walk and trot, supporting the reported positive influence of raised heels in horses with spavin."