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Monday, September 21, 2009

NEAEP Conference Preview: Patrick Reilly Will Report on Hoof Balance Studies

by Fran Jurga | 20 September 2009 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog

A last-minute addition to the 2009 NEAEP conference program is farrier Patrick Reilly from the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center. Pat is filling in for farrier David Farley; both Dave and Pat are on the board of the new organization, which has both farriers and veterinarians among its members.

Patrick's lectures will include interesting studies and observations of hoof balance. In the video clip above, you will see that he has been documenting comparative solar forces on the hoof during athletic activities. This video clip shows the extended trot, which will be compared to a working trot in both a straight line as well as on a 20-meter circle. Pat also has some interesting measurements of the solar forces during jumping, and a comparison of differing density rim pads during jumping.

Patrick's videos and the use of pressure-sensitive data collection media give him some opportunities to make observations that bring up plenty of questions. For example, the same horse might land toe first in one gait (such as the extended trot), but land heel first in the regular trot. Also, a horse might land laterally on one footing, but lands evenly with the same trim on another.

Data from the hoof is transmitted directly, rather than through a pressure-sensing plate in the ground

The rider in the video is Patrick's wife, Karen; the flashy horse is her own; they just won a national young horse title last month. Congratulations!

To read more about the NEAEP organization, click here.
To see the foot symposium program and find out about registration, click here.

© Fran Jurga and Hoofcare Publishing. No use without permission. You only need to ask. Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog is a between-issues news service for subscribers to Hoofcare and Lameness Journal. This blog may be read online at the blog page, checked via RSS feed, or received via a digest-type email (requires signup in box at top right of blog page). To subscribe to Hoofcare and Lameness (the journal), please visit the main site,, where many educational products and media related to equine lameness and hoof science can be found. Questions or problems with this blog? Send email to


nonnonheinous said...

Interesting idea! I'd also like to see if there are differences between regular shoes, shoes w/ heel/frog support (like Eponas), and a healthy bare foot.

My guess would be that heel pain/sensitivity is a major reason why a horse may land toe-first at an extended trot (more concussion) but not a regular trot, or may land laterally on one surface but evenly on another--if indeed the surface that horse lands evenly could be categorized as "softer" or "easier" on the heels/frog.

My own experience is that when my barefoot horse has sensitive frogs/heels (from thrush, for instance) she will land laterally (rolling her weight across the walls on one side) on hard or rocky surface, to protect the frog/heels. Put her on a soft surface (or put her in boots w/ pads) and she would land evenly.

If continually allowed to walk that way, it produces wry feet. With my own horse, treating for thrush and keeping her in boots and pads for a few weeks allowed even heel landings and fixed the wry feet that were developing.

Anonymous said...

Not to pick nits, but there is no frog support on an epona shoe.

Perhaps I'm crazy, but the horse in the video looks sound enough to me and perhaps all the concern about toe first landing is unsubstantiated in the first place. I wish I could be at this conference to see what Mr. Reilly had to say.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't help noticing barefoot trimmers are conspicuously absent from all mention. Pity - we're EVERYWHERE, increasing in number by the hour and deserve to be included just as much as every other equine practitioner.

baystatebrumby said...

This video with the pressure data was fascinating to me. I want to see the horse at every gait now! I wish I could monitor my own horse in this way!!

Fran Jurga said...

Anonymous: I think the whole point is that people are hung up on heel-first landings, often condemning a horse even from a still photo (!) and what Patrick's videos could possibly illustrate (I have only seen this one sample) is the range of landings that a given horse has through different gaits, on different footings, through the cycle of a shoeing or trimming, etc.

Maybe we need to stop rushing to judgments in the way we evaluate a horse and still put it through its gaits before prescribing drastic changes for the sake of capsular geometrics (static balance) or heel first (or flat, in some schools of thought) landing on a hard surface (dynamic balance).

Fran Jurga said...

To Anonymous (hoof trimmer comment)--I don't understand your comment, where have you been excluded? From Patrick's study? He's not studying a barefoot horse in this instance. I have seen the same pressure sensing film used inside an Old Macs boot at Hilary Clayton's lab at Michigan State University, so you could purchase the same technology and do similar studies on your trimming.

Fran Jurga said...

To Bay State Brumby--so glad you enjoyed the tech! Actually, you probably could use this technology if you live in Massachusetts. Tekscan, the company that makes the system, is based here, in Watertown.