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Thursday, April 04, 2013

Were Ancient Horses' Fetlocks Less Susceptible to Breakdown Injury?

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As Saturday's 2013 Grand National approaches, the possibility of some news from the University of Liverpool's vet school has been high. Each year, injured racehorses find expert care at the nearby vet hospital, and the vet school is proud of its long association with the race and its role in helping prevent and treat injuries in racehorses.

But we weren't expecting this treat of a video from the BBC, featuring lameness researcher Ellen Singer, DCM DVSc DipACVS/ECVS MRCVS. And we certainly weren't expecting Nathan Jefferey,BSc, MSc, PhD, a comparative and evolutionary anatomist, to be featured. 

The research, "Finite Element Analysis of Stress in the Equine Proximal Phalanx," described in the video, analyzes stress points on the long pastern bone at the fetlock joint, in the video, the Jefferey compares the same stress point on the joint of the hypohippus fossil horse. It has been published in the Equine Veterinary Journal

The paper can be downloaded at Nathan Jefferey's research web page:

This exhibit of three-toed fossil horses Anchitherium aurelianense, Hypohippus equinus,Merychippus sejunctus, and M. sphenodus at the Museum für Naturkunde, Berlin. (Wikimedia image via Funkmonk)
In the past, Ellen Singer was awarded a grant to study the effect of stud use on the mechanics of foot slip in the horse. She published the paper "The effect of lateral heel studs on the kinematics of the equine digit while cantering on grass"with co-authors Harvey and Williams in 2012. Published in The Veterinary Journal, the study tested the hypothesis that studs would decrease foot slip distance on the nine horses tested as they cantered on grass; the horses were tested with and without a single stud in all four shoes.

The studs did decrease slippage, but the highest differential was seen with and without a stud in the trailing limb. The study's conclusion included speculation that the studs might decrease slippage but that the effect was varied between the horse's four limbs and that it was possible that the stud might also alter the energy dissipation factor as well. If there is a time to trot out the research and show the world that the veterinary profession is dedicated to helping prevent, as well as treat, injuries in horses, the next few days is it.

The whole world will be watching Saturday as the horses go flying over the massive ditches and birch-covered "jumps" at Liverpool's Aintree Racecourse. Aintree is the stuff of legend. Tying contemporary equine research to a fossilized horse is a leap.

But the next few days will be all about leaps, won't they?

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