Thursday, October 16, 2014

Biomechanics and Uses of Wide Toe, Egg Bar and Heart Bar Horseshoes: Research by Dr. Jenny Hagen via Werkman's E-Lecture Series

Werkman Horseshoes in The Netherlands has launched a video lecture series with German veterinarian and hoof researcher Jenny Hagen. This is a still from one of the videos, to show you the rich visual content.

You'll need 58 minutes. Lock the door. Turn off your phone. Draw the shades. Your assignment is to watch these videos, part of the new E-Lectures video series from Werkman Horseshoes in The Netherlands.

The videos feature the research of Dr. Jenny Hagen of the University of Leipzig's Institute of Veterinary Anatomy. Her anatomy work has been featured on The Hoof Blog as part of the Hoof Explorer anatomy software website/desktop application. It's a pleasure to feature her research on horseshoes here, although her studies also focus on trimming effects on the hoof as well as horseshoes.

Dr. Hagen supervises the research group “Equine Locomotor System and Hoof Orthopaedics” at Leipzig University's Institute of Veterinary Anatomy. The group includes four PhD students, at least one farrier and Dr. Hagen. Their study of orthopedic horseshoe modifications included the comparison of 10 horseshoe modifications and four standard horseshoes and was carried out using 25 horses.

Before you watch these videos and decide to quote Dr Hagen's research as applicable to the use of these three shoe designs on horses in general, please consider that her trimming method details are not given in the videos. As they say in the car business, "actual mileage may vary" when and if you apply these shoes.

In the field, of course, you can see these shoes both effectively and ineffectively constructed or applied. What does sub-optimal application of shoes do to their biomechanics? One of the problems with research is that the data tells us what works, but there's no data on the effects of variations from the application that was successful in the protocol. Presumably the five horses in the study had some variation in hoof conformation, condition and size.

Dr. Jenny Hagen
In the case of the heart bar shoe, sometimes it seems like no two are alike in the field, between a wide variation in the design (shape) of the heel portion of the shoes and the length and dimension of the frog plates, sometimes in handmade forging consideration of the horse's foot conformation and sometimes because that's the way the manufacturer supplied it or the veterinarian prescribed it.

Ideally, everyone would be consistent in their trimming and application and be able to compare his or her work to a nice neat chart of variables.

The success of a hoofcare application for a horse is not just in the shoe but also in the trim, the relative health and functionality of the hoof, the way the horse is built and moves, the amount of time since trimming and shoeing, the exercise it receives, and--yes--the benefits of support and traction provided in the optimally applied horseshoe because of the elements engineered into it.

Part of the knowledge we need to assimilate is to know not only which shoe to pair with a hoof deformity or soft tissue problem but when and if to apply it and how long to leave it on. Should that support shoe you're considering for a horse today really have been put on a year ago, before the feet continued to contract and collapse until continued performance demanded support shoes for the horse to remain in or return to training? When is it too late for support, regardless of how much additional surface area is added or weightbearing redirected?

The partial research detailed in these lectures has not been referenced here; the results of the full research project are currently undergoing peer review for publication, and hopefully will be published in the near future. 


In the first video, Dr. Hagen explains the function of the wide toe/narrow heel horseshoe and its possible therapeutic affect on the suspensory ligament and/or the superficial flexor tendon; it is 20 minutes long with an American narrator. This shoe is sometimes called a "suspensory" shoe.

Use the full-screen tool (four arrows next to the letters HD at lower right of the video screen) to get the most from these videos. Use the stop/play control (white triangle at lower left) and the slider to replay any portion, since the narrator speaks quite rapidly and multiple graphics are often on the screen at once.

The second video, on the function of the eggbar horseshoe, is 23 minutes long and has a very soft-spoken British narrator. It is important to watch all of the video, since the beginning explains important information on how the top of the Epona radiography block was modified to simulate soft or hard footing, for instance. It may be necessary to adjust the volume on your computer.

The third video is a parallel evaluation of the heart bar shoe, also with the British narrator. As with the previous videos, it is important to watch the entire video to understand the protocols that were used to obtain the research data and conclusions. This is the shortest video, at 15 minutes, and the most straightforward.

You should also view an additional video in this series, High Speed Fluoroscopic Kinematograpy of unshod and shod hooves, also with Dr. Jenny Hagen, which illustrates landing patterns with and without different shoes and comparing toe first and heel first landing.

Click here to watch all the videos available from Werkman Horseshoes, including forging videos of the three shoes using the company's shoes and modular weld-in templates by farrier Mitch Taylor.

Dr. Jenny Hagen will be a speaker at the 2015 Werkman Spring Games in The Netherlands, to be held April 16-18, 2015.

More reading on effects of horseshoes on horseshoe biomechanics:

Use of a pressure plate to analyse the toe-heel load redistribution underneath a normal shoe and a shoe with a wide toe in sound warmblood horses at the walk and trot.
Oomen AM, Oosterlinck M, Pille F, Sonneveld DC, Gasthuys F, Back W.
Res Vet Sci. 2012 Oct;93(2):1026-31
Eliashar, E. 
Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 28 (2012) 283-91. 

An evidence-based assessment of the biomechanical effects of the common shoeing and farriery techniques
Eliashar, E. 
Vet Clin North Am Equine Pract 23 (2007) 425–442

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