In one way or another, polyurethane is used in our everyday lives. From insulation to furniture cushions, this versatile material is flexible, comfortable and, according to recent studies, might reduce overload in the front legs of horses.

According to HorseTalk, the study conducted by researchers Lauren Veneta Moore, Theresia Franziska Licka and Rebeka Roza Zsoldos was set in Vienna using four horses to determine whether polyurethane coverings on the base of steel horseshoes would help decrease the horse’s impact against the ground when compared with traditional shoes. The type of horses used in the study typically lead Landauer carriages that can weigh as much as 1,800 pounds. [this covering would prove to be extremely beneficial for a variety of working horses.]

To begin the experiment, the polyurethane segments were added onto the ground surface of the steel shoe after it was nailed on. Two horses were fitted with grabs and pins, while the other two only had pins. The team then used an asphalt track to mimic a city street, and once the front hooves of the horses were fitted with accelerometers to measure any increase in speed, they were free to trot at their own pace.

The results of the team’s study showed overall positive findings. The deceleration of horses with the polyurethane coverings was less abrupt during landing, and they discovered that their acceleration after pushing forward was increased. The polyurethane shoes also showed an increase in speed as well as longer strides. Front hooves in the horses without the covering showed harder deceleration compared with their hind hooves, while the horses shod with polyurethane had a more balanced distribution.

The takeaway: horses shod with polyurethane shoes are likely to accelerate faster, expand the mobility of their stride, and may reduce the overload in their forelimbs. With their successful findings, the team hopes their study might lay the groundwork for further research.

“Future studies are needed to investigate this effect during riding and on softer surfaces,” the team stated, adding that “It would be of great interest to associate this finding with the level of comfort that the horses experienced when trotting with either of the two shoe types.”

For more information on this study, check out the team’s research article published in Animals.

Moore, L., Licka, T., Zsoldos, R. 11 Dec. 2019. "Trot Accelerations of Equine Front and Hind Hooves Shod with Polyurethane Composite Shoes and Steel Shoes on Asphalt". Animals.