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Eighteen Standardbred racehorses were used in a controlled experiment to examine the effects of exercise on hoof growth and shape. Over 17 weeks, half the horses were worked on a crushed limestone track at a medium trot, while the other half weren’t exercised. All the horses lived under similar conditions in a large paddock and received routine farriery. Measurements of hoof size, shape and wall thickness were obtained from digital photographic and magnetic resonance images.
No significant differences in hoof growth, size or shape were detected between the exercise and control groups during the course of the study. There were differences among individual horses, and some differences within each group were detected between the beginning and end of the 17-week period. During the course of the study, hoof length increased among the exercised horses, and measurements from the exercised horses became less variable between individuals.
The authors acknowledged hoof trimming may have had uncertain effects on the results. It is unclear if they considered whether the overall effect that chance may have played when making the large number of comparisons and correlations presented in the study. Obviously changes over time that affected both groups similarly cannot be attributed to exercise, but could be due to weather, season of the year, hardness of the turnout paddock, etc. The authors suggest a better understanding of how exercise influences hoof growth and shape may require higher levels of exercise and needs further study.