Racehorses in training are asked to run at varying speeds on racetrack surfaces as they gain muscle strength and body condition. Bones, joints, and soft tissue structures in the horses’ legs absorb shock each time a hoof hits the ground, and these repeated concussions can cause injuries over time.
In a study conducted in California, researchers measured forelimb hoof accelerations and ground reaction forces in relation to three racetrack surfaces.
Three Thoroughbred racehorses wearing dynamometric horseshoes were trotted and cantered on dirt, synthetic, and turf surfaces at a racetrack. The lowest peak accelerations, mean levels of vibration, and peak ground reaction forces were recorded on the synthetic surface. This indicates that synthetic surfaces have a potential to reduce injuries related to concussive forces in Thoroughbred racehorses.
Researchers cautioned that because each track has unique characteristics, regardless of surface material, care should be used in extending results of this study to all tracks.