Veterinarians' Roundtable

Q:  When a hoof is trimmed and shod, thus lifting the frog from contact with the ground, how will blood flow up the leg differ from that of natural blood flow in a barefoot horse? Are there any implications for shoeing methods?

—Minnesota Farrier

A: I believe there are several effects on the tissues and vasculature within the foot when the horse’s foot is primarily suspended by the perimeter hoof wall, thus suspending the sole, frog and bars from the ground. To understand these effects, it is important to review how the foot functions.

The horse’s foot is very effective at dampening the vibrations (shock) generated during ground impact. Several systems within the foot aid in this task, such as the tubular and intertubular hoof wall, soft tissue structures within the foot that include the lamellar interface, sole corium, articular surfaces, ligaments, tendons, digital cushion, etc.

Finally, the vascular system acts to dissipate ground forces. Before the foot impacts the ground, its vasculature is filled to its capacity with blood. At impact and during weight bearing, the blood within the foot is pushed out of the foot by the soft tissues being stretched and compressed. This movement of fluid into and out of the foot is a very effective method of energy dissipation and essentially acts as a hydraulic shock absorber.

According to a hypothesis on energy dissipation by Dr. Robert Bowker, a Michigan State University researcher, one of the major routes of force transfer between the external structures of…

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