How You Can Conduct Your Own Research

A biostatistician who shoes horses says farriers can advance the science of hoof care without going broke or turning to pseudoscience

LIMIT THE POPULATION. When designing your own outcomes research, you need to define what types of horses will be accepted in your research population.

In a recent issue of American Farriers Journal (July/Aug., 2002), Managing Editor Pat Tearney wrote that theories on hoof-care need to be put to the scientific test. He went on to list some obstacles to research, such as the potential for injury to horses and the cost of studies.

However, farriers can do hoof-care studies without large budgets on some hoof-care issues, using methods developed for outcomes research.

Focusing On Results

Outcomes research focuses on the health outcome of a treatment, rather than assessing its biological or biomechanical properties. In human medicine, outcomes research is also called evidence-based medicine. It addresses the bottom line; whether or not the health of the subject improves after application of the treatment.

Consider a hypothetical study investigating the effect of wedge shoes for treating lame horses with navicular syndrome. Biomechanical research might focus on investigating the amount of reduction in force that the deep digital flexor tendon exerts on the navicular bone. Outcomes research might instead focus on the effect of wedge shoes on lameness, that is, whether or not the shoes improve the lameness.

A recent article on veterinarian Michael Steward’s wooden shoe treatment for laminitis (American Farriers Journal, May/June, 2002) is another example. Steward did informal outcomes research when he described the effect of treatment as 25 of 28 horses returning to riding soundness. The outcome measured is…

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