A study of foot balance and lameness in riding school horses has won the Royal Agricultural Society of England‟s "Eqvalan Duo Equine Thesis of the Year Award‟, which celebrated its tenth anniversary this year. The award is sponsored by Merial, manufacturers of the Eqvalan equine wormer.
On Friday, before a panel of academic and horse industry authorities, Laura Corbin from Warwickshire College in England reported on her research on riding school horses and described how she developed an objective system to evaluate foot balance. She found that horses with chronic foot conditions often had poor scores for foot balance and proposed that maintaining good foot balance could reduce lameness and provide long term economic benefits.
Laura is currently undertaking a studentship with the Roslin Institute and is at the University of Edinburgh in preparation for her PhD.
Her winning thesis “Foot Balance and Lameness in Riding School Horses”, was selected from research theses submitted by universities in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Laura competed against four other finalists in a presentation of her study which the judges described as “fascinating and extremely useful information for the industry”.
Second prize winner was Charlotte White of Nottingham Trent University for her dissertation: "An investigation into the occlusal secondary dentine thickness in horses of different ages".
From the abstract for Corbin's thesis is this general summary:
"Inappropriate foot balance has been implicated as a causative factor in many instances of equine lameness. In this study, the static foot balance of 81 horses at two riding schools was evaluated in order to assess foot balance in relation to lameness.
"An objective system was used to assign a foot imbalance score to each horse based on the occurrence of the following foot abnormalities: sheared heels, underrun heels, contracted heels, broken hoof pastern axis, mismatched hoof angles and small feet, as assessed using specific measurements of the foot.
"The mean foot imbalance scores were 2.9 (± 1.0) for horses at Riding School A and 2.9 (± 1.2) for horses at Riding School B. (Minimum score = 0; maximum score = 6).
"Horses with chronic foot conditions were found to have significantly worse foot balance with respect to the foot abnormalities identified in this study (as indicated by a higher foot imbalance score) than those without.
"At one of the riding schools, horses that had been lame within the last year had significantly worse foot balance than other horses in the population.
"The results suggested that poor foot balance in riding school horses may contribute to the occurrence of lameness and the development of chronic foot conditions. Maintaining appropriate foot balance in riding school horses may therefore reduce the incidence of lameness and chronic foot conditions and could provide long-term economic benefits.
"Further investigations incorporating a greater number riding schools are necessary to confirm the results of this study; prospective studies would be of particular value."
Note: the abstract is a little vague about defining what a chronic foot condition is or how severe or longlasting the lameness conditions were. Hopefully the full paper will disclose a lot more about the methods and presumptions of this study. Congratulations to Laura for bringing the preventive value of good hoof balance to the attention of the public. Warwickshire College is home to one of Britain's leading farrier college programs.
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