Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

March 07, 2000

Sunrise horses helping OVC study the mechanics of hooves

For the past year, the horses at the Sunrise Equestrian Centre have been performing double community service duty: carrying challenged riders and loaning the use of their hooves to researchers at the Ontario Veterinary College (OVC).

OVC researchers have been studying the mechanics of the hoof and the strain put on it during activity before and after a visit with a farrier, a blacksmith who shoes horses. The study looks at how the hoof works in the different activities the horses are asked to perform and whether the farrier changes how the hoof works, said Prof. Jeff Thomason, Department of Biomedical Sciences.

The Sunrise horses were selected for the study because their environment and routine is constant, and because of their years of experience with the Centre's therapeutic riding classes. "They are ‘bomb-proof' horses," Thomason said. "They are used to being ridden, having boisterous children around them, and will stand still for a reasonable amount of time while people fuss over them."

Researchers tracked the horses over a year. "It required a commitment on the part of the Sunrise Centre, and they were happy to volunteer their horses. It was a great partnership."

For the study, Thomason recorded the changes in the horse's feet before and after a farrier trimmed and shod them. He placed painless, electronic sensors in key positions on the hoof and measured the level of strain experienced by the foot at different levels of activity.

Thomason expected to see significant peaks and valleys in hoof strain that reflect human intervention. But he recorded little change in the foot, showing that trimming the hoof does not affect foot strain. His research is scheduled to be published in various scholarly journals.

"We would like to be able to give farriers advice based on scientific evidence on how to trim and shoe the feet of animals. Farriery is a skill that comes with experience. Right now, it is not strongly rooted in science," Thomason said.

"The Sunrise horses have contributed to bringing the science to farriery, in addition to their usual duties of bringing pleasure to physically challenged children."

Contact: Prof. Jeff Thomason Department of Biomedical Sciences (519) 824-4120, Ext. 4934/4973

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120, Ext. 3338.

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