Synthetic Horseshoes Reduce Impact

Lame or arthritic horses may get relief by wearing plastic horseshoes, a recent study suggests.

The research found that plastic shoes transmit less of the impact on landing to a horse's hoof than do steel shoes.

Veterinary scientists at Utrecht University in The Netherlands measured the impact hooves received while trotting in conventional steel shoes, polyurethane shoes and without horseshoes. Sound warmblood horses were outfitted with a triaxial accelerometer to measure the acceleration of their hooves as they hit pavement on an asphalt track.

horse hoof with steel horseshoe

For lame horses, polyurethane shoes are a better choice than steel horseshoes.

The degree of impact to the hoof was lowest in all directions when horses wore polyurethane shoes. That was measured by the maximum extent of acceleration at the hoof wall in vertical and horizontal directions. The duration of vibrations resulting from the hoof landing on the ground were shortest, though, when horses were unshod.

The researchers note that these results on hoof impact show promise for using synthetic horseshoes to prevent osteoarthritis and to help horses recover from lameness.


Willem Back, Maaike H.M. van Schie and Jessica N. Pol. 2006. Synthetic shoes attenuate hoof impact in the trotting warmblood horse. Equine and Comparative Exercise Physiology. 3: 143-151.

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