Equine Biomechanics and Exercise Physiology

Dr. Babak Faramarzi DVM, CVA, MSc, PhD.

Biomechanical studies are the cornerstone of understanding the orthopedics and musculoskeletal injuries in human and animals. Such studies provide objective means to examine and measure the extent of the injury and response to the treatment. Health and welfare of horses are major concerns for the equine industry and horse owners. It is estimated that more than 30% of the lameness cases arise from foot problems. The Equine hoof is analogous to a human fingernail; the highly keratinized hoof wall surrounds and protects the underlying bones and soft tissue. Despite its simple appearance, the equine hoof is a deceptively complex structure; it is designed to withstand tremendous forces, however, it is sensitive to uneven force distribution. The unexpected changes in hoof balance are detrimental to hoof function and health. A disruption in the interaction between the horse’s hoof and the ground surface (i.e., track) can be responsible for a variety of musculoskeletal injuries. Those injuries are not limited to the foot but may affect proximal structures as high as the shoulder and pelvis. Many factors such as gait, direction, substrate, hoof conformation and hoof material properties influence the hoof biomechanics and alter its performance. Understanding the biomechanics of the equine foot requires a close cooperation among veterinarians, scientists, trainers and farriers. Our research laboratory uses state-of-the-art equipment and cordially encourages collaborative research.