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Interpretive Summary: Chemical composition of horse hooves with functional qualities for competing barefoot

By: Ellinor Spörndly-Nees, Anna Jansson, Mette Pökelmann, Jana Pickova, Sara Ringmark

Barefoot racing is a common practice within the harness racing industry, as it may make a horse run faster. However, not all horses have hooves of sufficient quality to withstand the wear from the track surface during racing, creating a risk of hoof damage. Therefore, an objective method is needed to distinguish between horses that have hooves suitable for barefoot racing and those that do not. In this study, we compared the chemical composition of hoof walls and the fatty acid (FA) composition of the digital cushion in horses that had raced barefoot often and horses that could not race barefoot frequently. We found differences between the two groups of horses in terms of mineral- and amino acid concentrations in the hoof wall, but not in the FA composition of the digital cushion. This indicates that chemical composition may be important for the functional qualities of the hoof capsule and the ability to race barefoot without hoof wear and damage. However, chemical analysis of hooves is not a definitive method for distinguishing horses suitable for barefoot racing from horses that are not suitable.

Read the full article in the Journal of Animal Science.