HealthWatch: Surface Safety and Medication

3D Dynamometric shoe and Nanomedicine studies are expected to impact racing's future.

Surface Safety

French researchers are using a highly sensitive 3D dynamometric shoe and other instruments to give insight into the biomechanical effects of diverse surfaces on not only the horse’s limbs, but the entire musculoskeletal system, writes Christa Lesté-Lasserre in the May issue of The Horse.

Researchers attached the shoe to the front right hoof of surrey-driven trotting horses and digitized the results, comparing them with other tools that measure the detailed physical properties of the horse’s movement. They analyzed the force of impact, sliding distances, foot vibrations, and the acceleration and braking phases of each individual step.

Named the “Sequisol Project,” the combination of studies is headed by Drs. Nathalie Crevier-Denoix and Henry Chateau.

“It’s common knowledge that there is a link between the quality of the terrain and the risk of accident in race and sport horses, particularly fractures and tendonitis,” Crevier-Denoix said. “The nature of the terrain has a direct effect on the length of the gait and locomotive symmetry.”

The group’s recent research focused on comparing the biomechanical effects on the horse when trotting at 35 km/hour (22 mph) on a hard-packed dirt road, a soil-based training track, and a cinder track. 

Force of impact and high frequency vibrations generated by shock were significantly greater on the hard dirt surface. The study also revealed significant differences among various maintenance levels of the same terrain. For example, the results showed that a tilled and moistened track has nearly three times as much shock absorbency as the same track not maintained for several days. Previous Sequisol research has been carried out on a variety of terrain types, including sand, grass, and an all-weather waxed-fiber track.

“We must absolutely find a solution to optimize our tracks,” said Christian de la Garde, an agricultural engineer and project manager for France Galop, the governing body for flat and steeplechase horse racing in France.


Nanomedicine—the use of small-molecule therapeutic drugs—is a rapidly expanding field in human medicine and is anticipated to have a huge impact on equine practice in the not-so-distant future, writes Dr. Stacey Oke in the May issue of The Horse.

According to Dr. Paul Debbage of the Medical University of Innsbruck in Austria, the process of packaging drugs into nanoparticles and delivering these nanoparticles to a patient has many advantages, both medical and economical, over traditional pharmaceutical approaches.

For example, microscopic particles are capable of carrying large amounts of small drugs that permit, targeted transport of the drugs to specific locations, evasion of the immune system to avoid premature destruction of the drugs, and timed release of the drugs at target sites to minimize drug-related side effects.

Debbage said research in this field is proceeding at a rapid pace.

He estimated the technology to be available within human medicine in the next two decades, with veterinary medicine to follow.

This technology would be beneficial to horses in particular because of the reduction in pharmaceutical-related adverse events and the decreased drug amounts needed to treat patients.