By: Brittany Bevis
Numerous studies abound in the field of equine health, but most are focused on specific segments of the population. For example, research has been done concerning how load affects Hunter-Jumpers when they land after taking a fence. Other studies have examined how catastrophic injuries can be prevented in racehorses. However, one segment of the industry that seems to be underrepresented is the performance horse sector, specifically all-around horses.
Earlier this week, AQHA Professional Horseman, Dustin Boehmer, volunteered his string of horses to be used in a study with Michigan State University’s Spartan Equine Research Lab to determine how to improve skeletal strength. The research is funded in part by the American Quarter Horse Association.
“As an AQHA Professional Horseman, I was excited to extend further support offering my string, a mix of lesson and all-around AQHA and APHA horses, to the project,” Dustin says. “Focused on forelimb strength, where most catastrophic and debilitating injuries happen in horses, in this segment of their research the lab aims to demonstrate that circles of faster speeds and smaller diameters illicit uneven loading and greater potential damage to joint health when compared to slower speeds and larger diameters.”
Dustin has worked with MSU in the past by assisting the MSU Judging Team and serving as a clinician at an extension benefit show. He was thrilled to volunteer to participate in this study because of his interest in further education.
“I have always been a huge advocate of further education, in general, but I’m absolutely invested in spreading and expanding my knowledge in the equine industry as a whole,” he says. “It was important for the lab to stick with AQHA professionals and horses, not only as continued support towards their partner in this research, but also to bring some continuity to the data as they progress forward.”
“AQHA allocates funds to several projects nationally through grants. I was elated that part of those funds were appropriated to something so close to home, both in proximity and interest. As mentioned previously, I especially appreciated that the lab wanted to honor AQHA by using a string of all-around horses for their research. “
For their part in the study, the horses were outfitted with Tekscan sensor boots that documented and compared pressure, force, and area of each footfall. “Adhesive shoes were attached and removed that day. The scanning pad fit like any other normal pad, between the hoof and the shoe. The rest of the device was wrapped to the leg, much like any other wrap, and the cables were affixed by a surcingle. It was just another day of work for the horses. They were happy to get off the farm and practice safe social distancing.”
This initial study will help to provide a baseline for future investigation as to how performance horses are worked, trained, and shown. “I’m specifically hopefully that it will lead to better and more specific understanding in bone density and joint degradation for our Pleasure and All-Around type horses. Ultimately, that could very much change our practices. How we longe horses, sure, but also how we prepare them to show and deal with fatigue during the show season.”
“My favorite line is, ‘You don’t know what you don’t know!’ Yes, we do have some great research data out there, but the lead PhD student on this research is progressing the data in this lab to produce great information focused specifically on our types of horses: horses that spin hard, travel with precision over obstacles, work dynamically to maintain a consistent top line, and manage to sustain these attributes through long competition days and seasons. All-Around horses have jobs that are very different than their counterparts [in Over fences and Racing]. Having information that would support our specific needs in equine health and well-being will only progress us further forward.”
We’re excited to see the results of this research soon.
If you have an idea for a future Equine Chronicle article, email B.Bevis@EquineChronicle.com.