Horses might soon be queuing up for the latest Nike Air trainers, say researchers at De Montfort University. They are about to launch a major research programme to study the links between physical asymmetry in horses,performance and lameness, with the ultimate aim of reducing horse injuries.
"There's tons of evidence in athletes that limb length differentials of even a few millimetres can affect performance and increase injury," explained Gail Williams, head of the university's equine biomechanics research team. Thousands of pounds have been spent developing special shoes for humans to compensate, "yet racehorses are still wearing the same metal shoes they have worn for the past 200 years".
A preliminary study has shown 98 per cent of horses display some level of asymmetry, and a correlation between asymmetry and performance and injury was also found. "With horses having four legs there is even greater potential for problems," said Dr Williams. "If we can identify the horses with different limb lengths, we can manage that appropriately. One way might be shoes."