Sole depth and weight-bearing characteristics of the palmar surface of the feet of feral horses and domestic Thoroughbreds.
Objective - To determine solar load-bearing structures in the feet of feral horses and investigate morphological characteristics of the sole in feral horses and domestic Thoroughbreds. Sample - Forelimbs from cadavers of 70 feral horses and 20 domestic Thoroughbreds in Australia. Procedures - Left forefeet were obtained from 3 feral horse populations from habitats of soft substrate (SS [n=10 horses]), hard substrate (HS ), and a combination of SS and HS (10) and loaded in vitro. Pressure distribution was measured with a pressure plate. Sole depth was measured at 12 points across the solar plane in feet obtained from feral horses from SS (n=20 horses) and HS (20) habitats and domestic Thoroughbreds (20). Results - Feet of feral horses from HS habitats loaded the periphery of the sole and hoof wall on a flat surface. Feral horses from HS or SS habitats had greater mean sole depth than did domestic Thoroughbreds. Sole depth was greatest peripherally and was correlated with the loading pattern. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance - The peripheral aspect of the sole in the feet of feral horses had a load-bearing function. Because of the robust nature of the tissue architecture, the hoof capsule of feral horses may be less flexible than that of typical domestic horses. The application of narrow-web horseshoes may not take full advantage of the load-bearing and force-dissipating properties of the peripheral aspect of the sole. Further studies are required to understand the effects of biomechanical stimulation on the adaptive responses of equine feet.