Equine Fusion’s conference was held on the weekend of the 12th/13th November 2016 in the Millenium Hotel, Kensington, London and was very well attended by distributors, trimmers and interested parties from all over the world. I was invited along to observe how the company intended to keep up with the present demands in the fast blossoming and lucrative market of hoof boot manufacturing & retail. Nowadays there are a multitude of hoof boots on the market with more becoming available to consumers every year.
Barefoot is becoming serious business with boot manufacturers vying for their place in this ever changing market place (see the results of our Hoof Boot Survey on page…) and I was interested to learn how Equine Fusion intended on maintaining their grip in the market and where their future was heading. Equine Fusion are not new boys on the block, having been around since 2005 with their first commercial model hitting the market in 2011. They currently have 3 hoof boot models in production, the Ultra, the Ultimate and the newer All Terrain which boasts a new thicker sole design which according to the manufacturers “makes it more wear resistant and provides excellent grip on all surfaces.”
Equine Fusion have a patent pending on their rubber flexible sole which definitely gives them a unique selling point compared to all the other hoof boots on the market which tend to have a more rigid sole to their boots. On arriving at the conference I was greeted warmly by the Equine Fusion team, whom I was later given to understand were a keen group of forward thinking Norwegian Engineers with their knowledge firmly rooted in the Oil & Gas industries.
Myself and the rest of the audience were treated to various presentations revealing their current and future strategies for bringing the name Equine Fusion into a more prominent position amongst other hoof boot manufacturers, their current research and development and a most enlightening talk given by Professor R. Weller from the Royal Veterinary College regarding her research into ‘What do shoes do? The Effect of Farriery on Locomotor Biomechanics’ (more of that hopefully in a later issue). Without doubt one of the most intriguing presentations was finding out about the research that Equine Fusion were actively leading, which amongst other objectives aimed to compare their hoof boots to metal shoes and other hoof boots on the market.
They wanted to investigate and document some of the key features of the Equine Fusion boot (dampening and grip) and also to compare these dampening and grip parameters between the metal shoe (as reference) and other main vendors on the market. Research into anything related to barefoot horses is woefully lacking throughout the globe and the reasons for that are extremely transparent: lack of funding from interested parties (e.g. pharmaceutical companies, racing and competitive organisations) as a great deal of money particularly in the medicinal sectors is to be found in the pathology of the equine and not it’s health.
If there is no funding available then any meaningful ‘peer reviewed’ research is unlikely to happen and owners of equines are left relying on anecdotal proof found out in the field that barefoot is indeed the healthiest option for their horse (of which there is a tremendous amount!). Equine Fusion’s research, a joint venture between them and Professor Lars Roepstorff at The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, is therefore an exciting & welcome development for many barefoot & booting enthusiasts, finally recognising that there is a positive difference between a booted hoof and one that is shod. So how did Equine Fusion go about their research? Thomas Dale, Equine Fusion’s Research & Development Manager, was responsible for the project in partnership with Professor Lars Roepstorff from The Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences.
Professor Roepstorff was recently responsible for the design (skal være “testing”) of the Olympic Equine arena surfaces and has skills and expertise in areas such as equine biomechanics, equine exercise performance, sports physiology, injuries and equine locomotion. Testing took place in June (should be July) 2016 and used a techinical piece of equipment known as The Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester (OBST). The OBST is well proven and known to quantify properties of equestrian surfaces and was used for the mechanical testing of the equestrian Olympic arenas in London in 2012 and Rio in 2016. It mimics the maximum loads and velocities for a 600kg horse during the early landing/touchdown phase after an obstacle, as a simultaneous downward motion and forward slide of the ‘hoof’ when it contacts the ground.
TOP ROW FIGS A & B: Flexible and elastic: the flexible sole adapts between the hoof and the surface and the grip is customised to ensure traction, enabling the horse to feel the ground RIGHT: The Orono Biomechanical Surface Tester (OBST) BOTTOM ROW – LEFT: The London 2012 Olympics Dressage arena RIGHT PICS: The OBST fitted with the Equine Fusion boots.
For the Equine Fusion test the OBST was used to attach 5 different test objects on 3 different surfaces:
A = Metal shoe (as reference)
B = Equine Fusion All Terrain hoof boot
C = Equine Fusion Ultimate hoof boot
D = Plastic 1 (other vendor hoof boot)
E = Plastic 2 (other vendor hoof boot)
1. Hard surface (road) = firm packed gravel car road
2. Arena surface = outdoor riding arena for training
3. Hard Arena surface = indoor riding arena with high firmness
Amongst the results that the team found were that the Equine Fusion All Terrain hoof boot reduces the maximum loads on the hoof at the early landing/touchdown phase and that the Equine Fusion Ultimate hoof boot shows relatively low maximum loads on hard surfaces. They found for example that the All Terrain on surface 1, reduces acceleration at impact meaning a better (increased) dampening, with an acceleration reduction of 40% compared to the metal shoe and 11-30% compared to the other vendor’s hoof boots. Or the equivalent, the metal shoe increases the acceleration at impact by 67% and the other vendor’s hoof boots by 12-42% compared to the All Terrain. It was also shown that the All Terrain reduces force at impact by 43% compared to the metal shoe and 2630% compared to the other vendor’s hoof boots on surface 1. The Equine Fusion team and Professor Roepstorff were extremely encouraged by these results which is spurring the team to move on to other areas of research in the future. A big bonus for barefoot horses! Professor Weller from the Royal Veterinary College has stated that lameness is the most common cause of loss of use in the horse and in 80% of cases lameness is localised in the foot. Even though the horse has developed several shock absorbing mechanisms all of these mechanisms are influenced by farriery intervention, including trimming and the shape, material and application of the shoe. Therefore controlling and minimising the loads on the horse are essential. As barefoot horse owners we know there is nothing more functional than the bare hoof but we also know that to keep horses successfully barefoot the diet, management and trim all need to be in balance. Unfortunately for the majority of equines in competition still, this is far from a reality and therefore are still using metal shoes and suffering from a high degree of lameness.
Equine Fusion pride themselves on believing the following:
- Providing the rider with the freedom to use their hoof boots when needed.
- Providing the rider with the freedom to select the correct hoof boot model for each application.
- Connecting with your horse from the ground up by enabling the horse to feel the ground.
- Allowing the hoof to work as nature intended by not impeding the biomechanical functioning.
- Allowing the hoof to sink into and adapt to the sole of their hoof boots Providing increased safety for the horse and rider by the use of a flexible grip.
With regard to their test results they believe the reason why their boots are out performing the metal shoe and the other vendor’s boots tested, is down to their unique flexible sole, resulting in reduced force loads and increased cushioning. My time at the conference was highly instructive, informative, educational and fun! The Equine Fusion team really are a great bunch and without doubt their hoof boots and their research are to become a force to be reckoned with.
Roll on the next conference!
GRAPH 1: TEST RESULTS – Force loads on Surface 1 – Both Equine Fusion boots showing significantly less force loads compared to all the other test subjects.
GRAPH 2: TEST RESULTS – Dampening on Surface 1 – Equine Fusion All Terrain boot (B) showing overall significant better dampening with the Equine Fusion Ultimate boot (C) in the middle.