Some horses have unfortunate and deteriorative illnesses which can be exacerbated by poor horse shoes. One such condition, popularly known as navicular disease, which is a painful and degenerative condition which affects both a horse's hooves and its feet, is considered to be both highly painful and detrimental to the animal's overall health. For this condition, animal orthopedic experts have suggested specialized footwear using aluminum horse shoes which provides both support and balance for animals during their recovery period from the disease (Crisan 2009). Navicular disease has been the subject of debate in and of itself because animal scientists are as yet unsure of the direct cause of the condition. Some researchers have claimed that navicular disease can be directly linked to vibration. Such assertions have been supported by a large number of animal science researchers, including Dr. J. Rooney. The other hypothesis is that navicular disease is a vascular condition, which is effected by the veins in the horse (Rooney 1998,-page 1). Both of these hypothesis indicate a link between the horse's legs, and thus their hooves, and the likelihood of becoming afflicted with the disease. Whatever the cause of the condition may be, and there is no concrete evidence as yet which is the true cause, there has been definitive research to indicate that the material of horseshoes has a concrete effect on the continued deterioration or the betterment of the horse that has been diagnosed with the condition.
It has also been proved that other conditions that can damage a horse and deter its quality of life are affected by the hooves and legs of the animal. Thus, the horse can be treated or at least aided by the use of a properly designed horse shoe. According to Gore (2012), "In some rare occasions, the horse shoe can be used to help a cracked hoof to aid in healing and support. Horse shoes can be used for gait management or to improve other movements of the horse" (page 1). Whether using aluminum or steel horse shoes, what most researchers do agree to is that the usage of some type of metallic shoe is far better than not using any material on the horse's hoof.
There are many proven reasons why aluminum horse shoes can be superior to steel for certain situations. Research was conducted by Huguet and Duberstein (2012) wherein the investigators looked into a direct comparison between how horses' knees react when the horses are shoes with both steel and aluminum shoes. The researchers were able to determine that in cases where the horses were shoed with aluminum, the body showed that there was a larger carpal angle and an evident relieving of tension observed. This suggests that there are many potentially different performance enhancements which can be achieved with the replacement of aluminum shoes rather than steel ones.
With this evidence which has been acquired, it is possible to state without hesitation that for animals with potential injury or disease, aluminum horse shoes are superior to their steel counterparts. This is also true under conditions wherein the animal is required to reach high speeds, such as in horse racing. In these instances, the aluminum horse shoes are lighter and more dexterous, thus allowing the horse to reach higher speeds and to do far less damage to its body as well.
Balch, O., Butler, D. & Collier, M. (1997). Balancing the normal foot. Equine Veterinary Education 9(3): 143-54.
Crisan, M., Lopez, J., Cjope, K., Muste, A. & Damian, A. (2009). Studies Regarding Treatment in Navicular Disease. Veterinary Medicine 66(1).
Gore, R. (2012). Horse Shoes; Pros and Cons. Equestrian Life.
Huguet, E. & Duberstein, K. (2012). Effects of Steel and Aluminum Shoes on Forelimb Kinematics in Stock-Type Horses as Measured at the Trot. Journal of Equine Veterinary Science 10 February.
Koepsich, W. (1996). Using Aluminum Shoes on Quarter Horses. Anvil Magazine. Accessed 22 March 2012. http://www.anvilmag.com/farrier/usalsonq.htm