at University Equine Research Center

by Fran Jurga

Published in the November 2000 Issue of Anvil Magazine

On Wednesday, June 7, 2000, Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, opened the doors of its new world-class equine biomechanics research center, The Mary Anne McPhail Equine Performance Center.

Deep inside the enormous research building dedicated to gait analysis, movement, and conditioning analysis of sport horses is the sparkling new Mustad Farrier Center, the product of a donation from the Mustad Hoofcare Group. Designed for application of experimental shoes and the testing of farrier-related products on research horses, the center will also be the first space at the massive Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine where a horse can be shod safely indoors with adequate lighting and ventilation. Capewell Horse Nails and St. Croix Forge, Inc., two companies in the Mustad Hoofcare Group, cooperated to fund the center. Carlos Lara, president of Capewell, and Clint Carlson, marketing director for St. Croix Forge, were present at the dedication, which included dignitaries and guests from the veterinary world, Michigan State University, and the horse industry.

The new Equine Performance Center will be an international headquarters for research projects related to understanding how sound horses function, what makes some horses superior athletes, and how horse sports can evolve to bring out the best in horses' athletic performance while assuring their safety and minimizing injury. Research projects at the new center will look at helpful and detrimental effects of tack, rider ability and function, and most importantly, ground surfaces and shoeing in the optimum performance and safety of horses. The building's 70 x 130-foot indoor arena, equipped with a force plate and video cameras, will allow veterinarians to assess horses as they are being ridden or driven.

Heading the new center is Hilary Clayton, BVMS, PhD, MRCVS, the current McPhail Dressage Chair in Equine Sports Medicine at Michigan State. For close to 20 years, Dr. Clayton's research on equine locomotion has sought to understand the mechanics of horse movement, including the role of trimming and shoeing on performance and soundness. Several of her projects have been conducted during Olympic and World Championship dressage and show jumping competitions to study horses under actual performance stress and conditions.

The new Mustad Farrier Center will provide Dr. Clayton with a facility adjacent to the brightly lit, rubber-surfaced arena where horses can be quickly and efficiently reshod or have appliances attached to their feet and legs. Dr. Clayton will also be able to use the center's sophisticated testing machinery - which includes a high-speed treadmill, gait analysis system, video analysis, and force plates permanently installed alongside the arena - to test the comparative benefits of farrier equipment such as shoes made of different materials or pads, sole support materials, or variations in shoe design or placement.

Some of Dr. Clayton's previous research has studied movement of the hoof in different phases of the stride, particularly the positioning of shoes to affect breakover. She has also studied the effects of wedge pads and quantified ideal hoof functions in different dressage movements such as the canter pirouette and piaffe. Small projects like her video analysis of diagonal advanced placement (DAP) of hooves in dressage horses has proven helpful to identify athletic potential and suitability for dressage.

Equipping the new center is the next item on Dr. Clayton's agenda. Basic equipment in the Mustad Farrier Center includes a Mankel gas forge and anvil. The design of the farrier center features state-of-the-art ventilation system and lighting, insuring that it will be an environmentally safe place for humans and horses. Mustad will also be donating tools and supplies for use in the center.

Resident farrier at the veterinary hospital, Jim Cloutier of Mason, Michigan, will be the first farrier to work in the center. Cloutier holds the journeyman certification of the American Farrier's Association and is a specialist in the shoeing of horses affected by lameness or foot disease.

Long-range goals for the center will include hosting farrier events and educational seminars, with the possibility of graduate and doctoral projects related to hoof function being conducted under Dr. Clayton's direction. The Center, which has already been chosen to host the next International Conference on Equine Locomotion, is equipped with full video linking, observation rooms, a conference room, and computer networking for conferences.

Michigan State is the first veterinary college to install a permanent facility for farriery in conjunction with equine biomechanics research. Many biomechanics projects are criticized because of their lack of consistent shoeing applications, a criticism that Michigan State's new center hopes to avoid.

"I have a good feeling about the Mustad connection for the new Center. I think we will be able to do some good things for them and with them," Dr. Clayton remarked. "This is a new age and I am delighted to be leading the way to include farriery in the study of equine biomechanics and locomotion."

For more information about the Center for Equine Performance, please visit

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