A study into foot balance — defined as foot conformation, shape and anatomy — won the Royal Agricultural Society of England’s Eqvalan Duo Equine Thesis of the Year, presented at Stoneleigh Park, Warwickshire on 7 November.

Warwickshire College student Laura Corbin carried out her research on riding school horses and developed her own objective system to evaluate foot balance and its relation to lameness.

“Foot balance is often discussed among owners, but there still seems to be some confusion as to what foot shape is best,” said Laura.

Laura discovered that poor foot shapes, such as long toes, sheared heels or collapsed weak heels, seem to contribute to lameness, but warned further research should be undertaken before a definitive link can be claimed.

“Using the definitions and measurements from an earlier research paper (Turner and Stork, 1988), I measured the feet of 81 horses and created my own scoring system with a point for each foot imbalance they exhibited,” said Laura.

“Although this was only a small sample of horses, and I did not look at other aspects of conformation, the study appeared to show a relationship between foot imbalance and lameness.”

Her thesis will be presented at the National Equine Forum in March and will be available online soon afterwards.

Judges Professor Graham Suggett, director of equine development at the British Equestrian Federation, Dr Emma Batson of Merial Animal Health, Mars Horsecare’s Dr Pat Harris, and Alison Bridge (Horse & Rider) chose the winner from five finalists.

Laura is currently studying at the University of Edinburgh before embarking on a PhD.

Nottingham Trent student Charlotte White was runner-up with her dissertation: An investigation on occlusal secondary dentine thickness in horses of different ages.

This article was first published in Horse & Hound (20 November, ’08)