The Equine Foot Laboratory, led by Robert Bowker, VMD, PhD, is charting the adaptive mechanisms of the equine foot.
For more than ten years, Bowker’s research and clinical work has focused on the physiological function of the equine foot. The research has resulted in new recommendations that are leading to relief from navicular syndrome and other chronic foot ailments in the horse.
Bowker's research in these areas led to a wholly different theory of how the equine foot responds to ground impact. His research has focused on blood flow to and from the hoof, and the role it plays in energy dissipation. These study results led Bowker to believe that the modern-day horse should be trimmed so that more of the back part of the foot—including the frog—bears the initial ground impact forces and weight. His research demonstrated that if the foot was trimmed so that the frog rests on the ground, the back part of the foot would be stimulated to grow more fibrous and fibrocartilaginous tissue in the digital cushion, which appears to be protective of the more chronic foot problems.
Based on early findings in the laboratory, Bowker, colleagues, and students developed guidelines for a “physiological trim,” in which the foot was trimmed so that the frog rests on the ground. With this trim, the rear part of the foot is stimulated to grow more fibrous and fibrocartilaginous tissue in the digital cushion, which appears to be protective of the more chronic foot problems. In 2013, the laboratory published results of a first study of regional differences of tubular densities, which found that hoof horn clippings from live feet may have potential diagnostic and/or prognostic value.
The laboratory is conducting further research on the physiological function of the equine foot.
Most of his research efforts are supported by the American Quarter Horse Association, the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation, Inc., and private donations. Dr. Bowker also lectures internationally, and consults with veterinarians and hoof care providers worldwide.
In 2012, the Australian College of Equine Podiotherapy named its biennial conference in equine hoof care “The Bowker Lectures.”
The microvasculature in the equine distal phalanx: Implications for fracture healing.
Schade SM, Arnoczky SP, Bowker RM.
Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol. 2014 Feb 4;27(2). [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 24493320
Equine hoof wall tubule density and morphology.
Lancaster LS, Bowker RM, Mauer WA.
J Vet Med Sci. 2013;75(6):773-8. PMID: 23370605