For over 2000 years, the good ol’ iron horseshoe has remained the only reliable footwear for horses, but an Austrian company is ready to “take the horse out of the Iron Age” with the world’s first equine running shoes, the Megasus Horserunners.
Charly Forstner, the founder of Megasus, used to work as an animal welfare inspector for horses in Austria. He learned that over 50% of horses that needed to be put down suffered from severe hoof and leg problems. 20 years ago, he decided to dedicate his life to coming up with a better alternative to the iron horseshoe. Over the last two decades, he invented various hoof protection products made of plastic, like the ‘Dynamix’ or the ‘Easywalker’, but he recently unveiled something truly revolutionary – clip-on running shoes for horses. Forstener claims that they combine the qualities of both the common horseshoe and the hoof boot to offer horses the protection and freedom of movement that they require.
While the iron horseshoe is known for its durability and adjustability, it also has some serious flaws – it’s heavy, restricts movement, has no shock absorption, channels heat and cols to the inner hoof, and the need for nailing can destroy the hoof horn. The hoof boot, on the other hand, has long been the go-to solution for barefoot horse owners, with companies like Cavallo and Easy Boot offering a variety of equine footwear. But finding hoof boots that don’t rub on a horse’s leg and hoof, are easy to put on and remove, and stay on all kinds of terrain can be a real struggle. The Megasus Horserunners claim to incorporate all the qualities of both option, while eliminating the downsides.
“The innovative Megasus Horserunners offer many advantages over the traditional products such as they are lightweight (less than half a pound), can be adjusted individually, easy to put on, and offer protection without permanence,” a Megasus press release states. “It can also stay put in all kinds of terrain including mud and water plus it allows the hoof to be flexible. The product is also designed to protect the sole from bruising, cracking and other injuries by offering shock absorption. It does not accumulate snow, dirt or mud and is easy to clean.”
Instead of using dangerous iron nails, the Megasus Horserunners simply clip-on to the horse’s hooves, thanks to an improved velcro system. Two large strips of strong velcro tape (called Meg-Log Tape) stick on to each hoof, to which the Horserunners clip on with individually adjustable side clips. “The Mega-Lock tape remains approximately 3 weeks on the hoof and is protected with a protection foil during the time the hoof goes bare. The foil has a sealing lip similar to swimming goggles, so that the Mega-Lock tape is prevented from water and dirt intrusion,” Megasus claims.
The Austrian company ensures horse owners that the clip-on system is so strong that the Horserunners will stay on the hoof in any terrain. While I can see them used in water and rough terrain, it will be interesting to see how they hold out in thick mud. That thing stick to horse hooves like glue. Megasus obviously claims that it won’t be a problem.
“The time is ripe for healthy and comfortable hoof protection for horses,” Charly Forstner said. “In 1998, I already proved with a wedge test that the hoof moves on the vertical plane 1-2cm, almost 10 times more than horizontally, and without affecting the overlying joint. This means that the hoof works jointly and compensates for ground irregularities such as stones and ground waves. A rigid fixation of the hoof capsule by a horseshoe is, therefore, very close to plastering it. Horseshoes immobilize ligaments and tendons; hence, it makes the blood flow becomes weaker.” Apparently, the Megasus Horserunners change all that.
After successfully testing the prototype for their horse running shoes, Megasus sought to raise some money for production through crowdfunding. They launched a campaign on Kickstarter in October, asking for €100,00, and by the time the campaign ended, they managed to raise €169,136. The first Megasus Horserunners are scheduled to be shipped in July 2017.
Photos: Megasus Horserunners/Facebook