Reasons for performing study: Although beach training is commonly used in horses, limb loading on beach sand has never been investigated. A dynamometric horseshoe (DHS) is well adapted for this purpose.
Objectives: To compare ground reaction force (GRF) and fetlock kinematics measured in harness trotters on 2 tracks of beach sand with different water content.
Methods: Two linear sand tracks were compared: firm wet sand (FWS, 19% moisture) vs. deep wet sand (DWS, 13.5% moisture). Four French trotters (550 ± 22 kg) were used. Their right forelimb was equipped with a DHS and skin markers. Each track was tested 3 times at 7 m/s. Each trial was filmed by a high-speed camera (600 Hz); DHS and speed data acquisition was performed at 10 kHz on 10 consecutive strides. All recordings were synchronised. The components Fx (parallel to the hoof solar surface) and Fz (perpendicular) of the GRF were considered. For 3 horses the fetlock angle and forelimb axis-track angle at landing were measured. Statistical differences were tested using the GLM procedure (SAS; P<0.05).
Results: Stance duration was increased on DWS compared to FWS. Fzmax and Fxmax (oriented, respectively, downwards and forwards relatively to the solar surface) and the corresponding loading rates, were decreased on DWS and these force peaks occurred later. Fxmin (backwards) was not significantly different between both surfaces; the propulsive phase (Fx negative) was longer and the corresponding impulse higher, on DWS compared to FWS. The forelimb was more oblique to the track at landing and maximal fetlock extension was less and delayed on DWS.
Conclusions: This study confirms that trotting on deep sand overall reduces maximal GRF and induces a more progressive limb loading. However, it increases the propulsive effort and likely superficial digital flexor tendon tension at the end of stance, which should be taken into account in beach training