Vertical head and trunk movement adaptations of sound horses trotting in a circle on a hard surface

Sandra D. Starke, Egbert Willems, Stephen A. May, Thilo Pfau
Veterinary Journal
July 2012

Trotting a horse in circles is a standard and important part of the subjective equine lameness examination, yet objective data on this form of locomotion are sparse. The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of trotting in a circle on head and trunk movement symmetry. Vertical movements of the head, withers, os sacrum and left and right tuber coxae were measured using inertial sensors as 12 sound horses were trotted on a hard surface in a straight line and in a circle on both reins. Seven asymmetry measures and hip hike were calculated for each horse for at least nine strides of comparable stride duration across the three conditions (deviation on horse level ⩽3.7% stride duration).
Trotting in a circle introduced systematic changes to the movement pattern of all five body landmarks, affecting most asymmetry measures. On average the asymmetry magnitude was comparable for midline locations between reins and for the tuber coxae on opposite reins with few exceptions, although individual horses showed unsystematic differences between the two reins. The results from this study showed that the thresholds for objective discrimination between lame and non-lame horses will need adjustment on the circle due to the observed asymmetry bias.

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