We have several projects which have assessed the gait of horses, using several techniques including high speed motion capture and inertial motion sensors.
1. Collected vs. Extended Trot:
Dressage horses are asked to perform very collected and extended paces compared to other sports horses, but there is limited information available on the limb movement pattern at these paces. The results of this investigation suggest that, contrary to previous work, the extended trot produces greater tarsal flexion and fetlock extension resulting in greater loading of the suspensory ligament compared to the collected trot. With suspensory ligament injuries being highly prevalent in the dressage horse population, it is important to improve our knowledge of predisposing factors and advise changes in training programmes accordingly.
A further investigation looking at the effect of surface, training level, muscular strength and extravagance of movement is currently being undertaken which is funded by the Elise Pilkington Charitable Trust.
2. Effect of the Pessoa Training Aid:
We have shown that the Pessoa Training Aid does not affect fore and hindlimb joint angles but it does induce a postural change in the horse, which supports its use as a rehabilitation aid for development of core musculature without overloading the limbs.
Circles are used as part of training and competition in sports horses but most study of gait has been in straight lines on a treadmill. Our previous work on tarsal adaptation and pathology indicated that training on a circle could be a risk factor for damage. The results of this current investigation in collaboration with Hartpury College show specific alterations in movement between a straight line and circle that could explain the increased degree of lameness that is seen in the inside forelimb on a circle.
4. Effect of arena maintenance
The results of the epidemiological dressage study implicated the frequency of arena maintenance in relation to frequency of arena use as a factor which increased the likelihood of lameness. To examine this further we are currently carrying out a project, in collaboration with the College of West Anglia, investigating the effect of arena maintenance techniques (harrowing and watering) on gait characteristics of ridden horses at the working trot.
If you have any questions in relation to poor performance or equine lameness in your horse please either speak with your vet or contact us on 01638 751908.