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Keywords:

  • forelimb;
  • horse;
  • moment arm;
  • muscle;
  • physiological cross-sectional area;
  • tendon

Abstract

Three muscles from the proximal equine forelimb were dissected in order to investigate their potential to contribute to proximal limb mechanics. Muscle mass, fibre length, tendon mass and tendon length were measured from biceps brachii, triceps brachii, supraspinatus and lacertus fibrosus (biceps lateral head mass 171–343.4 g and fibre length 0.5–0.8 cm; biceps medial head mass 283–500 g and fibre length 2.2–4 cm; biceps tendon mass 121.8–260 g and tendon length 35–44 cm; triceps long head mass 3200–6663 g and fibre length 19–26.3 cm; triceps lateral head mass 513.8–1240 g and fibre length 17.5–24 cm; triceps medial head mass 85.2–270.6 g and fibre length 9–16.8 cm; supraspinatus mass 793–1546 g and fibre length 4.7–12.4 cm; lacertus fibrosus mass 4.6–12.4 g and length 10–16 cm). Physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA) and maximum isometric force were estimated for each muscle, and moment arm measurements were taken at the shoulder and elbow joints. Biceps has a greater isometric force-generating capacity than supraspinatus. It also appears to have a larger shoulder moment arm, so could therefore have the potential to make a greater contribution to the shoulder moment than supraspinatus. Supraspinatus is likely to function primarily as a shoulder stabilizer rather than a shoulder extensor. Biceps also functions as an elbow flexor and data here indicate that it has a greater PCSA and isometric force-generating capacity than its antagonist triceps brachii. Calculation of tendon forces showed that the biceps tendon can withstand much greater forces than lacertus fibrosus. This study will enable further investigation into the interaction between energy recycling in elastic tissues and the generation and absorption of mechanical work by adjacent muscle groups in the equine forelimb.