Kinematics of the equine back: flexion-extension movements in sound trotting horses



This study was undertaken to evaluate the flexion-extension movements of the back in a group of sound trotting horses. Using a 3-D kinematic analysis system, 13 clinically sound horses fitted with 5 skin markers placed on the dorsal midline of their trunk were recorded while trotting on a track in the conditions of the routine lameness examination. These markers were used to calculate 3 back angles (thoracic, thoracolumbar and lumbosacral angle). These back angles were then filtered using Fourier series. To evaluate the repeatability of flexion-extension movements, the intra- and inter-individual variabilities were studied. The angle-time diagrams showed that the equine back extended during the first part of each diagonal stance phase and flexed during the second part of each diagonal stance phase. The ranges of motion were less than 4° for the 3 back angles. The intra- and inter-individual variability values of maximal extension and maximal flexion time points were similar and extremely low. This demonstrates the high repeatability of the temporal pattern of flexion-extension movements of the back. Intra-and inter-individual variabilities of the range of motion showed that the back mobility varies more in-between horses than between trials of the same horse. Compared with electromyographic activities of back muscles reported in the literature, flexion-extension movements described in this study tend to show that, at a slow trot, trunk muscles act mainly to limit flexion-extension movements of the back rather than to induce movements.