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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • kinematics;
  • loading;
  • fatigue

Summary

The Standardbred trotter must pull a considerable load when racing and, consequently, draught loading is a common method of training in the Standardbred and the effects of loading and fatigue due to loading on the locomotor pattern was the purpose of this investigation. Four mature healthy Standardbred horses trotted with and without a horizontal-pulling loading of 34 kg until the horses were no longer willing to keep pace with the treadmill despite encouragement. Heart rate was monitored every min using a bipolar electrocardiogram. The kinematics for 5 consecutive strides were filmed. Horses exercised on the treadmill for 7–10 mins. The mean heart rate was 206 beats/min at the end of the exercise. Due to draught loading, the horses reduced significantly the time of the stance phase in both the fore- and hindlimb. Three of the 4 horses reduced their stride lengths as the result of increased loading. The general movement pattern of the horses remained similar. More dramatic changes in the movement pattern were observed because of fatigue. The limbs of the horse were significantly more compressed as the result of greater joint excursion during the stance phase. Furthermore, the length of stride was significantly increased as the result of fatigue. The results show that both loading and fatigue change the locomotor pattern of the Standardbred trotter. Although the horizontal loading was. considerable, the horse maintained similar joint movement with increases in stride frequency. During fatigue the horse seems to be unable to maintain stride frequency, probably due to a compromised power capacity of the muscles. The increase in joint excursion due to fatigue may have an important influence on certain types of injury to the locomotor system of the racehorse.