A thorough knowledge of the horse's back and limb movements at different speeds is important in the design of training programmes and the prevention of speed-related injuries. The objective of this study was to investigate changes in muscle activity and kinematics of the trot with increased speed. To evaluate these effects, 4 Saddlehorses were recorded while trotting on a horizontal treadmill at speeds ranging from 3.5–6.0 m/s. The 3-D trajectories of skin markers on the left side of the horse and the dorsal midline of the trunk were established. Electrical activity was obtained simultaneously from 6 muscles using surface electrodes. Ten consecutive strides were analysed for each horse at each of the 5 velocity steps.
The increase in speed resulted in a decrease in stride and stance phase duration, increased muscle activity and range of motion of the limbs, but a decrease in back movements. During the stance phase, the limbs appeared more loaded, which resulted in more flexion of the joints and higher excentric muscle activity. During the swing phase, the higher concentric activity of the muscles was responsible for an increased shortening of the limbs.
Understanding the effects of speed on equine locomotion is a prerequisite for the development of training programmes.