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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • foal;
  • kinematics;
  • free jumping

Summary

The selection of foals as future showjumpers remains a subjective process based on qualitative parameters; and hence, frequently suffers from disparity in the criteria used by experts in the field. A detailed biomechanical description of foals while jumping would be most helpful in providing a better basis for the accurate assessment of their future athletic ability. The Qualisys Pro Reflex system was used to capture 3-dimensional kinematics of 41 Dutch Warmblood foals age 6 months free jumping a vertical fence, preceded by a cross pole fence. The left lead was the most preferred lead for both the fore- and hindlimbs, from the landing following the cross poles to the first move-off stride after clearing the vertical fence. The foals displayed a high incidence of rotary gallop during both the jump stride (divided into take-off, jump suspension and landing) and the first move-off stride, while change of lead was frequently observed during jump suspension. At the take-off side of the fence, the trailing forelimb in the last approach stride was placed furthest from the fence, whereas the trailing hindlimb at take-off was placed closest (P<0.05). At the landing side, the trailing forelimb was the closest and the leading hindlimb of the move-off stride 1 was the furthest (P<0.05). The trailing forelimb in the approach stride 1 had a significantly longer stance phase duration than the leading forelimb. At landing, the leading forelimb stance phase lasted longer than that of the trailing forelimb (P<0.05). The hindlimbs did not differ in their stance phase duration at take-off. The height reached by the hooves above the fence top was significantly greater in the hind limbs (P<0.05). In addition, the hindlimbs (97.1 ± 2.6%) shortened more than the forelimbs (92.6 ± 5.7%) (P<0.05). It is concluded that the overall jumping technique of foals is similar to that reported in literature for mature horses. If the patterns are consistent throughout the rearing period, the quantitative analysis of the kinematics of free jumping foals may provide a valid quantitative basis for early selection.