It has been reported that a small decrease in the strain in the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) occurs if the toe is raised during walking. Although walking on a slope appears similar to raising the toe, it is unclear whether uphill exercise decreases the strain in the SDFT. Because the force or strain on tendons is one of the important factors leading to tendon stress injury, we hypothesised that reducing the force in the SDFT during exercise may prevent tendinitis. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of treadmill inclination on the force in the SDFT in the walking horse. ‘Arthroscopically implantable force probes’ (AIFP) were implanted into the SDFT of the forelimb of 4 horses. The AIFP output was recorded during walking on a treadmill inclined at 0%, 3%, 8% and then 0% again. When the inclination increased from 0 to 8%, the first peak of force in the SDFT decreased significantly, the second increased significantly, but the maximal force and the area under the force-time curve did not change. In conclusion, uphill walking on an inclined treadmill did not decrease the maximal force in the SDFT or the area under the force-time curve, however, the patterns of force were altered.
Future research should focus on the force distributions of tendons and ligaments at faster gaits, because the effects of a change in hoof angle and slope may be greater at faster gaits.