The present investigation utilised simultaneous measurements of chest (Ch) and abdominal (Ab) circumferences and respiratory airflow to test the hypothesis that Ch circumferential expansion contributes proportionally little to tidal volume in the running Thoroughbred. During exercise, there were only small changes in Ch and Ab circumference and no increase with increasing tidal volume. At rest, walk and trot, the flow, Ch and Ab signals were in phase. However, during canter and gallop, the Ch and Ab changes were 180° out of phase with each other and both were out of phase with airflow. In contrast to exercise, increase in ventilation at rest achieved by administration of lobeline resulted in a 4–6-fold increase in tidal volume; large excursions of the chest were always in phase with airflow. Furthermore, 3 horses showed an increase in chest circumference, demonstrating that chest stiffness per se does not preclude chest circumferential expansion. In conclusion, in the absence of significant increases in either Ch or Ab expansion during running, elongation of the thoracoabdominal segment may be the main determinant of tidal volume.