Velocity-dependent changes of time, force and spatial parameters in Warmblood horses walking and trotting on a treadmill



Reasons for performing study: Gait analysis parameters are sensitive to alterations in velocity. For comparison of nonspeed-matched data, the velocity dependency needs to be known.

Objectives: To describe the changes in gait pattern and determine the relationships between stride duration, vertical impulse, contact time and peak vertical force within a range of walking and trotting speeds.

Methods: Thirty-eight nonlame Warmblood horses were subjected to an incremental speed test. The spans of speed were adjusted individually to each horse and ranged from 1.1–2.1 m/s at walk and from 2.5–5.8 m/s at trot. Time, force and spatial parameters of each limb were measured with an instrumented treadmill and analysed with regression analysis using velocity as the independent variable.

Results: At a slow walk the shape of the force curve was generally single-peaked in the fore- and trapezoidal in the hindlimbs. With increasing speed, the curves turned into the typical double-peaked shape with a higher second peak in the fore- and a higher first peak in the hindlimbs. With increasing velocity, stride duration, stance durations and limb impulses of the fore- and hindlimbs decreased in both gaits (r2>0.92). Increasing speed caused a weight shift to the forehand (walk: from 56 to 59%; trot: from 55 to 57%). Despite decreasing limb impulses, peak vertical forces increased in both gaits (r2>0.83). The suspension duration of the trot increased with faster velocities and reached a plateau of around 90 ms at the highest speeds. At a slow trot, the forelimbs impacted first and followed the hindlimbs at lift-off; with increasing speed, the horses tended to impact earlier with the hindlimbs. Contralateral symmetry indices of all parameters remained unchanged.

Conclusions: Subject velocity affects time, force and spatial parameters. Knowing the mathematical function of these interdependencies enables correction of nonspeed-matched data.