Reasons for performing study: Sandy beaches are often considered good training surfaces for trotter horses. However, their biomechanical effects on locomotion are insufficiently documented. Events at hoof impact have mostly been studied under laboratory conditions with accelerometers, but there is lack of data (acceleration, force, movement) on events occurring under every day practical conditions in the field.
Objectives: To investigate hoof landing and stride parameters on different tracks (from wet to dry) of a sand beach and on an asphalt road.
Methods: The right front hoof of 4 trotter horses was equipped with a triaxial accelerometer and a dynamometric horseshoe. Acceleration and force recordings (10 kHz) were synchronised with a high speed movie (600 Hz). Horses were driven on a sand beach where 3 tracks of decreasing water content had been delimited (from the sea to the shore): firm wet sand (FWS), deep wet sand (DWS) and deep dry sand (DDS). Firm wet sand and DWS were compared at 25 km/h and DDS compared to an asphalt road at 15 km/h. Recordings (10 strides) were randomly repeated 3 times. Statistical differences were tested using a GLM procedure (P<0.05).
Results: Main significant results were 1) a decrease in the amplitude of the vertical deceleration (and force) of the hoof during impact on a softer surface (about 59% between DWS and FWS and 95% between DDS and asphalt), 2) a decrease in the longitudinal braking deceleration (and force) on softer grounds (50% for DWS vs. FWS and 55% for DDS vs. asphalt), 3) a decrease in the stride length and an increase in the stride frequency on a softer surface.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Drier sand surfaces reduce shock and impact forces during landing. For daily training, it should, however, be realised that improved damping characteristics are associated with a shorter stride length and a higher stride frequency.