The effect of collection and extension on tarsal flexion and fetlock extension at trot




A recent epidemiological study indicated that various factors may be related to injury in dressage horses, but the mechanism by which these injuries occur has yet to be determined. The suspensory ligament (SL) is a frequent site of injury, and it is assumed that greatest strain is placed on this structure in collected trot; this has yet to be proved conclusively. The study aimed to investigate the effect of collected and extended trot on the hindlimb movement pattern. Four dressage horses were fitted with markers and inertial motion sensors (IMS). High-speed video was obtained for 2 strides on each rein in collected and extended trot on 3 different surfaces: waxed outdoor; sand/plastic granules; and waxed indoor. Maximal tarsal flexion during stance and distal metatarsal coronary band ratio (MTCR), representing fetlock extension, were determined. Inertial motion sensor data determined stride duration, speed and stride length. Data were compared between collection and extension within horses on each surface, and compared between surfaces. Collected trot had significantly lower speed and stride length but longer stride duration than extended trot on all surfaces. All horses had less tarsal flexion and fetlock extension in collected compared with extended trot (P<0.05), which is likely to increase SL loading. The study findings indicate that extended trot may increase SL strain, providing a possible explanation for the high incidence of SL injury in horses trained for extravagant movement. It is possible that substantial use of extended trot could be a risk factor for development of suspensory desmitis, which might be one contributory factor in the prevalence of suspensory desmitis in young horses repeatedly undertaking extravagant movement.