Reasons for performing study: Although track surfaces are a risk factor of tendon injuries, their effects on tendon loading at high speed are unknown. Using a noninvasive ultrasonic technique, it is now possible to evaluate the forces in the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) in exercise conditions.
Objectives: To compare the effects of an all-weather waxed track (W) vs. a crushed sand track (S), on the SDFT loading in the trotter horse at high speed.
Methods: Two trotter horses were equipped with the ultrasonic device (1 MHz ultrasonic probe, fixed on the palmar metacarpal area of the right forelimb). For each trial, data acquisition was made at 400 Hz and 10 consecutive strides were analysed. In each session, the 2 track surfaces were tested in a straight line. The speed was imposed at 10 m/s and recorded. The right forelimb was also equipped with a dynamometric horseshoe and skin markers. The horse was filmed with a high-speed camera (600 Hz); all recordings were synchronised. Statistical differences were tested using the GLM procedure (SAS; P<0.05).
Results: Maximal tendon force was significantly lower on W compared with S. In addition to maximal force peaks around mid-stance, earlier peaks were observed, more pronounced on S than on W, at about 13%(horse 2) and 30% (both horses) of the stance phase. Comparison with kinematic data revealed that these early peaks were accompanied by plateaux in the fetlock angle-time chart. For high tendon forces, the tendon maximal loading rate was significantly lower on W than on S.
Conclusions and potential clinical relevance: The all-weather waxed track appears to induce a lesser and more gradual SDFT loading than crushed sand. The SDFT loading pattern at high speed trot suggests proximal interphalangeal joint movements during limb loading.