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To measure the trunk vertical displacement (VD) in horses trotting on a water treadmill (WT) at different water depths (WDs) and speeds.


6 sound Standardbred horses (median age 12 years [IQR:10.5-12]).


The horses were trotted on a WT at 2 speeds (3.5 m/s and 5 m/s) and during 4 conditions: dry treadmill (DT), WD at mid-cannon (WD-CAN), mid-radius (WD-RAD), and shoulder (WD-SHOUL). The dorsoventral movement was obtained with accelerometers placed over the withers, thoracolumbar junction (T18), tuber sacrale (TS), and sacrum (S5). The VD was defined with the median value of the upward (Up) and downward (Down) amplitudes of the vertical excursion during each stride. The difference of VD at each sensor location was compared between the DT and the 3 WDs, and between the 2 trotting speeds for the same condition.


The VD amplitudes were significantly increased at any sensor location when trotting in water at WD-CAN and WD-RAD compared to DT (P < .05 for all), with the highest increase at WD-RAD and T18. When the speed increased from 3.5 to 5 m/s, the VD amplitudes were significantly decreased at T18 at each water level (P = .03), and at WD-RAD only for the withers and TS (P = .03).


Both water depth and speed affect the trunk VD in horses at trot on a WT with an opposite effect. The VD increases when increasing the WD up to mid-radius, while the VD decreases when increasing the trotting speed, with the main effects observed at the thoracolumbar junction.

Open access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research