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Objective—To develop a method that allows quantification of the 3 anatomic rotations in the digital joints of moving horses and measure these rotations when horses are walking in a straight line on a hard track.

Animals—4 healthy French Trotter horses.

Procedure—Triads of ultrasonic kinematic markers were surgically linked to the 4 distal segments of the digits of the left forelimb of each horse. Three-dimensional (3-D) coordinates of these markers were recorded in horses walking in a straight line. The three angles of rotation of each digital joint were calculated by use of a joint coordinate system as well as the 3-D orientation of the hoof and third metacarpal bone. A calibration procedure was developed to convert data from measurements within a technical coordinate system to data in relation to an anatomically relevant coordinate system.

Results—Precision of the method was 0.5o, and repeatability of the calibrations resulted in variations of 1.4o. Extrasagittal movements of the proximal and distal interphalangeal joints were obvious during landing because the impact of the hoof was on the lateral side. Mean ± SD extension of the proximal interphalangeal joint was 10.0 ± 2.5o.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—This study provides a description of the technical background, error analysis, and procedures used to measure the 3-D rotations of the 4 distal segments of the forelimb in walking horses. As a major result substantial involvement of the proximal interphalangeal joint in the sagittal and extrasagittal planes,should incline investigators and clinicians to consider the functional importance of this joint. (Am J Vet Res 2004;65:447–455)

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research


OBJECTIVE To evaluate the effect of track surface firmness on the development of musculoskeletal injuries in French Trotters during 4 months of race training.

ANIMALS 12 healthy 3-year-old French Trotters.

PROCEDURES Horses were paired on the basis of sex and body mass. Horses within each pair were randomly assigned to either a hard-track or soft-track group. The counterclockwise training protocol was the same for both groups. Surface firmness of each track was monitored throughout the training period. Radiography, ultrasonography, MRI, and scintigraphy were performed on all 4 limbs of each horse before and after 2 and 4 months of training. Lesions were described, and lesion severity was classified with a 5-point system, where 0 = no lesions and 4 = severe lesion.

RESULTS 86 lesions were identified, of which 46 (53.5%) were classified as potentially clinically relevant (grade, ≥ 2). Of the 18 moderate and severe lesions, 15 were identified in horses of the hard-track group, and 10 of those were in forelimbs. Moderate to severe tendinopathy of the superficial digital flexor tendon of the forelimb developed in 3 of the 6 horses of the hard-track group but none of the horses of the soft-track group. Metatarsal condyle injuries were more frequent in horses of the hard-track group than horses of the soft-track group. Severe lesions were identified only in left limbs.

CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Results indicated that track surface firmness is a risk factor for musculoskeletal injuries in horses trained for harness racing.

Full access
in American Journal of Veterinary Research



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