Grip and limb force limits to turning performance in competition horses

Proc Biol Sci. 2011 Jul 22;278(1715):2105-11. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2010.2395. Epub 2010 Dec 8.


Manoeuverability is a key requirement for successful terrestrial locomotion, especially on variable terrain, and is a deciding factor in predator-prey interaction. Compared with straight-line running, bend running requires additional leg force to generate centripetal acceleration. In humans, this results in a reduction in maximum speed during bend running and a published model assuming maximum limb force as a constraint accurately predicts how much a sprinter must slow down on a bend given his maximum straight-line speed. In contrast, greyhounds do not slow down or change stride parameters during bend running, which suggests that their limbs can apply the additional force for this manoeuvre. We collected horizontal speed and angular velocity of heading of horses while they turned in different scenarios during competitive polo and horse racing. The data were used to evaluate the limits of turning performance. During high-speed turns of large radius horizontal speed was lower on the bend, as would be predicted from a model assuming a limb force limit to running speed. During small radius turns the angular velocity of heading decreased with increasing speed in a manner consistent with the coefficient of friction of the hoof-surface interaction setting the limit to centripetal force to avoid slipping.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acceleration
  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Extremities / physiology*
  • Horses / anatomy & histology
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Running / physiology*