Objective: To determine the maximum amount of flexion and extension of the carpal, tarsal, metacarpophalangeal, and metatarsophalangeal joints and the percentage duration of the stance and swing phases of the stride for horses walking on an underwater treadmill in various water depths.
Animals: 9 healthy adult horses.
Procedures: Zinc oxide markers were placed on the forelimbs and hind limbs of the horses. Video was recorded of horses walking (0.9 m/s) on an underwater treadmill during baseline conditions (< 1 cm of water) or in various amounts of water (level of the metatarsophalangeal, tarsal, and stifle joints). Maximum amount of joint flexion and extension, range of motion (ROM), and the percentage durations of the stance and swing phases of the stride were determined with 2-D motion analysis software.
Results: The ROM was greater for all evaluated joints in any amount of water versus ROM for joints in baseline conditions (primarily because of increases in amount of joint flexion). The greatest ROM for carpal joints was detected in a tarsal joint water depth, for tarsal joints in a stifle joint water depth, and for metacarpophalangeal and metatarsophalangeal joints in metatarsophalangeal and tarsal joint water depths. As water depth increased, the percentage durations of the stance and swing phases of the stride significantly decreased and increased, respectively.
Conclusions and clinical relevance: Results of this study suggested that exercise on an underwater treadmill is useful for increasing the ROM of various joints of horses during rehabilitation and that the depth of water affects the amount of flexion and extension of joints.