How the horse moves: 1. Significance of graphical representations of equine forelimb kinematics

Equine Vet J. 1995 Jan;27(1):31-8. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.1995.tb03029.x.


The kinematics of 24 two-year-old Dutch Warmblood horses were recorded at the trot (4 m/s) on a high-speed treadmill to study the coordination of joints within the equine forelimb. Joint angle-time, angle-angle, stick, and marker diagrams were used to show forelimb motion graphically. Because the kinematic data referred to the joint angles of the horse standing squarely and were time-standardised to the duration of the stride cycle, mean joint curves could be calculated for the total group. The motion of each segment in the equine forelimb during a complete stride is described and its function in intralimb coordination evaluated. It appeared that the rotation of the scapula and the cranio-caudal movement of the distal forelimb are synchronous and pendular. The carpal joint rapidly snaps into overextension at the beginning of the stance phase to enable the forelimb to work as a propulsive strut. The fetlock joint acts as an elastic spring, thereby conserving energy and, at the same time, absorbs oscillations generated by initial ground contact. Furthermore, the coordination between carpal and fetlock joints in the swing phase appears to be strongly influenced by inertia. Using the graphic tools evaluated in this paper, we were able to visualise the kinematics of the equine forelimb and relate these to specific functions of the forelimb in locomotion. This information can be used to select kinematic variables for clinical studies in which equine forelimb function has to be described and quantified.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Graphics
  • Female
  • Forelimb / physiology*
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Kinetics
  • Male
  • Movement / physiology*