Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

Research article2020Peer reviewedOpen access

Withers vertical movement asymmetry in dressage horses walking in different head-neck positions with and without riders

Egenvall, Agneta; Bystrom, Anna; Roepstorff, Lars; Rhodin, Marie; Weishaupt, Michael A.; van Weeren, Rene; Clayton, Hilary M.


The superimposed influences of different head and neck positions (HNPs) and rider effects on symmetry in sound horses have not been studied. Our aim was to investigate the effects of HNPs and rider on thesymmetry in minimum height of the withers at the walk. Seven high-level dressage horses were studied with and without rider in six HNPs: HNP1, free position; HNP2, dressage competition position; HNP3,flexed poll position; HNP4, over-flexed position; HNP5, extended raised position; and HNP6, forward downward position. Kinematic and vertical ground reaction force data were recorded during 15 s trialson an instrumented treadmill. In mixed models, difference in the minimal height of the withers in earlyleft vs right forelimb stance was modelled as dependent variable. The more restricted HNP3 (T-values2.62 to 1.98, 118 DF,P¼0.001 to<0.05) and HNP5 (P¼0.002 to<0.05) were generally less symmetrical while unridden and more symmetrical while ridden, compared with the free (HNP1) or forward downward (HNP6) positions. Both with and without rider, when the withers dropped lower in earlystance of one forelimb, this was associated with shorter protraction at the start of stance in the ipsilateral hind limb, and shorter stance overlaps between this hind limb and the other limbs during diagonalsupport, 3-limb support with two forelimbs and one hind limb, and ipsilateral support. HNP effects on withers movement asymmetry differed between unridden and ridden conditions. The considerablevariation between horses stresses the need for trainers to use individualized training programs to address horse asymmetry.


Head and neck position; Horse; Dressage; Withers; Vertical asymmetry; Walk

Published in

Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research
2020, Volume: 36, pages: 72-83