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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Head, withers and pelvic movement asymmetry and their relative timing in trot in racing Thoroughbreds in training

Pfau, T.; Noordwijk, K.; Caviedes, M. F. Sepulveda; Persson-Sjodin, E.; Barstow, A.; Forbes, B.; Rhodin, M.


BackgroundHorses show compensatory head movement in hindlimb lameness and compensatory pelvis movement in forelimb lameness but little is known about the relationship of withers movement symmetry with head and pelvic asymmetry in horses with naturally occurring gait asymmetries.ObjectivesTo document head, withers and pelvic movement asymmetry and timing differences in horses with naturally occurring gait asymmetries.Study designRetrospective analysis of gait data.MethodsHead, withers and pelvic movement asymmetry and timing of displacement minima and maxima were quantified from inertial sensors in 163 Thoroughbreds during trot-ups on hard ground. Horses were divided into 4 subgroups using the direction of head and withers movement asymmetry. Scatter plots of head vs. pelvic movement asymmetry illustrated how the head-withers relationship distinguishes between contralateral and ipsilateral head-pelvic movement asymmetry. Independent t test or Mann-Whitney U test (P<0.05) compared pelvic movement asymmetry and timing differences between groups.ResultsThe relationship between head and withers asymmetry (i.e. same sided or opposite sided asymmetry) predicts the relationship between head and pelvic asymmetry in 69-77% of horses. Pelvic movement symmetry was significantly different between horses with same sign vs. opposite sign of head-withers asymmetry (P<0.0001). Timing of the maximum head height reached after contralateral (sound') stance was delayed compared to withers (P=0.02) and pelvis (P=0.04) in horses with contralateral head-withers asymmetry.Main limitationsThe clinical lameness status of the horses was not investigated.ConclusionIn the Thoroughbreds with natural gait asymmetries investigated here, the direction of head vs. withers movement asymmetry identifies the majority of horses with ipsilateral and contralateral head and pelvic movement asymmetries. Withers movement should be further investigated for differentiating between forelimb and hindlimb lame horses. Horses with opposite sided head and withers asymmetry significantly delay the upward movement of the head after sound' forelimb stance.


horse; movement asymmetry; trot; relative timing

Published in

Equine Veterinary Journal
2018, Volume: 50, number: 1, pages: 117-124