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Research article2023Peer reviewedOpen access

Back motion in unridden horses in walk, trot and canter on a circle

Egenvall, Agneta; Engstrom, Hanna; Bystrom, Anna


Equine back function is of concern to riders, as well as to veterinarians and physiotherapists; these groups may benefit from knowledge about spinal motion on the circle. This descriptive and comparative study aimed to quantify equine neck, back and pelvic motion in walk, trot and canter on a 9 m circle. Sixteen healthy horses in training, of varying breed and conformation, were measured using optical motion capture (150 Hz), with optical markers on the poll, withers, T15, tubera coxae and lumbosacral joint. Cervicothoracic and thoracolumbar flexion-extension and lateral bending, and pelvic roll, pitch and yaw, were statistically evaluated using mixed models. Motion patterns showed distinct differences between gaits, but were generally similar between horses. The thoracolumbar back was bent towards the inside of the circle (stride mean 5-6o for all gaits). The cervicothoracic spine was more flexed in walk (18 degrees), and more extended in canter (-4--8 degrees), compared to trot (6-7 degrees), whereas the thoracolumbar spine was slightly less extended in canter than in walk. Thoracolumbar flexion-extension range of motion (ROM) increased from walk (4 degrees) to canter (9 degrees), as did pelvic pitch ROM (walk 7 degrees and canter 15-16 degrees), while back lateral bending ROM and pelvic yaw ROM were lowest in trot. Taken together, the study findings suggest that neck and back motion patterns on the circle reflect an interaction between the constraints of circular movement, and the mechanics and characteristics of each gait.


Kinematics; Optical motion capture; Lungeing; Circle; Horse; Back motion

Published in

Veterinary Research Communications
2023, Volume: 47, number: 4, pages: 1831-1843
Publisher: SPRINGER