Turning and circling poses different demands on the horse, as the horse must alter the way that forces are produced at the ground to negotiate the turn. This study investigated the difference in turning on a circle when the surface was flat compared to when it was banked.
Locomotion adaptation mechanisms have been observed in horses, but little information is available in relation to banked and non-banked curve locomotion, which might be important to optimize training environments.
To determine if adaptation mechanisms in horses existed when moving on a banked compared to a flat curve and whether adaptation was similar in different gaits.
Eight infrared cameras were positioned on the outside of a 10 m lungeing circle and calibrated. Retroreflective markers were used to define left and right metacarpus (McIII) and proximal phalanges (P1), metatarsus (MtIII), head and sacrum. Data were recorded at 308 Hz from 6 horses lunged at walk, trot and canter on a flat and 10° banked circle in a crossover design. Measurements extracted were speed, stride length, McIII inclination, MtIII inclination, relative body inclination and duty factor. Data were smoothed with a fourth order Butterworth filter with 30 Hz cut-off. ANOVA was used to determine differences between conditions and limbs.
Adaptation mechanisms were influenced by gait. At canter inside forelimb duty factor was significantly longer (P<0.05) on a flat curve compared to a banked curve; at walk this was reversed. McIII inclination, MtIII inclination and relative body inclination were significantly greater (P<0.05) at trot and canter on a flat curve, so more inward tilt was found relative to the bearing surface.
Adaptation to curved motion is gait specific. At faster gaits it appears that horses negotiate a banked curve with limb posture closer to body posture and probably with demands on the musculoskeletal system more similar to straight canter.