Ground reaction forces of overground galloping in ridden Thoroughbred racehorses

Self Davies, Z T and Spence, A J and Wilson, A M (2019) Ground reaction forces of overground galloping in ridden Thoroughbred racehorses. JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL BIOLOGY.

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Abstract

The horse has evolved to gallop economically at high speed. Limb force increases with speed but direct measures of limb ground reaction forces (GRFs) at gallop are sparse. This study reports GRFs for multiple limbs, using force plates, across seven Thoroughbred racehorses during ridden galloping. The results show peak vertical GRF values of 13.6 N kg−1 (non-lead hindlimb), 12.3 N kg−1 (lead hindlimb), 14.0 N kg−1 (non-lead forelimb) and 13.6 N kg−1 (lead forelimb) at 11.4 m s−1 and recorded values are consistent with those predicted from duty factor. The distribution of body weight between the forelimbs and hindlimbs is approximated to 50:50, and is variable with speed, unlike the 60:40 commonly stated for cursorial quadrupeds in the literature. An even distribution of load on all limbs may help minimise accumulation of fatigue and assist in injury avoidance. Cranio-caudal force data concur with the observation that horses apply a net accelerative impulse with the hindlimbs and a net decelerative impulse with the forelimbs. Capturing GRFs enhances our knowledge on the mechanics of galloping in fast-moving species and provides insight into injury risk and factors limiting athletic performance.