Impact of walking surface on the range of motion of equine distal limb joints for rehabilitation purposes

Jose L. Mendez-Angulo, Anna M. Firshman, Donna M. Groschen, Philip J. Kieffer, Troy N. Trumble
March 2014
The Veterinary Journal

The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of three footing surfaces on the flexion/extension, and range of motion (ROM) of the carpus, tarsus and fetlocks in the horse. The percentage of stride spent in the stance phase of sound horses at the walk was also measured. Nine sound horses were walked on hard ground (HD), soft ground (SF) and a land treadmill (LT), and five complete gait cycles were recorded by a digital video camera. Retro-reflective markers were placed on the skin at four anatomical locations on the left fore and hind limbs, and data were analyzed using two-dimensional (2D) motion-analysis software. Maximal flexion/extension angles and range of motion were calculated for each joint, and the percentage of the stride spent in stance phase was determined for each stride.

Maximal flexion of the tarsus and hind fetlock was greater on LT and SF compared to HD, while maximal flexion of the carpus was greater on LT compared to HD and SF. Maximal extension of the carpus was greater on HD compared to SF and LT, maximal extension of the tarsus was greater on HD and SF compared to LT, and maximal extension of the forelimb and hind limb fetlocks was greater on LT compared to HD and SF. The greatest overall ROM of the carpus and fetlocks was achieved on LT, while the greatest overall ROM of the tarsus was achieved on SF. The stance percentage of the stride for the hind limb was significantly different between all surfaces. In conclusion, walking surface influences flexion/extension of the carpus, tarsus and fetlocks in healthy horses, which should be considered when walking equine rehabilitation cases.