Stride frequency and stride length in horses performing treadmill endurance exercise
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Endurance riding is a demanding sport in which horses compete over distances of so- 100 miles. Completion rates vary, depending on distance, with lameness the most common cause of failure (AERC 2003). Some studies suggest that changes in stride characteristics may be indicative of fatigue and lameness in horses, however limited research on this topic has been conducted. This study was performed to investigate the possible correlation between stride characteristics and lameness by measuring stride frequency and stride length at different stages of a treadmill endurance exercise test. We hypothesized that changes in stride frequency and stride length would be observed with increasing fatigue (toward the end of the exercise test). Six 2-year-old Arabian horses were videotaped while performing four 60-km endurance tests consisting of four IS-km bouts with both trotting (4 m/s) and cantering (8 m/s). Stride frequency and stride length were measured at both gaits near the beginning and end of each 15-km bout. No significant differences were found between the four tests for each horse; consequently, data were combined. Stride frequency ranged from 88.3-94.0 strides/min at the trot and from 117.5-123.5 strides/min at the canter; stride length ranged from 2.5-2.7 m at the trot and 3.9-4.1 m at the canter. There were no significant changes in stride frequency or stride length from the first to the fourth 15-km exercise bouts at either gait; however, within each IS-km bout stride frequency was greatest (p<0.01) and stride length was shortest (p<0.0 1) at the initial trot measurement. In conclusion, stride frequency and stride length were remarkably consistent over time in a 60-km exercise test. Consequently, further evaluation of these stride characteristics as an early indicator of lameness in competitive rides is warranted.