Predicting horse limb responses to surface variations with a 3D musculoskeletal model : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Biomechanics at Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand
Thoroughbred racehorses are often affected by musculoskeletal injuries, leading to involuntary rest periods, early retirement or death. A number of studies have focused on identifying risk factors. A major focus of research has been track surface properties because it should be possible to modify these so that the risk of musculoskeletal injury is minimised. Among all the track surface properties studied to date, consistency of the surface is reported to be one of the main injury risk factors.
The aim of this study was to develop a preliminary 3D musculoskeletal model of the whole equine forelimb based on data published in the literature and derived from anatomical measurements; and to determine the effects of the perturbations by the ground surface on the limb response with the musculoskeletal model developed and to assess whether the response occurs acutely in the perturbed stance phase or in the next stance phase.
To answer these questions, gait data were collected from ridden Thoroughbreds passing through a perturbation area, where the surface hardness was changed by adding wood or foam under the baseline sand surface.
The horses changed their joint flexion/extension patterns in response to changes in hardness. In response to the hard perturbation, the proximal limb spring was more compliant, evidenced by increased shoulder flexion. The elbow and carpal joints were more flexed in the intervening swing phase. In response to the soft perturbation, more coffin joint flexion was observed during both the perturbed and the following stance phase.
The preliminary musculoskeletal model of the equine forelimb developed in this thesis allow the observation and study of the forelimb reaction to hardness perturbation through the joint excursions and tendon and ligament strains.