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Vet J. 2009 Mar;179(3):370-7. Epub 2007 Dec 3.

Transverse and dorso-ventral changes in thoracic dimension during equine locomotion.

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  • 1Faculty of Life Sciences, University College London, London, UK.


Changes in shape of the equine thorax during locomotion are not well defined, although it has been shown recently that the transverse hemi-diameter changes its dimension by up to 80mm on the side of the trailing forelimb during gallop, despite minimal change in thoracic circumference. The aim of this project was to analyse transverse and dorso-ventral changes in shape of the thorax simultaneously, and to determine if leading limb, treadmill slope and speed have an effect on these shape changes. Reflective markers were placed on the horse's hemi-thorax and movement of the markers was recorded using a motion capture system while the horse trotted and cantered on a treadmill. Treadmill speed and slope, and the lead the horse cantered on were varied to determine the effects these had on transverse hemi-diameter and dorso-ventral diameter. There was a negative correlation between transverse and dorso-ventral changes in thoracic dimension, the strength of which increased with speed on the trailing limb side. On the leading side, the relationship was either weakly negative or positive. The changes in dimension of the hemi-thorax were significantly greater on the trailing side compared to the leading side. Speed had small effects on thoracic shape changes, but inclined exercise caused an increase in transverse hemi-diameter on the trailing side of the thorax. The changes in thoracic shape are unlikely to contribute substantially to ventilation and rib motion is likely to be due to protraction and retraction of the forelimbs. However, it may reflect asynchronous ventilation of lung lobes and partially explain the prevalence of exercise-induced pulmonary haemorrhage.

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