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J Exp Biol. 2006 Nov;209(Pt 21):4389-97.

Effect of speed on stride parameters in racehorses at gallop in field conditions.

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  • 1Structure and Motion Laboratory, The Royal Veterinary College, Hawkshead Lane, Hatfield AL9 7TA, Hertfordshire, UK.


Stride duration, stance duration and protraction duration are key variables when describing the gaits of terrestrial animals. Together, they determine the duty factor (the fraction of the stride for which the limb maintains contact with the ground surface), from which the peak vertical force can be estimated. When an animal changes speed, these variables change at different proportions. Limited measurements of these variables and predictions of peak limb force have been undertaken for large mammals performing high-speed over-ground exercise. This study set out to make such measurements, employing a previously validated system consisting of limb-mounted accelerometers and a Global Positioning System data logger. Measurements were made on nine elite Thoroughbred racehorses during gallop locomotion over a range of speeds from 9 to 17 m s(-1). No statistically significant differences were seen in any variables between the lead and non-lead limbs for either the fore or hind pairs of limbs. Mean stance durations of 131 and 77 ms in the forelimbs and 143 and 94 ms in the hindlimbs were recorded at speeds of 9 and 17 ms(-1), respectively. Equivalent values for protraction duration were 364 and 342 (fore) and 355 and 326 ms (hind). Peak limb forces (from duty factor) at 17 ms(-1) were 24.7 N kg(-1) body weight (range 22.6 to 26.0 N kg(-1) body weight) for the forelimbs and 15.3 N kg(-1) (range 13.7-16.2 N kg(-1) body weight) for the hindlimbs. The duration of the aerial phase of the stride (when no limbs are in contact with the ground) was independent of speed. Overlap time (when more than one leg is on the ground) dropped with speed and approached zero at maximum speed.

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