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J Exp Biol. 2008 Mar;211(Pt 6):945-56. doi: 10.1242/jeb.006692.

High-speed gallop locomotion in the Thoroughbred racehorse. II. The effect of incline on centre of mass movement and mechanical energy fluctuation.

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The Royal Veterinary College, University of London, North Mymms, Hatfield, Hertfordshire AL9 7TA, UK.


During locomotion on an incline, mechanical work is performed to move an animal up the slope and increase the potential energy (PE) of the trunk and hence the centre of mass (CoM). Thus, at a given speed the total net mechanical work increases with the PE of the animal. In this study we investigate the mechanical energy (ME) fluctuations and the mechanical cost of transport (MCT) in six horses galloping up a range of gradients. We captured trunk movement with a six degrees-of-freedom inertial sensor mounted over the dorsal spinous process of the fourth to sixth thoracic vertebrae of the horse. Footfall timings were measured using a previously validated system of limb-mounted accelerometers. Speed was measured using a Global Positioning System (GPS) data logger. A track survey provided detailed incline information for the track. Linear (craniocaudal, mediolateral and dorsoventral) and rotational (roll, pitch and heading) kinematic parameters (displacement, velocity and acceleration) were calculated at speeds ranging from 9.0 to 12.0 m s(-1) during routine training over a range of inclines. Estimates of ME fluctuations and the MCT were made. Results showed the effect of incline on trunk motion during galloping was small. Increases in linear mechanical work and MCT were primarily explained by an increase in the work required to move the animal up the slope (and increase the PE of the CoM). Within the stride the majority of the work was performed during hindlimb stance. Our results have provided new insights into how horses power uphill locomotion.

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