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J Exp Biol. 2008 Dec;211(Pt 24):3889-907. doi: 10.1242/jeb.020578.

Stabilization and mobility of the head, neck and trunk in horses during overground locomotion: comparisons with humans and other primates.

Author information

1
Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, and Caribbean Primate Research Center, University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine, PO Box 365067, San Juan, PR. ddunbar@rcm.upr.edu

Abstract

Segmental kinematics were investigated in horses during overground locomotion and compared with published reports on humans and other primates to determine the impact of a large neck on rotational mobility (> 20 deg.) and stability (< or = 20 deg.) of the head and trunk. Three adult horses (Equus caballus) performing walks, trots and canters were videotaped in lateral view. Data analysis included locomotor velocity, segmental positions, pitch and linear displacements and velocities, and head displacement frequencies. Equine, human and monkey skulls and cervical spines were measured to estimate eye and vestibular arc length during head pitch displacements. Horses stabilized all three segments in all planes during all three gaits, unlike monkeys and humans who make large head pitch and yaw rotations during walks, and monkeys that make large trunk pitch rotations during gallops. Equine head angular displacements and velocities, with some exceptions during walks, were smaller than in humans and other primates. Nevertheless, owing to greater off-axis distances, orbital and vestibular arc lengths remained larger in horses, with the exception of head-neck axial pitch during trots, in which equine arc lengths were smaller than in running humans. Unlike monkeys and humans, equine head peak-frequency ranges fell within the estimated range in which inertia has a compensatory stabilizing effect. This inertial effect was typically over-ridden, however, by muscular or ligamentous intervention. Thus, equine head pitch was not consistently compensatory, as reported in humans. The equine neck isolated the head from the trunk enabling both segments to provide a spatial reference frame.

PMID:
19043061
PMCID:
PMC2768006
DOI:
10.1242/jeb.020578
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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