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Equine Vet J Suppl. 2010 Nov;(38):662-4. doi: 10.1111/j.2042-3306.2010.00194.x.

The effect of water height on stride frequency, stride length and heart rate during water treadmill exercise.

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The Equine Therapy Centre, Hartpury College, Gloucester, UK.



Water treadmill exercise is often incorporated into rehabilitation programmes for horses yet little is known about the biomechanical and physiological responses to water walking.


To establish whether stride frequency (SF) reached steady state as a result of 6 introductory water treadmill sessions and then to investigate the effect of increasing water height on SF, stride length (SL) and heart rate (HR).


Nine horses with no previous experience of water treadmills completed 6 sessions of walking for between 15 and 30 min. Each horse was fitted with a leg mounted accelerometer to measure SF. The effect of session on SF was tested using univariate ANOVA. Eight horses completed 3 further sessions at each of the following water heights; proximal interphalangeal joint (PIP), carpus and ulna. SF, SL and HR at each water height were compared to a control (hoof height) using univariate ANOVA.


When SF during introductory sessions 4-6 were compared, there was no significant effect of session on SF (P > 0.05). In the second part of the experiment, SF was 0.57 ± 0.03 strides/s at control, 0.54 ± 0.03 strides/s at the PIP joint, 0.51 ± 0.02 strides/s at the carpus and 0.52 ± 0.03 strides/s at the ulna. Stride frequency at carpal and ulna height was significantly lower than at control (P < 0.05). Stride length was 1.53 ± 0.09 m for control, 1.63 ± 0.10 m at the PIP joint, 1.71 ± 0.08 m at the carpus and 1.68 ± 0.10 m at the ulna. Stride length at carpal and ulna height was significantly greater than control (P < 0.05). There was no significant difference between HR during control and any other water height (P > 0.05).


Horses reached steady state gait within the first 6 sessions of water treadmill exercise. Walking in water at the level of the carpus or ulna resulted in a lower SF compared to walking in water at hoof height.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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