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Equine adaptation strategies to induced forelimb lameness

Last changed: 08 July 2021
Horse walking

There is a paucity of research describing the gait pattern of lame horses at the walk. The objective of the current study was to describe the changes in motion pattern and vertical ground reaction forces (GRFz) in horses with induced forelimb lameness at the walk and compare those changes with the changes observed at the trot.

Study design

Experimental study.


In 10 clinically sound Warmblood horses, moderate forelimb lameness was induced using a sole pressure model followed by trot and walk on a treadmill. Kinematic data were collected using 3D optical motion capture (OMC), and GRFz by an instrumented treadmill. Mixed models were used to compare sound baseline versus forelimb lameness (significance was set at P < .05).


Lameness induction significantly reduced peak GRFz on the second force peak, and vertical impulse in the lame limb. Stride and stance duration in all limbs were reduced. Lameness significantly affected the vertical movement symmetry of the head and withers. Maximum limb retraction angle, fetlock extension and protraction speed were reduced in the lame limb. Body centre of mass (COM) translation was reduced in the side‐to‐side direction and increased in the vertical and fore‐aft directions. Several compensatory kinetic and kinematic changes were observed in the nonlame limbs. The observed changes in both kinetics and kinematics were generally smaller at walk with fewer variables being affected, compared to the trot.

Main limitations

Only one degree and type of orthopaedic pain (sole pressure) was studied.


Compensatory strategies of forelimb lameness at the walk include alteration of several kinetic and kinematic parameters and have some specific patterns and inter‐individual differences that are not seen at the trot. However, much like at the trot, head movement and forelimb vertical force symmetry seem to be the most useful parameters to detect forelimb lameness at walk.

Link to tyhe publication


F.M. Serra Bragança, E. Hernlund, M.H. Halling-Thomsen, N.M. Waldern, M. Rhodin, Anna Byström, P.R. van Weeren, and M.A. Weishaup. (2020) Adaptation strategies of horses with induced forelimb lameness walking on a treadmill. Equine Veterinary Journal.