SLU's knowledge bank

Lame or not lame? - that is the question

Last changed: 20 June 2017

Recent studies evaluating horses in training and considered free from lameness by their owners have identified a large proportion of horses with motion asymmetries. However the prevalence, type and magnitude of asymmetries when trotting in a straight line or on the lunge have not been investigated.

 The aim of this study was to objectively investigate the presence of motion asymmetries in riding horses in training by identifying the side and quantifying the degree and type (impact, pushoff) of forelimb and hind limb asymmetries found during straight line trot and on the lunge.

In a cross-sectional study, vertical head and pelvic movement symmetry was measured in 222 Warmblood type riding horses, all without perceived performance issues and considered free from lameness by their owners. Body-mounted uni-axial accelerometers were used and differences between maximum and minimum head (HDmax, HDmin) and pelvic (PDmax, PDmin) vertical displacement between left and right forelimb and hind limb stances were calculated during straight line trot and on the lunge. Previously reported symmetry thresholds were used.

The thresholds for symmetry were exceeded in 161 horses for at least one variable while trotting in a straight line, HDmin (n = 58, mean 14.3 mm, SD 7.1), HDmax (n = 41, mean 12.7 mm, SD 5.5), PDmax (n = 87, mean 6.5 mm, SD 3.10), PDmin (n = 79, mean 5.7 mm, SD 2.1). Contralateral and ipsilateral concurrent forelimb and hind limb asymmetries were detected in 41 and 49 horses, respectively. There was a linear association between the straight line PDmin values and the values on the lunge with the lame limb to the inside of the circle.

A large proportion (72.5%) of horses in training which were perceived as free from lameness by their owner showed movement asymmetries above previously reported asymmetry thresholds during straight line trot. It is not known to what extent these asymmetries are related to pain or to mechanical abnormalities. Therefore, one of the most important questions that must be addressed is how objective asymmetry scores can be translated into pain, orthopedic abnormality, or any type of unsoundness.

Link to the publication


Rhodin M., Egenvall A., Haubro Andersen P. and Pfau T. Head and pelvic movement asymmetries at trot and compensatory movement asymmetries in riding horses perceived as healthy by the owner. Plos One. 10.1371/journal.pone.0176253


Marie Rhodin
Researcher, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Biochemistry (AFB)                                                       
Telephone: 018-672194