OBJECTIVE: To compare gait mechanics and limb loading in Icelandic horses tölting and trotting at equal speeds and estimate their impact on orthopedic health.
ANIMALS: 12 orthopedically normal Icelandic horses.
PROCEDURES: Kinetic and kinematic gait variables were simultaneously recorded as each horse was ridden at a tölt and trot on an instrumented treadmill at 3.4 m/s and 3.9 m/s. Differences between gaits were tested via 1-factor repeated-measures ANOVA.
RESULTS: Horses had a higher stride rate and lower stride impulses at a tölt than at a trot. For forelimbs at a tölt, shorter relative stance duration resulted in higher peak vertical force (Fzpeak). Conversely, for hind limbs, longer relative stance duration resulted in lower Fzpeak. The higher head-neck position at a tölt versus trot caused no weight shift to the hind limbs, but a higher forehoof flight arc and lower proretraction movement were identified. Stance durations for forelimbs were briefer than for hind limbs at a tölt, and the inverse was observed at a trot. Minimal height of the horse's trunk at the point of Fzpeak of the respective limb suggested a spring-like mechanism for all limbs at a tölt. Hind limb measurements revealed no evidence of increased collection. Stride-to-stride limb timing varied more at a tölt than at a trot. At a trot, horses had brief or no suspension phases and a slightly 4-beated footfall rhythm was common. Post hoc energetic estimations revealed that tölting at the measured speeds was less advantageous than trotting.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE: High forelimb action in Icelandic horses and higher head-neck position at a tölt were associated with more restricted limb proretraction, higher Fzpeak, and faster force onset than at a trot. The impact of these differences on orthopedic health needs to be investigated more in detail.