School of Mechanical & Systems Engineering
Seminar Series: 2009/2010



Thursday 18 February 2010
4pm, Stephenson Building, room F16 (first floor)

"Tendon strain influences the development of equine locomotion with age"


The horse provides a useful model for ageing, showing phases of development, maturity and degeneration throughout a relatively short lifespan. Additionally, UK equine industry is highly valuable, with an estimated annual worth of £3.4bn. Reducing the common occurrence of tendon injury to horses would help to maintain this value, as well as improving equine welfare. Currently, tendon injury is only identified once the damage is sufficient to alter locomotion; thus a method of detecting subtle changes indicative of tendon degeneration before the horse exhibits clinical lameness is desirable.

Representing the equine distal limb as a passive mass-spring model, the influence of the mechanical properties of the tendon “spring” can be investigated once mass of the horse has been accounted for. Through invasive methods, the stiffness of the digital flexor tendons has been suggested to increase in young horses, stay constant in adult horses and decrease in older horses. Since the digital flexor tendons support the metacarpo-phalangeal (MCP) and distal inter-phalangeal (DIP) joints, joint angles are expected to follow this trend. The distal limb kinematics of 57 horses from young foals to older horses were investigated with the hypothesis that joint angles decrease with age in young horses, plateau in adult horses and increase with age in older horses. Development and degeneration of gait were investigated in terms of stride length, velocity, frequency and stance duration as a percentage of the total stride cycle.

This presentation investigates how gait changes throughout the horse’s lifespan and examines the influence of changing tendon mechanical properties on locomotion.