Change in muscle development of horses undergoing 20 weeks of water treadmill exercise compared with control horses

Rachel C. Murray, E. Hopkins, Jack B. Tracey, Kathryn Nankervis, Isabeau Deckers, Russell Mackechnie-Guire, Carolyne A. Tranquille

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstract


Objectives: To describe changes in MD over a 20‐week period in sports horses that use WT in their regular training regime and in control horses. Study design: Observational study. Methods: Forty‐four horses (age: 11 ± 4 years) that use the WT weekly/fortnightly and 23 horses (age: 11 ± 4 years) that do not use WT were recruited, paired by breed and stage of training. All horses were deemed clinically sound. Subjective MD assessment of specific regions was undertaken using a previously published grading scale at weeks 0 and 20, including neck, cervical trapezius, thoracic trapezius, thoracic, lumbosacral, gluteal, hamstring, hindlimb adductor/abductor, abdominal musculature. MD assessments were carried out by an experienced veterinarian and a trained research assistant; inter and intra‐observer repeatability was confirmed. Data from weeks 0 and 20 were compared using a Wilcoxon‐Signed Ranks test, with a significance level P < .05. Results: After 20 weeks of WT, MD significantly increased at all locations (P ≤ .046) except the cervical trapezius and the abdominal region, with the most significant increase in the gluteal and hindlimb musculature (P < .0001). In the control horses, after 20 weeks MD only significantly increased in the hamstring musculature (P = .007). Main limitations: Slightly higher proportion of dressage horses in the control group (75% vs 60%). Conclusions: It appears regular WT exercise increases MD, particularly for musculature used to create movement patterns seen on the WT, increasing tarsal flexion. Less increased cervical trapezius/abdominal MD indicates WT exercise may be more beneficial for development hindlimb/lumbosacral musculature than elevation of the thorax, supporting clinical impression. WTs may be appropriate to be used under veterinary guidance as part of a directed rehabilitation/training programme to increase core and hindlimb muscle development.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 29 Oct 2020
EventBritish Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2020: BEVA 2020 -
Duration: 16 Jan 202119 Jan 2021


ConferenceBritish Equine Veterinary Association Congress 2020


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