Walking over poles is a commonly employed training and rehabilitation tool and it is crucial to understand its effect on equine locomotion, particularly joint range of motion (ROM). The study aimed to compare the effect of ground poles (GP) and raised poles (RP) on limb kinematics and poll, wither and pelvic ROM at walk. It was hypothesized that walking over poles would increase joint ROM but have no effect on poll, wither and pelvic ROM compared to no poles (NP). Forty-one horses were walked in-hand over NP, GP (10 cm) and RP (26 cm) in a crossover design. Limb kinematics were determined via two-dimensional motion capture (240 Hz). Poll, wither, tubera sacrale, and left/right tuber coxae ROM were determined by inertial motion units (100 Hz). Multivariable mixed effects linear regression analyses were carried out. Walking over poles increased limb joint ROM, through increased swing flexion, compared to NP. There was a greater effect over RP compared to GP. Significant reductions in craniocaudal ROM of the wither, tuber coxae and tuber sacrale were observed over GP and RP. Mediolateral ROM of tuber coxae and tuber sacrale increased over GP and RP and was greatest over RP. Wither ROM was increased over RP only. Set-up and height of the poles used here may not extrapolate to other scenarios. Walking over poles appears to be effective at increasing joint ROM via an increase in mid swing flexion, without vertical excursion of the trunk, compared to normal locomotion, which supports the use of poles for rehabilitation.
- gait analysis