The Gait Patterns of Olympic Dressage Horses

in Journal of Applied Biomechanics
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Limb contact variables of the gaits of dressage horses were determined for competitors at the 1988 Seoul Summer Olympic Games in the team and individual dressage competitions. Two 16-mm motion picture cameras filming at 100 fps were aimed perpendicular to the plane of equestrian motion along the HXF and MXK diagonals of the standard dressage arena. Eighteen competitors in team dressage were filmed during the Grand Prix test while executing the extended walk, extended trot, and left lead extended canter. Fifteen horses selected as finalists for individual dressage medals were filmed during the Grand Prix Special test executing the extended trot, one-stride canter lead changes, two-stride canter lead changes, and the left lead extended canter. Velocities of the extended walk, extended trot, and extended canter were positively related to stride length. Velocities of the Grand Prix extended walk and Grand Prix Special extended trot were positively related to stride frequency. Limb contact patterns of the extended walk stride appeared to have relatively little importance in scoring. Certain characteristics of the extended trot and extended canter were strongly related to scores attained in Grand Prix Special dressage tests, with highest scores achieved by horses with the longest, fastest strides. For canter strides involving lead changes, no limb contact variables were detected that were significantly related to scores. This study provided the first objective documentation of the limb contact patterns of the walk, trot, and canter of world-class dressage horses.

N.R. Deuel is with the Department of Animal and Nutritional Sciences at the University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH 03824. J. Park is with the Department of Physical Education at Pusan Sanub University, Taeyun-dong, Nam-gu, Pusan, Korea 608.

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