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Online Journal of Veterinary Research©
Volume 4:64-72, 1999
Gait Transitions in Horses
James R. Rooney*, D.V.M. (Prof Emeritus),
Rooney JR., Gait transitions in horses, Online J Vet Res., 4:64-72, 1999. There has long been interest in terrestrial locomotor function. Of particular interest have been the transitions which occur among the several gaits: walk to run in bipeds and trot to gallop in quadrupeds. Vilensky et al (1991) have reviewed the literature on the trot/gallop transition in quadrupeds. They concluded that there was no complete explanation for the underlying mechanism of this transition. The walk to trot transition (or transition to another slow gait such as the rack, pace, fox-trot, single foot, canter) of quadrupeds has received less attention than the trot to gallop transition since no consistent transition point between the walk and these other gaits could be made. Rooney (1998) observed that such demarcation is difficult in horses because the footfall pattern, the sequence of steps, is the same for the walk and all the slow gaits including the canter. It is only with the shift to the gallop that the basic footfall pattern is significantly modified. McMahon (1975) demonstrated that in horses the transition from trot to gallop occurred at a stride frequency of about 1.8 Hz. Thompson et al(1989) found the transition at 2.06 Hz as the average of four Thoroughbred horses on a treadmill. It is well-known, however, that horses can be trained to change at other frequencies and that Standardbred racehorses can by genetic selection and training achieve high velocities without changing from the pace or trot to the gallop. This will be considered further in the discussion. This study offers another approach to the trot/gallop transition in horses.