The use of tack (equipment such as saddles and reins) and especially of bits because of rein tension resulting in pressure in the mouth is questioned because of welfare concerns. We hypothesised that rein tension patterns in walk and trot reflect general gait kinematics, but are also determined by individual horse and rider effects. Six professional riders rode three familiar horses in walk and trot. Horses were equipped with rein tension meters logged by inertial measurement unit technique. Left and right rein tension data were synchronized with the gait.
Many genes are known to have an influence on conformation and performance traits; however, the role of one gene, Myostatin (MSTN), has been highlighted in recent studies on horses. Myostatin acts as a repressor in the development and regulation of differentiation and proliferative growth of skeletal muscle. Several studies have examined the link between MSTN, conformation and performance in racing breeds, but no studies have investigated the relationship in Icelandic horses. Icelandic horses, a highly unique breed, are known both for their robust and compact conformation as well as their additional gaits tölt and pace. Three SNPs (g.65868604G>T [PR8604], g.66493737C>T [PR3737] and g.66495826A>G [PR5826]) flanking or within equine MSTN were genotyped in 195 Icelandic horses. The SNPs and haplotypes were analyzed for association with official estimated breeding values (EBV) for conformation traits (n=11) and gaits (n=5). The EBV for neck, withers and shoulders was significantly associated with both PR8604 and PR3737 (p<0.05). PR8604 was also associated with EBV for total conformation (p=0.05). These associations were all supported by the haplotype analysis. However, while SNP PR5826 showed a significant association with EBVs for leg stance and hooves (p<0.05), haplotype analyses for these traits failed to fully support these associations. This study demonstrates the possible role of MSTN on both the form and function of horses from non-racing breeds. Further analysis of Icelandic horses as well as other non-racing breeds would be beneficial and likely help to completely understand the influence of MSTN on conformation and performance in horses.
It was shown that rolled-toe shoes smooth hoof-unrollment and thereby reduce peak loading of forelimbs in trotting Warmblood horses. Shoe design and shoeing technique for hind feet have been modified over recent decades from fully fitted, toe-clipped shoes to set-back, side-clipped shoes.
The manner in which quadrupeds change their locomotive patterns-walking, trotting, and galloping-with changing speed is poorly understood. In this paper, we provide evidence for interlimb coordination during gait transitions using a quadruped robot for which coordination between the legs can be self-organized through a simple “central pattern generator” (CPG) model. We demonstrate spontaneous gait transitions between energy-efficient patterns by changing only the parameter related to speed. Interlimb coordination was achieved with the use of local load sensing only without any preprogrammed patterns. Our model exploits physical communication through the body, suggesting that knowledge of physical communication is required to understand the leg coordination mechanism in legged animals and to establish design principles for legged robots that can reproduce flexible and efficient locomotion.
Horseback riding is the most fundamental use of domestic horses and has had a huge influence on the development of human societies for millennia. Over time, riding techniques and the style of riding improved. Therefore, horses with the ability to perform comfortable gaits (e.g. ambling or pacing), so-called ‘gaited’ horses, have been highly valued by humans, especially for long distance travel. Recently, the causative mutation for gaitedness in horses has been linked to a substitution causing a premature stop codon in the DMRT3 gene (DMRT3_Ser301STOP) . In mice, Dmrt3 is expressed in spinal cord interneurons and plays an important role in the development of limb movement coordination . Genotyping the position in 4396 modern horses from 141 breeds revealed that nowadays the mutated allele is distributed worldwide with an especially high frequency in gaited horses and breeds used for harness racing . Here, we examine historic horse remains for the DMRT3 SNP, tracking the origin of gaitedness to Medieval England between 850 and 900 AD. The presence of the corresponding allele in Icelandic horses (9(th)-11(th) century) strongly suggests that ambling horses were brought from the British Isles to Iceland by Norse people. Considering the high frequency of the ambling allele in early Icelandic horses, we believe that Norse settlers selected for this comfortable mode of horse riding soon after arrival. The absence of the allele in samples from continental Europe (including Scandinavia) at this time implies that ambling horses may have spread from Iceland and maybe also the British Isles across the continent at a later date.
Intense selective pressures applied over short evolutionary time have resulted in homogeneity within, but substantial variation among, horse breeds. Utilizing this population structure, 744 individuals from 33 breeds, and a 54,000 SNP genotyping array, breed-specific targets of selection were identified using an F(ST)-based statistic calculated in 500-kb windows across the genome. A 5.5-Mb region of ECA18, in which the myostatin (MSTN) gene was centered, contained the highest signature of selection in both the Paint and Quarter Horse. Gene sequencing and histological analysis of gluteal muscle biopsies showed a promoter variant and intronic SNP of MSTN were each significantly associated with higher Type 2B and lower Type 1 muscle fiber proportions in the Quarter Horse, demonstrating a functional consequence of selection at this locus. Signatures of selection on ECA23 in all gaited breeds in the sample led to the identification of a shared, 186-kb haplotype including two doublesex related mab transcription factor genes (DMRT2 and 3). The recent identification of a DMRT3 mutation within this haplotype, which appears necessary for the ability to perform alternative gaits, provides further evidence for selection at this locus. Finally, putative loci for the determination of size were identified in the draft breeds and the Miniature horse on ECA11, as well as when signatures of selection surrounding candidate genes at other loci were examined. This work provides further evidence of the importance of MSTN in racing breeds, provides strong evidence for selection upon gait and size, and illustrates the potential for population-based techniques to find genomic regions driving important phenotypes in the modern horse.
For centuries, domestic horses have represented an important means of transport and served as working and companion animals. Although their role in transportation is less important today, many horse breeds are still subject to intense selection based on their pattern of locomotion. A striking example of such a selected trait is the ability of a horse to perform additional gaits other than the common walk, trot and gallop. Those could be four-beat ambling gaits, which are particularly smooth and comfortable for the rider, or pace, used mainly in racing. Gaited horse breeds occur around the globe, suggesting that gaitedness is an old trait, selected for in many breeds. A recent study discovered that a nonsense mutation in DMRT3 has a major impact on gaitedness in horses and is present at a high frequency in gaited breeds and in horses bred for harness racing. Here, we report a study of the worldwide distribution of this mutation. We genotyped 4396 horses representing 141 horse breeds for the DMRT3 stop mutation. More than half (2749) of these horses also were genotyped for a SNP situated 32 kb upstream of the DMRT3 nonsense mutation because these two SNPs are in very strong linkage disequilibrium. We show that the DMRT3 mutation is present in 68 of the 141 genotyped horse breeds at a frequency ranging from 1% to 100%. We also show that the mutation is not limited to a geographical area, but is found worldwide. The breeds with a high frequency of the stop mutation (>50%) are either classified as gaited or bred for harness racing.
Spinal pattern generators in quadrupedal animals can coordinate different forms of locomotion, like trotting or galloping, by altering coordination between the limbs (interlimb coordination). In the human system, infants have been used to study the subcortical control of gait, since the cerebral cortex and corticospinal tract are immature early in life. Like other animals, human infants can modify interlimb coordination to jump or step. Do human infants possess functional neuronal circuitry necessary to modify coordination within a limb (intralimb coordination) in order to generate distinct forms of alternating bipedal gait, such as walking and running? We monitored twenty-eight infants (7-12 months) stepping on a treadmill at speeds ranging between 0.06-2.36 m/s, and seventeen adults (22-47 years) walking or running at speeds spanning the walk-to-run transition. Six of the adults were tested with body weight support to mimic the conditions of infant stepping. We found that infants could accommodate a wide range of speeds by altering stride length and frequency, similar to adults. Moreover, as the treadmill speed increased, we observed periods of flight during which neither foot was in ground contact in infants and in adults. However, while adults modified other aspects of intralimb coordination and the mechanics of progression to transition to a running gait, infants did not make comparable changes. The lack of evidence for distinct walking and running patterns in infants suggests that the expression of different functional, alternating gait patterns in humans may require neuromuscular maturation and a period of learning post-independent walking.
Locomotion results from the generation of ground reaction forces (GRF) that cause translations of the center of mass (COM) and generate moments that rotate the body around the COM. The trot is a diagonally-synchronized gait performed by horses at intermediate locomotor speeds. Passage is a variant of the trot performed by highly-trained dressage horses. It is distinguished from trot by having a slow speed of progression combined with great animation of the limbs in the swing phase. The slow speed of passage challenges the horse’s ability to control the sagittal-plane moments around the COM. Footfall patterns and peak GRF are known to differ between passage and trot, but their effects on balance management, which we define here as the ability to control nose-up/nose-down pitching moments around the horse’s COM to maintain a state of equilibrium, are not known. The objective was to investigate which biomechanical variables influence pitching moments around the COM in passage.
A previous study revealed a strong association between the DMRT3:Ser301STOP mutation in horses and alternate gaits as well as performance in harness racing. Several follow-up studies have confirmed a high frequency of the mutation in gaited horse breeds and an effect on gait quality. The aim of this study was to determine when and where the mutation arose, to identify additional potential causal mutations and to determine the coalescence time for contemporary haplotypes carrying the stop mutation. We utilized sequences from 89 horses representing 26 breeds to identify 102 SNPs encompassing the DMRT3 gene that are in strong linkage disequilibrium with the stop mutation. These 102 SNPs were genotyped in an additional 382 horses representing 72 breeds, and we identified 14 unique haplotypes. The results provided conclusive evidence that DMRT3:Ser301STOP is causal, as no other sequence polymorphisms showed an equally strong association to locomotion traits. The low sequence diversity among mutant chromosomes demonstrated that they must have diverged from a common ancestral sequence within the last 10 000 years. Thus, the mutation occurred either just before domestication or more likely some time after domestication and then spread across the world as a result of selection on locomotion traits.