Computational modelling of limb loads from galloping horses on different tracks

The University of Melbourne

  • Project code: PRJ-011237

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Monday, August 20, 2018

  • Project completion date: Friday, May 29, 2020

  • National Priority: HOR-Reduce injury and breakdown of horses in work and training


Musculoskeletal injuries in racehorses are most commonly caused by repeated high magnitude loading generated during galloping that results in deterioration of musculoskeletal tissues through tissue fatigue. Fatigue is a function of the magnitude and number of cycles of load, yet our understanding of the loads generated in the limbs of racehorses is limited due to the difficulty of measuring these loads.
In a series of projects funded by RIRDC we developed the most comprehensive computational forelimb musculoskeletal model to date, enabling the measurement of loads within the tendons and ligaments, and also on joint surfaces in horses moving on a treadmill. We have used this model to estimate loads in the forelimb of horses galloping on a racetrack and are currently extending the model into a full body dynamic model using data collected from our treadmill.
We now propose applying the model to investigate the effect of different track surfaces on the loads in the limb. Using three thoroughbred horses in race training we will collect gait data for galloping on the treadmill and at the race track on both sand and synthetic surfaces.
Track surfaces will be modelled using a smoothed particle hydrodynamic modelling method developed by the CSIRO. The properties of the track surfaces can then be manipulated to determine their effect on loads in the limbs of galloping horses. The findings from the model outputs will inform decision making on best practice track installation and maintenance in order to minimise musculoskeletal injury risk.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

The University of Melbourne

Objective Summary

The major objectives of this study are:
• To collect three dimensional full body kinematic data sets of three Thoroughbred racehorses galloping on a treadmill and on sand and synthetic racetrack surfaces.
• To create smoothed particle hydrodynamic surface models for each of a treadmill and two different racetrack surfaces (sand and synthetic).
• To implement a full body dynamic musculoskeletal model of a galloping horse using data derived from horses galloping on a treadmill and on sand and synthetic tracks.
• To develop a deeper understanding of the properties of a track surface that affect limb loads in galloping horses.
This project directly addresses AgriFutures Research Objective 6 because evidence based track surface preparation and maintenance will reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injuries, both fatal and non-fatal.
We are advancing the methods of load measurement on the musculoskeletal system in the galloping horse. This project therefore specifically addresses the priority identified under objective 6 to ‘develop improved methods for measurement of forces operating on musculoskeletal structures in training horses’ including the short term goals:
• Improved understanding of factors influencing risk of injury or breakdown.
• Development of models that can improve understanding and optimal athletic management of musculoskeletal structures of horses and the forces operating on them.
The project will also address AgriFutures Research Objective 3 because breakdown injuries of horses are the most common cause of jockey injuries, result in poor welfare outcomes for horses that suffer pain and disability and are a major threat to the sustainability of the industry.