Effects of lunging aids assessed in Polish study

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The regions of interest in the thermographic study. Image: Maśko et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121095

Thermographic imaging has been used to assess the effects of lunging aids on key muscles in the horse.

Lunging aids can be used to regulate head and neck position during exercise without the intervention of a rider.

The rubber band, triangle side reins and the chambon can also impact on movement in the thoracolumbar region — that’s broadly where the saddle sits — and the motion of the limbs.

For their study, researchers from the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Poland used thermography to provide a picture of how different muscles were worked using different lunging aids.

Thermography is a non-invasive, contactless imaging technique based on detecting emitted infrared radiation, representing the temperature of the body surface. It is influenced by muscle metabolism and blood circulation.

Malgorzata Maśko and her colleagues, writing in the open-access journal Animals, described an experiment involving 16 leisure horses exercised on the lunge at the walk, trot, and canter.

They were variously lunged with a freely moving head, rubber band, chambon, and triangle side reins, all of which have some influence on the head and neck. They modify head and neck position by forces acting on the bit, head, chest, girth, and withers.

The rubber band and triangle side reins close head and neck position, whereas the chambon opens it up.

Thermographic imaging of a horse lunged with: (A) freely moving head, (B) chambon, (C) rubber band, (D) triangle side reins. The open head and neck position marked with α: 110°–115°; the close head and neck position marked with ß: 85°–90°. The dashed lines marked the location of subsequent lunging aids. Maśko et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121095

Nearly 900 thermographic images were analyzed before and after lunging to obtain average temperatures and minimum-maximum differences for the 11 regions of interest in neck, chest, back, and hindquarters.

The rubber band tended to create higher average temperatures around the upper neck and along the muscles of the spine from the base of the mane back, indicating that the muscles were doing more work. Aside from the upper neck, the rest of the neck generated lower average temperatures.

With the chambon, average temperatures were higher across all of the neck and along the spine.

With triangle reins, average temperatures were higher in the neck region, along the spine, and in the hindquarters.

The thermographic images after a training session with freely moving head (A–F), rubber band (G–L), chambon (M–R), and triangle side reins (S–X) of the same horse with the marked regions of interest (ROIs) chosen for statistical analysis: (A,G,M,S) ROIs 1–3; (B,H,N,T) ROI 4; (C,I,O,U) ROIs 5–6; (D,J,P,V) ROIs 7–8; (E,K,Q,W) ROIs 9–10; (F,L,R,X) ROI 11. Image: Maśko et al. https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121095

The findings, when compared with the results from free head movement, suggested that the use of the rubber band may decrease muscle activity in the equine neck and back, whereas triangle side reins can play a role in the activation of neck, back, and hindquarter mobility.

“However, regardless of the choice made, lunging aids improve the thermographic pattern of the leisure horses during work on the lunge, and their proper use is probably more desirable than lunging with free head movement,” they concluded.

The researchers said thermography proved to be a useful tool in evaluating the usefulness of lunging aids.

The full study team comprised Maśko, Lukasz Zdrojkowski, Malgorzata Domino, Tomasz Jasinski and Zdzislaw Gajewski.

The Pattern of Superficial Body Temperatures in Leisure Horses Lunged with Commonly Used Lunging Aids
Malgorzata Maśko, Lukasz Zdrojkowski, Malgorzata Domino, Tomasz Jasinski and Zdzislaw Gajewski.
Animals 2019, 9(12), 1095; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani9121095

The study, published under a Creative Commons License, can be read here

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