Jane M Williams
The use of surface electromyography within equine performance analysis
Williams, Jane M
Equine athletes participate in a wide range of equestrian disciplines. Performance analysis in sport is the collection and subsequent analysis of data, or key information sets, related to facets of training and / or competition, to accelerate and improve athletic performance. Equine performance analysis research aims to optimise the potential competition success of the horse whilst concurrently promoting health and welfare and increasing career longevity. Despite the benefits associated with performance analysis, its application is limited in equine sport.
Surface electromyography (sEMG) is a non-invasive technique which illustrates recruitment patterns of superficial skeletal muscle and can provide quantitative data on the activity within muscle during dynamic motion. sEMG has the potential to contribute to equine performance analysis particularly via assessment of muscle recruitment, activity and adaptation within training regimens and during competition. The critical commentary demonstrates the potential of surface electromyography (sEMG) as an effective performance analysis tool that could be used to assess the physiological response of muscle during field-based exercise in the horse and provides examples of how sEMG data obtained could guide improvements in the efficacy of training regimens for the equine athlete.
Critical reflection on four peer-reviewed evidence sources was conducted to establish their contribution to equine performance research and to facilitate debate of future research directions for equine sEMG. The research demonstrates the validity of telemetric sEMG as an emerging technology that could be used to analyse muscle performance in the equine athlete for defined events, for example jumping a fence, and to assess performance over time, for example monitoring muscle activity during interval training. Opportunities also exist to determine the efficacy of muscle-related clinical and therapeutic interventions such as prophylactic dentistry or physiotherapy. The preliminary research presented suggests the use of equine sEMG as a performance analysis tool has most value to assess and compare muscle performance during exercise within individual horses. However further research is required to substantiate this. Future studies integrating larger sample sizes, horses selected from specific equestrian disciplines and breeds, and further exploration of the impact of coat length and sEMG sensor placement on data obtained would be worthwhile to standardise and validate the protocols employed here.
Equine performance is a complex area; future work needs to focus on the individual characteristics that contribute to desired performance goals, but should also evaluate performance as a holistic entity. It is essential for progression in the performance field that research undertaken is shared with the equine industry to enable practical implementation. The use of sEMG in the equine athlete has the potential to increase understanding of how muscle responds to exercise and could help create an evidence-base to inform individual and discipline-specific training regimens. Increased efficacy in training should promote success, enhancing performance and extending career longevity for the equine athlete, whilst indirectly benefiting the horse’s health and welfare through improved management practices and injury reduction.
Williams, J. M. The use of surface electromyography within equine performance analysis. (Thesis). University of the West of England. Retrieved from https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/832646
JM Williams DPhil Thesis .pdf