Unit 20 – Level 5 Equine Biomechanics

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Module / Unit Details

Biomechanics is the study of biological phenomena – their processes, function and structure, using the methods of mechanics.  This unit introduces the principles which underpin biomechanics and will help learners develop an understanding of mechanics and how to apply the principles to equine movement.

The learner will investigate functional anatomy because bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments comprise the subjects of interest.  This unit enables learners to develop an awareness of how biomechanics in its purest form attempts to model these tissues; this awareness is then related to the changes in these tissues in response to forces and physical activity.

It will help learners develop an understanding of the value, nature and application of equine gait analysis and allow them to critically evaluate equine movement.  The knowledge gained will allow learners to describe the methods and instrumentation by which equine biomechanics are studied.

The integrative and multi-disciplinary nature of this unit will encourage the learner to utilise the knowledge and understanding gained through other units and apply the information learned to improve the performance and welfare of the horses in their care.

On completion of this unit learners will have encountered concepts that encompass all aspects of equine biomechanics from Newton’s Laws to foot balance.

Unit 20 Equine Biomechanics - Learning Outcomes

Discuss the biomechanics of equine locomotion

Biomechanics: terminology in the study of equine biomechanics, anatomical nomenclature, meanings of words and theories as they relate to equine biomechanics, Newton’s Laws, dynamic role of biological tissues, adaptations of musculoskeletal tissues to forces, biomechanics of musculoskeletal breakdown and repair.

Introduction to kinematics – equine dynamics, characterising a force, force and injury.

Evaluate uses and methods of gait analysis

Uses:  Assess the merits of equine gait analysis.

Methods:  Understand the types of gait analysis equipment available for equine locomotion studies, recent published equine biomechanics research, gait analysis equipment, treadmill, photoinstrumentation, the CODA-3, research with the CODA-3, Research using the MacReflex/ProReflex systems, accelerometers, equine kinetic research – ground reaction forces.

Identify the biomechanical effects of exercise and exercise-induced injuries

Effects of exercise:  define the equine back in terms of mechanical analogues, the suspension bridge theory, the loaded beam theory, the bow and string theory,  how muscles work together in chains to support mass and locomotion, link in the horse between his stride and his respiration rates –  why and how this occurs.

Basic biomechanics of the equine foot:  importance of foot balance in relation to the long-term soundness of the horse, role of the farrier in the care of the performance horse. Assessing foot balance, hoof/pastern axis and dorso-palmar balance, medio-lateral balance, ground surface of the foot, pair symmetry of hooves and limbs, non-contact of hooves and limbs.

Biological tissues: loads experienced by tendons during normal locomotion, tendon adaptation, adaptation of ligament, bone loading, bone adaptation, bone fractures, monotonic fractures, fatigue failure, muscle functions, development of tension, effects of training.

Course Details

This Higher Education modules can be studied as a TOCES Short Course (SC).

TOCES Higher Education Short Course

Academic Level: Higher Education Level 5
Number of units/modules: 1
Study Hours per Unit: 150
Total Hours:  150
Course Duration:  Maximum of 12 months to complete course requirements
Study Week Requirements: Optional Higher Educational Study Week

This is a TOCES Certificate course. You will be awarded a graded TOCES certificate upon completion of the course. This will be of value to prospective employers as well as to you personally as it reflects your commitment to study. Please note that although TOCES Certificate courses do not result in a validated qualification, the course material is of the same high standard as our validated programmes through BTEC, the BHS and City and Guilds.

As with all TOCES programmes, you will receive detailed study material – each module comprises two work assignments which are completed at home and sent in for tutor assessment and feedback.

The first assignment in each module are formative work assignments designed to prepare you for the second assignment, a summative work assignment which contributes towards your overall grade. In addition, there is a gait analysis assessment to complete which is completed through the evaluation of online video files. The overall grade of your qualification will reflect the grades achieved in your assignments. You will receive a TOCES certificate on successful completion of the course.

For all programmes you must be:

  • enthusiastic!
  • prepared to work hard
  • disciplined enough to set aside time to study
  • prepared to undertake independent study
  • at least 16 years old

While not compulsory, applicants under the age of 21 should hold one of the following:

  • BTEC National Certificate or Diploma in Horse Management or a related area
  • AVCE/Advanced GNVQ in an appropriate vocational area
  • GCE Advanced level profile which demonstrates strong performance in a relevant subject or an adequate performance in more than one GCE subject. This profile is likely to be supported by GCSE grades at A* to C
  • Other related Level 3 qualifications
  • Access to Higher Education Certificate awarded by an approved further education institution


  • Non-UK qualifications of a comparable level to those listed above
  • Overseas students whose first language is not English must hold a minimum of level 7 International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Further information can be gained from www.ielts.org.

Mature learners (21 years and above)
Mature learners may present a more varied profile of achievement that is likely to include extensive work experience (paid and/or unpaid) and/or achievement of a range of professional qualifications in their work sector.

How much work is involved?
It is estimated that, including attendance at Study Weeks, each module involves an average of 150 hours study. To calculate how long a programme will take to complete multiply the number of modules by 150 and divide by the number of hours you feel you can spare each week. Although distance learning is a very flexible mode of study you must complete the course requirements before the course completion date. The more time you spend on additional research, the more likely you will be to attain high grades.

Modules generally consist of one Formative and one Summative Work Assignment. Project work and independent research are integral to most modules.  You will receive detailed tutor feedback for each Formative Assignment. Each Summative Assignment is graded and counts towards your overall qualification. Formative Assignments do not count towards the qualification grade and in some instances are optional.

You are also required to undertake independent research and read around the subject areas to increase your depth of knowledge and demonstrate the ability to analyse, disseminate and evaluate information.  We do not specify how many hours each assignment will take – this is included within the 150 hours and is individual to each student.

How long do the courses take?
We appreciate that our students have work, family and equine commitments so do not set rigid time limits. However a maximum completion date is calculated on enrolment.

Time taken depends on:

  • How much you know already – you will find some modules easier and more interesting than others
  • Work commitments
  • Family commitments
  • Equine commitments
  • Your dedication and motivation

To maintain a steady rate of work through an HE programme you should allocate at least ten hours per week to your studies. If you cannot find ten hours in a week you must appreciate that it will take longer to complete the Course and extra costs will be incurred after the maximum completion date if an extension is granted.

Can I work through the programmes in less time?
You can work through the programme at a faster rate than estimated here if you are able to devote more time to your studies. However, we do not encourage students to work through quickly at the expense of the quality of their work. You will also need to attend the correct number of study weeks and your payment status must reflect the rate at which you work through the programme.

Enrolment and Fees

Enrolments are accepted for all courses anytime throughout the year.  Following enrolment, you will receive access to online course information and course material.

TOCES Higher Education Short Course

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  • Tutor support
  • Printing and postage fees additional (optional)
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The Open College of Equine Studies
33 Pages Lane
Lower Green
Bury St Edmunds
IP28 6NJ

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The Open College of Equine Studies
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Bury St Edmunds
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