on equine limbs in riding horses
This illustration depicts the extreme lateral stress when riding on hard surface. B shows navicular area and when combined with the break-over factor, no wonder we have so much lameness associated with navicular bone. The A and A1 shows the "stretching" and "compressing" of the lower joints (ligaments, bones). The joint capsules take real beating in such case, not to mention the compression stress on the bones involved. D shows a common injury of the splint bone and F and E shows the over-expanding - compressing stress on the "knee" joint, capsule.
This illustration depicts the reduction of the lateral stress due to a deeper riding surface. The grass is even better, providing it is not completely dried out and hard.
This photo depicts extreme lateral stress, especially on the stifle that appears to be traveling in a crippling position and very much off track. It is obvious that this horse is already very much sore in the stifles, not mention the horse is clearly off balance, very much on the forehand, hind end falling out etc. The riding surface is obviously not deep enough, hence this horse is heading for a premature end of his riding career.
In today’s horsemanship,
the lateral stress on equine limbs in riding horses is again very much
ignored factor. Understanding this will help you keep your horse sound
and it will prolong his duration in service.
In layman’s terms, the
flexibility of horse’s joints is designed more or less
“lengthwise” and much less “sideways”. Even though the skeletal
structure of a human is very much similar to the horse, we have much
more sideways flexibility in joints than the horse. However, the most
important fact in flexibility is that horses are literally walking
(running) on toes (fingers). In other words, if you check your fingers,
the first two joints of the first three links have almost no flexibility
to the side. It is finally in the third joint (in the horse the ankle
– fetlock), where we find some flexibility however, in us humans
significantly more than by the horse. Again in the wrist (by the horse
the so-called “knee” (carpus)) we have much more flexibility to the
side than the horse. The above all mentioned joints (bones and ligaments
involved) in horses are the ones that get abused the most (especially in
position) when we ignore the factors of lateral stress, which is closely
tied to the type of surface on which we are riding the horse. In the
hind legs the most abused joint is the stifle (in human the knee),
mainly the ligaments involved (joint capsule as well), which is for most
part the first one to get sore since it also suffers by the altered
movement of the horse caused by the weight of the rider. The stifle
injury is in most cases the primarily injury in riding horses. For most
part it is ignored, because we diligently ride horses in both direction,
hence both stifles get sore equally, thus there is no apparent lameness
(horses just do not want to put the hind end under and use it, do not
want to gallop on one lead etc.). On account of the injured (sore)
stifles, the horse will favor the hind legs; will travel more on the
forehand, which will eventualy result into more serious injuries of the
The three major factors that are
playing an important role in the lateral stress are, the riding
sharpness of turning and the
speed in which the horse is
moving. The speed and the sharpness of the turn will determine the
degree of the angle that the body of the horse forms with the ground.
The faster we are going in the turn, the sharper the angle and greater
the stress sideways on joins, bones and ligaments . When we are riding a
horse in the turn on a hard surface, the hoof stays parallel to the
ground, though the body is in an angle, henceforth, the joints must flex
sideways. The sharpness of turn and the relevance of the
in which it is performed should determine the depth of the working
surface. Henceforth, the barrel racing horse needs much more deeper
surface than for example the dressage horse. I have seen that the barrel
racing people for most part going by this “rule”, but not the
dressage people. In most dressage riding arenas the surface is very
shallow and hard despite the fact that the dressage horse spends much
more time working in turns than the barrel racer. Henceforth, the
that the horse spends working in turns is also a great factor.
on a hard (insufficiently deep) surface will definitely bring an early
end to the working career of your horse.
The longeing on a hard (insufficiently deep) surface will definitely bring an early end to the working career of your horse.
Most common injuries resulting from the extreme or prolonged lateral stress are:
In hind legs the stifle, most of the time it is the initial injury that triggers the overstress of the forelimbs.
front legs causing the
injury, ringbone, side-bone, splints, ankles and in higher speeds the
The prevention of the above injuries, as well as, the reduction of the lateral stress consist of the following:
Proper riding surface, adequate riding in balance and suitable shoeing (no squared toes). The reduction of the movement to the side/turning will also benefit the horse, especially if he already has some soundness problems.
All my comments are merely my opinions and beliefs gained from 40 years of professional life with horses. All drugs should be used only by the consent of a veterinarian and according to his instructions. A person who is with the horse everyday, should know him better than anyone else.