Thursday, November 4, 2010

Intermediate: Evaluating Soundness

Ok so TheoryThursday is going to be seriously reduced during the month of November due to Nanowrimo ( - for the uninitiated) and the fact that there’s only so many hours in a week! I suspect at absolute most only one level is going to get a post each week. Enjoy!

This week – evaluating soundness.
So there will come a time in every horse-person’s life when you’re riding around and suddenly think “hmmmm, that’s not quite right...” So you get off your horse, but now what?

First, bribe a friend. Get this wonderful person to lead your horse in a straight line at the trot. The leadline should have no pressure on it (giving the horse complete freedom of head and neck). Why the trot? Well because at the trot the horse moves in an even 2-beat rhythm, making it much easier to judge if something’s not right. They also tend to carry their heads very still – making it obvious if that’s not right either!

So your willing friend is trotting your horse in a long straight line so you can observe. But what exactly are you seeing? Well first thing – is the horse’s head bobbing? If so, there’s a problem. Next thing to ascertain – does his head seem to be going up higher than normal when it bobs, or is it pulling down lower than normal. I’ll give you a hint, if you’re new to this, odds are it’s going up. The down is usually a much more subtle movement. If it’s going up, you’re looking at a front leg lameness. If it’s going down, it’s the hind leg.

So every-other-beat the horse’s head shoots up in the air. Something’s wrong in the front. But which leg? Well, just imagine if you were limping. You have a huge blister on the ball of your left foot – when you step on that foot you’re going to step mostly on your toes and for as short a time as possible. This means your head will come UP when the SORE leg hits the ground. And as you limp, so does your horse.

If the problem is in the hind-end, you’ll see the horse’s head bob down lower than normal every-other-beat. The reason for this is he’s using his head and neck as a counter-weight so he doesn’t have to put pressure on the sore leg. So in this case the horse’s head goes DOWN when the SORE leg hits the ground.

Which of course makes the two seem like complete opposites and entirely confusing, but really all you have to remember is that the deviation from normal occurs as a result of the pain. So whichever leg is on the ground when the head is in the wrong position is the one you should be looking at. This is a skill that does take time to develop, but you would like it to be at the point where you can tell even without the head bob which leg has something wrong (ie when they’re just not stretching quite as far with one leg as the other).

Once you know *which* leg is sound is the time to try and figure out what is wrong and what to do about it. But that’s a post for another day!

No comments:

Post a Comment