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Understanding Movement in Racehorses

Movement consists of a horses travel and action.


Travel: refers to the flight of the hoof (limb) in relation to the

midline of the horse & other limbs (cranial / caudal view)


Action: the style of movement, including joint flexion, stride

length, and suspension (lateral view)

The horse has four natural gaits


1) Walk: four beat gait (left hind, left front, right hind, right front)
The walk is ideal for movement evaluation (i.e. assessing movement abnormalities)

2) Trot: two beat, diagonal gait (right front & left hind, left front & right hind)
The trot is ideal for lameness evaluation because it is the horses steadiest & most rhythmic gait

3) Canter: three beat gait (hind limb, other hind limb simultaneously with its diagonal
forelimb, other forelimb) The sequence of limbs depends on the lead. (i.e. right lead left hind, right hind and left fore, right fore)

4) Gallop: four beat gait in which each limb


bears the weight of the horse individually

Terminology
Balance: coordinated form of a horses movement as reflected by
equal distribution of weight from left to right and propulsion from the hindquarters

Asymmetry: a deviation in the normal pattern of a gait


when a horse is moving asymmetrically, the horse is said to be off

Impulsion: thrust, the manner in which the horses weight is settled


and released from the supporting structures of the limb in the act of carrying the horse forward

Suppleness: flexibility

Step: a single beat of a gait that may involve one or more limbs
i.e. there are four steps in a walk, two steps in a trot

Stride: the distance from the point of breaking over to the point of
next contact with the ground of the same hoof / a full sequence of steps in a gait

Tempo Turn of Foot: the rate of movement or the rate of


stride repetition a faster tempo results in more strides per minute

Collection: shortening of the stride within a gait without a


decrease in tempo that is brought on by a shift of the center of gravity rearward (usually accompanied by an overall body elevation and an increase in joint flexion)

Extension: lengthening of the stride within a gait without an


increase in tempo that is brought on by a driving force from behind and a reaching in front (usually accompanied by a horizontal floating called suspension)

The two biomechanical factors that make a racehorse successful are

1)Stride Length / Extension 2)Turn of Foot

Factors That Affect Movement


Pain: a horse can compensate and alter its movement to decrease
stress and pain back pain can mimic a lower limb lameness!!

Shoeing: improper shoeing, as well as prolonged periods between


shoeing, can result in alterations of movement just a week past the horses needs can adversely alter the horses movement and increase susceptibility of lameness in the foot

Tack: improper saddle and / or saddle


pad fit can cause back pain and subsequently poor performance

Age & Stage of Development: young horses that do not have


fully developed muscles may lack the width of chest, stifle and / or hip that will prevent them from interfering once they are mature

Conformational Faults: alters standard movement that can


increase the chance of interference

Imbalance: generally caused from a poor rider


The rider determines how the horse distributes its weight from front to rear and from side to side!!

Traction: the surface the horse is worked on directly affects its


movement the wider the web of the shoe, the less traction it provides

Level of Fitness / Fatigue: a horse has 15 minutes of peak


performance whether in a daily work session or at competition A rider must know how to properly warm up a horse and then assist the horse to work in a balanced frame. If overworked, many horses will continue to move forward but will modify their stride to minimize fatigue and discomfort .

Phases of the Stride


1. 2. 3. 4. Landing Loading Stance Breakover a. Heel Lift b. Toe Pivot 5. Swing

Landing: the hoof touches the ground and the limb begins to
receive the impact of the bodys weight

Loading: horses center of gravity passes


over the hoof as the fetlock descends

Stance: the fetlock rises comparable to the position when the horse
is at rest

Breakover: measured from the time the heel leaves the ground to
the time the toe leaves the ground The onset and duration of break-over is sensitive to changes in hoof balance, especially hoof angle and toe length.

Swing: the limb moves thru the air and straightens in preparation
for landing