Locomotion (Book Excerpt)

Locomotion is at the very heart of what most domesticated horses do for a living. The way a horse moves (specifically) often is taken for granted. Locomotion is directly linked to conformation as it dictates “the way a horse moves.”
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Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Understanding Basic Horse Care by Michael A. Ball, DVM.

Locomotion is at the very heart of what most domesticated horses do for a living.  The way a horse moves (specifically) often is taken for granted.  Locomotion is directly linked to conformation as it dictates “the way a horse moves.”  Again, there are differences depending on the type.  For example, the Morgan horse will have a different nature to a particular gait than a Thoroughbred.  The Morgan will have higher “action” (raise its legs higher) than the Thoroughbred, but the basic principles of locomotion will be the same.

The horse’s legs should move in a straight line when watched from behind–the leg should track straight and be perpendicular to the ground.  The foot should hit the ground evenly and in a slight heel-to-toe manner.  When viewed from the side, the length of stride should be equal from side to side and all of the angles of flexion (the fetlocks, carpus, hocks, etc.) equal when compared from side to side.  If the stride length is shorter on one side or the degree of movement of a particular joint is different, this could signal a lameness problem.  Stride length is typically shortened on the lame leg.  In addition, changes in stride length or joint movement trigger changes in weight distribution and balance throughout the body.  For example, when a lame foreleg becomes weight bearing, the horse usually moves its head and neck upward and slightly away from the lame leg

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Michael A. Ball, DVM, completed an internship in medicine and surgery and an internship in anesthesia at the University of Georgia in 1994, a residency in internal medicine, and graduate work in pharmacology at Cornell University in 1997, and was on staff at Cornell before starting Early Winter Equine Medicine & Surgery located in Ithaca, New York. He was an FEI veterinarian and worked internationally with the United States Equestrian Team. He died in 2014.

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