On the Forehand

The foreleg of the horse is, for the most part, a model of good engineering. It is structured in such a fashion that the horse can move slowly or at speed with the concussion of each footfall minimized by a sophisticated shock absorbing system.

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The foreleg of the horse is, for the most part, a model of good engineering. It is structured in such a fashion that the horse can move slowly or at speed with the concussion of each footfall minimized by a sophisticated shock absorbing system.


The system works very well when the horse is doing what nature intended–wandering about over large expanses, grazing, drinking, breeding, and resting. But today’s horse often soars over multiple six-foot jumps, runs at speed for a mile or more around an oval course, slides to a stop suddenly and spins, or performs intricate dressage movements.


These disciplines often put undue stress on the legs that can render even a well-conformed horse unsound. A horse with improper conformation is at much greater risk for unsoundness when competing in arduous disciplines. This doesn’t mean a horse with poor conformation will always become unsound or lame. What it does mean is that poor conformation is a warning sign that something might go awry.


It also should be noted that a horse puts more stress on its front legs than its rear limbs because it carries 60-65% of its weight up front. It seems incredible that when a horse is running at speed, there is a split second in every stride where all of the animal’s weight, plus the additional impact involved when running all out, lands on one front leg

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Les Sellnow was a prolific freelance writer based near Riverton, Wyoming. He specialized in articles on equine research, and operated a ranch where he raised horses and livestock. He authored several fiction and nonfiction books, including Understanding Equine Lameness and Understanding The Young Horse. He died in 2023.

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