Every horse appreciates sure footing, either on the track or the trail. For the equine athlete, sport-specific footing helps him achieve his best perform-ance. Every athlete, human or equine, must traverse through an environment. His body impacts against a surface as he runs and leaps. The surface responds to his footfalls and helps or hinders his movements. Ideal footing feels alive–it accepts pressure without causing pain and it feels safe and secure.

When you guide your horse through demanding routines, you expect him to move with power and grace. He carries himself and you as he elegantly performs gaits and maneuvers. Whether your equine athlete specializes in dressage, jumping, or reining, he confidently executes movements when he anticipates a uniform surface.

Footing as a Partner

When your horse contacts the ground, he expects stable, safe footing. Good footing reduces impact, increases traction, and lessens the chance of injury. The science of biomechanics studies how locomotion is affected by the forces exerted by muscles and gravity. These forces affect the horse’s bones and tissues.

As each hoof plants onto the ground’s surface, it cuts in. The horse’s body weight rests on the hoof, and bones and tissues of the hoof absorb the downward force. The hoof acts like a spring–it pushes into the ground, and impact springs it back up. The surface exerts an upward force that the hoof wall assimilates. With every step, each foot impacts and retracts. In the three sports discussed here, the only exception is the reiner’s sliding stop.

Both upward and downward forces are influences that exert an effect on the horse’s body. When the equine athlete moves correctly, engaged in the hindquarters, the hindquarters both propel the horse forward and carry weight. Hoof and leg absorb the shock of the body weight, while driving the horse forward.

When you ride