Crooked Horse Under Saddle? A Single Bell Boot Can Help

Placing a boot on a horse’s weaker leg can use proprioception to help him build muscle force and reverse asymmetry, a study finds.
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Crooked Horse Under Saddle? A Single Bell Boot Can Help
By strapping a boot loosely above the pastern of a weaker leg occasionally during normal training, riders can help their horses build muscle force in that leg. | Photo: Alexandra Beckstett/The Horse

All horses have some degree of asymmetry. All it might take to improve a slight asymmetry, however, is reminding the horse that the weaker leg is actually there, said Danish researchers.

“If you place something that is loose around the fetlock—and it doesn’t have to weigh much—then the horse feels it and begins to engage that limb more than it was doing before,” said Adrian P. Harrison, PhD, of the Faculty of Health & Medical Sciences, Copenhagen University in Denmark.

That “something” could be a simple polyurethane bell boot, Harrison said. By strapping a boot loosely above the pastern of a weaker leg occasionally during normal training, riders can help their horses build muscle force (the process in which skeletal muscle, in response to neural stimuli, converts metabolic energy into active force that pulls on the bones via connective tissue) in that leg. That correction could help resolve muscular imbalances related to having a dominant limb or old injuries

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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