Par Audevard, le 09 December 2020

As you may have noticed, we cover many topics related to your horse’s orthopedic and good health of its joints. Today we are going to discuss why it is important to take care of your horse’s flexibility and locomotor system.

We should begin by defining locomotion, which is quite simply put - the ability to move. In our case it is the ability of your horse to do any kind of movements- walking, trotting, galloping, moving backwards, and so on.

When riding a horse, you are looking to develop different aspects:

  • Balance with the engagement of the hindquarters and support of the front legs
  • Amplitude i.e. the ground covered during a stride
  • Elasticity i.e the ability to beeing collected

Of course it will take a lot of work and effort to improve the aforementioned aspects of a horse’s movement. It is essential that your horse is in good health and well fed to have energy to do the necessary work, but none of these aspects will see improvement if the overall state of your horse’s locomotion, its joints particularly, is not in good shape.

Before going any further, it is important to note that for a non-working horse living in its natural habitat in a meadow, the state of the horse’s locomotion will also greatly impact its quality of life.

What are the consequences of poor locomotion?

Now, as we understand what is meant by “good horse locomotion” it is important to discuss what are the consequences of poor flexibility and ability to move for a horse.

Before even getting to the topic of consequences on your horse’s daily work, we need to first talk about the effects of poor locomotion on day-to-day life of a horse.

If the horse lives in the meadow or regularly goes to the paddock, it will spend a majority of its time while moving for either grazing, drinking or looking for cover from rain. If your horse’s musculoskeletal system is not in good shape, causing it discomfort or pain these trips may no longer be possible. The effects of this reduction in activity and movement can be numerous.

Firstly, less movement will lead to muscle mass loss, worsening the horse’s general condition and making it more sensitive to external factors such as weather, wet ground etc. The muscle mass loss can also lead to poorer performances when your horse is working as well as increased risk of injury to joints and tendons.
If your horse has difficulty moving around it may move less to eat and drink properly, which may in turn lead to more serious problems such as dehydration, colic or ulcers on top of the weight loss.

We can look a little deeper at what can affect a horse’s work in case of a poor locomotor system. We all know the old saying “No foot, no horse”. Musculoskeletal issues (asymmetry, lameness, etc.) will wear and tear your horse’s feet which can lead to additional problems, worsening the overall condition of your horse and its locomotor system. Therefore, remember to keep an eye on your horse’s hooves, which can be both a consequence and a cause of musculoskeletal issues.

A horse having trouble with the movement can adapt and “compensate” for it. This can affect many areas of its body. One such risk area is the horse’s back. When your horse’s back seems sore, it could be unrelated to the locomotion system, but it can also be an effect of problems affecting its legs.

Why does my horse’s motor system deteriorate?

The main cause of musculoskeletal system deterioration is related to age. It is ostearthritis. This is a common condition which worsens with age and usage, but it can also affect younger horses.

Another frequent condition which deteriorates the locomotor system of a horse is tendonitis. Tendonitis creates pain which can impact your horse’s ability to move.Keep a close eye on the limbs which are more likely to get this type of problems.

We mentioned it above, but please do not neglect your horse’s hooves. Poor hoof condition can be caused by underlying musculoskeletal issues. Similarly, hoof problems, such as laminitis, can be the cause of the orthopaedic issues.

This goes without saying, but if you have any doubts regarding your horse’s musculoskeletal system, we recommend that you consult your veterinarian as soon as possible, who will be able to carry out a check-up if necessary.

How help my horse locomotion?

To support the motor system of your horse you can act on many different levels.

In terms of work, it should be adapted to the level and age of your horse, to make sure the horse stays fit but at the same time not overworked.

Again, we mentioned it a few times already, but do not neglect your horse’s hooves. Regular visits to the farrier will allow you to check your horse’s balance, the growth of the hoof, and general condition of the feet. To limit the risk of laminitis remember to appropriately monitor the horse’s diet and weight. As laminitis, excess weight will worsen arthritis by overloading the joints.

If your horse is working, many factors can impact its locomotor system. First of all, it is essential to have equipment fit for your horse. A saddle that sits well on its back with an adapted shock absorber if necessary. Also take extra care when using reins, whether on foot or on the horse, an incorrectly used or inadequate reins can negatively impact your horse’s training.

Finally, try to provide your horse with an environment that is most conducive to good locomotion. Work as much as possible on suitable ground. During riskier periods such as very cold weather or very hot summers which result in harder ground, it is recommended to adjust the pace and exercises accordingly. Similarly, dapm ground also increases the stress on joints and tendons.

If despite all your efforts your horse still has orthopaedic problems, or if you want to support it during periods of increased risk (competition, important training, difficult environment, etc.) you can use feed supplements. They will provide support to your horse and limit discomfort linked to orthopaedic problems.

We hope we have been able to emphasise the importance of your horse’s motor system or “locomotion”. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask us on all our social media channels.

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