All Things Horse

Forty-seven Years Of Horse Experience – At Your Service!

Horse Anatomy : The Hock

Tip # 5

Horse Anatomy: The Hock

 Like all parts to the anatomy, the hock of a horse is important to the mobility of the horse. The hock is located approximately midway down the hind legs of the horse. Ideally, hocks are slightly higher than the knees on the front legs, with the point of hock level with the chestnut of the front leg. It is the joint that moves in a backward motion, opposite to forward motion of the front knee.

This particular joint must be strong enough to take the thrusting power of the hind quarters of the horse, plus the horse’s weight and the weight of a rider. The hock is made up mostly of bone and tendon. The muscles that flex and extend the hock are in the upper leg.

From the rear, a good hock should appear rectangular and bony, without any lumps or swellings. It should be noticeably wider than the long, relatively straight cannon bone below it . From the side, it should appear clean and bony, with no lumps above or below it.

Since the horse’s main source of power is in the hind quarters, they have evolved a thrust that can take them into a flight situation, to avoid a predator. This powerful thrust can also hurdle them over high jumps with the weight of a rider and equipment, up to a third of their own weight. All of this pressure becomes centered on the hock joints.

There are many things that can go wrong with the hock, because of the type of pressure and the weight, the horse puts on the joint and it is essential to watch for problems. Swellings, ripped tendons, bruised bone can and do happen and it is necessary to use quick remedies such as massage, hot/cold baths or liniments and wraps for the minor damage, much as a human would do for a twisted, swollen ankle. A limp may also indicate a damaged hock.

Sometimes a horse may be born with one or both hocks formed improperly. When looking at the conformation of a horse, look deeply at the hocks. If the hock is higher than normal (short gaskin), then the horse may have a downhill balance with the croup (rear quarters) higher than the withers (shoulders). This is often seen in race horses or gaited horses and it can result in a sickle hock conformation.

If the hock is lower (long gaskin) then normal, it gives the appearance of a squatting horse. Stock horses often have this squatting look. The long muscle has reduced efficiency to drive the limb forward, making it hard to engage the hindquarters. It reduces the rear stride length, forcing the horse to take short steps.

If the hocks appear too small, then the horse can develop strains and tendon ruptures more easily because the hind quarters are placing more pressure then the hock can handle. If this is the case, the horse may be used in pleasure riding or light carriage work. Something that won’t force the hind quarters to thrust forward so hard.

These conformation faults are but a few of the problems a hock could give a horgimme-a-dream1se.  There are many other undesirable shapes for hocks to be. It could be cut out under the hock in front, or less of a bend causing the leg to be “camped out” or behind the point in the buttocks. They could be sickle or sabre-hocked, over-angulated long hind legs, where the legs are in front of the point of the buttock. They could cause post-legged or straight behind legs, where the angles of the hock and stifle are open, leaving the leg in a vertical position, rather then at the normal 60 degree angle. They could cause bowed legs or be wobbly hocks or even cow hocks, which is a medial deviation.

My Gimme A Dream has post-legs or straight back legs. He also has them in the picture as a two-year-old and yet he sold for $6,000CDN. Why?  Apparently his purchaser was told that he would probably out grow the condition.  His pedigree is Hanoverian/Thoroughbred. He has full blood brothers and sisters, none of whom have his condition. His father might have been retired from breeding after Gimme’s birth because I can’t find any other foals after Gimme’s birth from him. His siblings all sold for a minimum of $10,000CDN. I imagine he was bred and sold in the hopes of having a champion show horse in the field of jumping/hunter. Gimme A Dream is here on the Magdalen Islands because the soil and the sand are soft enough to help ease any pressure his great weight puts on his poorly angled hocks.  He has had to have fluid drained off his hock with the white foot, before he arrived here.  Because the hock is angled so poorly, the weight of his hind end is lowering the pasterns on his hind legs.  I have asked at a equine hospital who works heavily with farriers in Kentucky. They seem to think that specially made shoes will not help his situation, because the problem is the hock and not the pastern.

A little advice:

When looking to buy a horse, first know exactly what you want your horse to do. Then look at the hocks and make sure that the hock has a shape and a location on the leg that can handle the work you intend for it. Don’t decide to have a jumping athlete, by the pretty face of the horse. Choose your animal with care because there will be a lot of heartache, when something goes wrong. You wouldn’t ask a Shetland pony to do the work of a draft horse, so don’t ask a horse with a infirm hock to do the work of an athlete.

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January 29, 2009 Posted by | anatomy | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

An Excerpt From Islands Riders and the Poachers Islet

This is one of the many jokes that Copper actually played on his unsuspecting company – he has a fondness for shiny objects

That afternoon, Amanda helped Kathryn and others prepare the horses for the afternoon trail ride.  Copper was not to be in the ride, but Dana acopper-and-rider-2nd Rebbecca’s horses, Sandy and Chubber were.  Since this was the girls first time at the club, Sophie was to take them with Copper and show them how to equip a horse western and give them lessons in the arena.  Kathryn, Hillary and others took the trail ride out to the beach.

The afternoon went by too quickly as far as Amanda was concerned.  It was all she could do to hold in her enthusiasm.  Seeing Copper perform with western equipment for Sophie and watching him turn on a dime, when the rein was laid across his neck, made her proud enough to burst.

In her eyes, her horse was perfect, though she had to admit that she wasn’t impressed with the heavy saddle, which she found difficult to place on his back and just as hard to tighten up.  The saddle was large and Copper was too fat and when she tried to mount up, the saddle rolled under his belly, once again placing her flat on her backside beside him. The horse snorted and the others, including Sophie, laughed while Amanda tried her best to cover up the rising color to her face by jokingly reminding Copper who his meal ticket was this summer.

After practicing their riding lessons, the small group stood in the center of the arena, discussing their favorite subject, horses, when Copper, becoming bored, spied Dana’s large belt buckle.  He pushed through the group, grabbed it and picked up the girl.  Squealing, Dana grabbed for Sophie, pulling the instructor to her knees.  The movement made Dana slip into a horizontal position dangling from the horse’s mouth.  Amanda jumped to grab Copper’s bridle, but he shook his head, causing Dana to scream with fright.  Sophie, while trying to get to her feet, knocked the legs from under Amanda, who fell on top of the instructor.  Sophie had not quite regained her balance and the pair of them fell under the screaming Dana.  Copper, tiring of his noisy victim, lowered her gently to the top of the jumbled mass of flaying legs and arms below him.  He backed away from the pile of people and looked at Rebbecca as if to ask, if she would like to join them.

Rebbecca back away from the horse, too scared to do anything but watch him.  The others finally untangled themselves and looked at the horse, also.  Copper shook his head, lifted one front hoof, and stretched back on his hind legs.  He lowered his head until his muzzle was touching the ground, behind his remaining front hoof, like he was performing a final bow.  Amanda and Sophie roared with laughter, but poor Dana and Rebbecca shook with fear.  Dana was near tears.

“I should have known better… I should have kno…” Sophie tried to say between gulps of laughter, but when she started, the thoughts of what Copper had done brought a fresh bout of laughter. “Then to use Copper…without another ….horse present.”

“Everyone said Copper would make a fool of me,” Amanda laughed.  “Hillary said he always does something to pull a joke on someone, but I never thought he would take on four of us at the same time.”

By this time Rebbecca some lost her fear and joined the laughter.  “He’s such a showoff!”

Dana, still shaken could see the humor in the horse’s stunt, but still felt nervous around him.  “Did you see the bow he did, just as though he was accepting applause.  He did that on purpose, didn’t he?”

Sophie agreed, “Yes, but I must admit, I’ve never had the privilege of being at the butts end of his jokes, before.  He did get all of us, didn’t he?”

“Not me,” Rebbecca said.

Amanda laughed at her.  “You looked more scared, then all of us put together, even Dana.  I’d say he got you, too.”

January 23, 2009 Posted by | horsing around | , , , , | 3 Comments

What Do You Do With Miles Of Baling Twine?

Murphy’s Horse Law  – Your barn will fall down without baling twine.”

Horse tip #4

Anyone who has one or more horses in the northern section of North America unwraps bales for their horses nutritional needs. EATING! And a horse goes through a lot of hay.  For example, I bought 30 – 800 lb bales for my three horses for winter plus I have 1000 – 40 lbs bales for storm days.  That is a lot of hay!  If youbaling-twine are like me, you don’t like to waste anything.  So what do you do with all the baling twine that comes off that hay?

I clean the hay out of it, ball it and keep it for when I want something to do. Then I plan and wait to see what it is that I need the most, for the horses.  Lately I’ve been changing the macrame bitted bridles to bitless bridles.  I make all my own bridles, by the way…, and lately all the halters too.  The reason I do this is because I seriously dislike buckles and metal next to my horse’s face.

Frilly came with a new and bhalter-2eautiful halter with her name engraved on a metal side piece.  However, when I removed the halter, where the metal hooks and connectors were, there was no fur.  The metal connectors had rubbed the fur right off her face. That alone turned me away from metal on their halters.  So I started to make halters for my beasties and I think they appreciated them the first year.  This year, I keep them bare faced 100% of the time because the pressure of the halter, whether it is a rope halter or macrame or leather or nylon, will leave pressure marks into their fur and skin.  This year, Gimme A Dream, Willow Breeze and Woodmere Frilifili object to anything on their heads, LOL!dream-1

This year, I decided to make bitless bridles for all my horses.  I completed the task early last fall but found that the bridle I had made for Dream was too small. The chin straps weren’t long enough and I had cut the strings.  I could have spliced on a length of strap but Dream can be head strong sometimes withdream-21 a bit, so I’m thinking that I might need a strong bridle for him.  I didn’t have enough expensive twine that they use for fishing around the bridle-detailislands, and I had a lot of baling twine, hence came my baling twine bitless bridle.

Can you imagine sitting in the saddle on a trail ride?  After a few hours, I get stiff and sore and like getting down to stretch out.  With a bitless bridle, I will be able to allow the horse to graze while I’m relaxing for a few minutes without removing the bridle . I’m not sure about anyone else but usually my horses don’t like to be re-bridled and they raise their heads too high for me to reach them comfortably.  That is a thing of the past for me! Of course, with Dream here, I’ll have to stand on his back to stretch out because I’ll be darned if I’m getting back up after getting off him.  As it is, at almost 17 hands, I use a step ladder to mount the big boy!

Patterns for brballidles and halters are $2.50CDN each.

Next week I want to start a sky blue bitted bridle and a breast strap from some very colorful twine I received on the large 800 lbs bales this year.  It should be rather stunning, to say the least.

I also want to complete at least three lead reins, one lunging rein and a collar with a leash for one of the dogs.

So don’t throw out all that good twine…, use it for something valuable, something useful, something necessary.

P.S. I use all the short pieces of baling twine for making temporary paddocks and field repairs to weakened fencing.

January 22, 2009 Posted by | tack, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful…-

Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Plato.

Hot Water Bottles – Tip #2

Not so awful anymore since the really cold snap broke this morning. It was a sunny day and I removed all the blankets from the beasties. I think they appreciated it. A little vitamin D from the sun won’t hurt this time of the year. The record lows have taken me back almost a year, to that sad time my dear young Sammy died. I wrote about it in the first post, here on this weblog.

I guess it would be inevitable that I would think about that tragic time since Sammy died on the coldest day of 2008. It was on a cold morning, the last Friday in February, at 5am that she went down. She and the other horses were in the greenhouse and it wasn’t a bad day weather-wise. The other horses never liked Sammy and wouldn’t allow her to be a part of the herd. They accepted that the greenhouse was her area and they were visitors there but they didn’t much like her being around them. (More on this in another post later)

At 5 am, there was a holy ruckus in the greenhouse. I jumped out of bed and Cleigh jumped away from his computer and we both ran for the doors, me for the porch door and Cleigh for the living-room door. When I tried to open the door, the horses were scrambling, stampeding,  all three of them to get out of the greenhouse all at the same time through a 40 inch wide door opening. I couldn’t get out for them. In the meantime, Cleigh was having the time of his life getting the living room door open. The door was at the other end of the greenhouse and Sammy was laying down but squished up against the door that opened outwards.

The only thing possible was that she fell against the wall and door.  The other horses finally got out without tearing the wall off the greenhouse somehow and Cleigh and I were finally able to get out and inspect what had happened. Sammy was quiet but she was laying too close to the foundation and her head was turn up and in toward her body in an uncomfortable looking position, so Cleigh and I grabbed her by the halter and moved her around. Not an easy feat, I can tell you.

Sometime later in the day she went into a grand mal seizure.  I can’t say the exact time because I was upset.  After the seizure, I took her vitals and all was normal except her temperature was about two degrees too low.  I called the veterinarian and she told me I had to get the body temperature up.  She suggested I allow the horses in to help warm the air but they didn’t like Sammy and I couldn’t let them near her.  Their dislike was bad enough that I feared they would purposely trample her.

The temperature outside Sam's Pridewas dropping off fast and with it my filly’s temperature was going too. I had two small heating pads, one used microwave and the other hot water, but they just weren’t enough. We rigged two high powered workshop lamps close to Sammy that gave off a lot of heat and the greenhouse warmed up, but her temperature was still down in spite of two heavy winter horse blankets and lots of hay around her and the ground was warm.

I was at my wits end when it came to me.   Cleigh like his bottles of Coke Cola and I had about a dozen two-liter empty bottles.  I wasn’t long filling them with hot water from the tap.  I literally wrapped Sammy in hot water.  I wrapped each individual bottle with a towel and placed them around her body, under the winter blankets.

The reason why I’m writing this is that the hot water bottles worked and brought her temperature back to normal.  I guess it doesn’t matter that she died less then twenty-four hours later. The fact remains that the bottles did what I wanted them to do, and if anyone reading this finds that their horse or any living creature is cold, put a plastic bottle of hot water near them, making certain not to scald the skin.

January 18, 2009 Posted by | health | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment