All Things Horse

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Understanding The Horse Digestion

June 8, 2014 Posted by | anatomy | , | Leave a comment

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

Anatomy : The Back

Horse Anatomy: The Back

The strength and structure of the back of a horse are critical for the usefulness of the animal. Since a horse is used for a variety of activities, it therefore is necessary for the user of the animal to understand the strengths and weaknesses that can occur with a particular horse. The back is a complex design of bone, muscle, tendons and ligaments that all work together to allow a horse to support the weight of a rider.

The shape of a horse’s back can vary from horse to horse, and it can change on an individual horse over the years, as the horse ages. The topline’ of the back is the upper curvature of the withers through the back and to the loin area, whereas the underline’ is the length of belly from the elbow to the flank. Both lines work together, to enable the horse to move flexibly. The abdominal muscles where the underline is, can provide tremendous support to the back when well conditioned. A long underline’ in relation to a shorter topline’ is ideal for riding activities.

The average horse can carry up to approximately 25% of its own body weight. This also depends on body structure or the conformation and the physical condition of the horse. In other words, a horse with well-developed abdominal and back muscles, will be able to carry more weight for a longer time, than one that is not in good shape.

A roach’ back and a sway’ back are two primary flaws in back conformation. A roach’ back or a straight back on a horse is when there is insufficient curvature of the spine and is not as common as a sway’ back or a normal back. The sway back is when there is too much curvature. Either conformation can be distressful to a horse, but can also be, if not overcome completely, than aided with proper attention.

A Study of a Horses Back

A Study of a Horses Back

The ideal length of a horse’s back is one third of the entire length of the body. A long backed horse is when the length from the peak of the withers to the point of the hip exceeds a third of the overall body length or from the point of the shoulder to the point of the buttock, excluding the head and neck. Whereas, a short back is less that one third of the body length.

An example of a long backed horse might be that of a gaited’ horse, such as an American Saddlebred or a Tennessee Walking Horse, though not all long backs are gaited’. The advantage of riding these types of horses is that the back is flexible, making the back flatter, quieter and an overall smoother ride. The disadvantage is that it is difficult for the horse to round his back up for tight, quick maneuvers. An example of a short back could be but not necessarily is Arabians, Morgans or the American Quarter Horse. The advantage to a short back is that the horse is quick, agile and strong, able to change direction with ease. However, a short back is usually less flexible and could lead to spinal arthritis.

In determining the conformation of the back of a horse, a rider can decide if a particular horse will be a suitable mount. It will tell the rider whether or not the horse in question will suffer from exposure to the work determined by that rider. If an animal is showing signs of back pain, a veterinarian experienced in large animal care or an experienced horse owner can palpate the back of a horse to pinpoint sources of pain and from there and assess the most likely cause of the pain, thereby following the proper course of treatment.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | anatomy, Uncategorized | , , , | Leave a comment