Once you recognize imperfections in movement, you may take actions to correct them. Adjustment by a certified chiropractor may be what is required to help return your horse’s gait to normal.
Many slight variations in gait are caused by improper motion in the joints of the spine. Gait analysis can become a very important tool that can aid in the prevention of more serious lameness problems.
Gait analysis can aid in the prevention of more serious lameness problems. Do you know how to analyze your horse’s stride? Gait analysis is one of the most important things horse owners can learn to do. Many times an alteration in gait will occur before a true lameness, resulting in a horse who moves with a slight imperfection. The gait alteration may be noticeable at a walk, or only at a gallop. The difference may be present when you start your workout (eventually disappearing) or appear only after your horse is tired.
These slight changes in movement alter the way the body functions and can lead to bigger problems later on. The movements of each limb are designed to protect the joints in the lower legs and the rest of the body. If these movements are altered due to a shortened stride, the protection mechanisms that nature has built into the limb begin to fail. This is when lameness occurs.
TRY THESE SIMPLE TESTS Analyzing gait can be as simple as looking at footprints in the sand and listening to echoes in the hallway.
• Footprints in the sand: Hoofprints should have a nice demarcation; there should be no blurring of the edges which indicates problems like dragging of the toe, winging and/or paddling. Evidence of short striding and over striding can be seen when you look at hoofprints in an area where your horse is moving at a constant speed.
• Clip-clop of hoofbeats: When you listen to your horse walking down the barn aisle (or on any hard surface), you should hear four nice even beats. A heavy footfall usually points to a problem on the opposite hoof or leg. You may also hear toes dragging and uneven beats.
I CAN’T SEE IT, BUT I CAN FEEL IT
Many riders will feel imperfections in their horse’s gait as they ride, before they become evident to the eye. These slight errors in movement are significant. Unlike humans, horses require every bone, every ligament, every joint, every tendon and every muscle in their bodies to move one step. This makes even slight variations important. Remember that the walk and trot are mirrored gaits. This means that the right side of your horse’s body should move the same as the left side in these gaits. If you are unsure if your horse is moving correctly on one side, watch the opposite side. This is an excellent way to pick up slight imperfections before they become serious problems.
Computer-aided gait analysis, like that done in many research facilities, has become more reasonably priced. Programs used by professional sports teams can be utilized by horse owners to analyze the movement of their animals. Some of these programs can be obtained for less than $500.00. Sportsmotion, Dartfish and Equinalysis offer software that can be utilized for animals. The programs generally allow us to look at 60 frames per second; some compare several videos side-by-side. Sportsmotion in particular is very portable and adapts well to real-life equine events.
Collecting data from any video will give you valuable information. Kinematic gait information for research must be recorded using set cameras at a given location. This is an unneeded expense for most equine applications.
Dr. Bill Ormston graduated from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine in 1988. After attending Options For Animals in 1998 he received certification from the AVCA and began using chiropractic to treat his animal patients. Jubilee Animal Health is a mobile mixed animal practice in the Dallas Metroplex area where he cares for pets and horses using mostly alternative methods. He is one of the founding instructors of the post graduate course in Animal Chiropractic at Parker Chiropractic College in Dallas. Dr.O has lectured both nationally and internationally on Animal Chiropractic and biomechanics and gait analysis in the quadruped. Bill and his three teenagers, Riley, Philip, and Jessica, live in Celina, TX. They share their home with 2 dogs and 4 cats.