Orthopaedic Balance

The equine foot and upper-body relationships

There are many signs and types of imbalance to look for in a hoof and it is not just a simple analysis the hoof and pastern axis. These imbalances are related to and dependent upon the overall structural and functional balance of the equine. To understand the complex interrelationships of hoof balance and the overall biomechanics requires carefully scrutiny of external hoof pathology as well as an understanding of what is happening to the internal structures of the foot.

Once this is achieved it is then necessary to consider the changes in the upper body of the animal. These can be forceful reloading patterns resulting in muscle tension patterns, fatigue of the major muscles of the passive stay apparatus, and eventual chronic alteration of ligamentous tension and persisting pain issues. Two of the more commonly encountered problems High Heel-Low Heel and Medio-Lateral imbalance. It should be stressed that these changes can be a result of a variety of factors, including how the horse is being worked, saddle fit, rider balance or even inappropriate trim.

The hoof is constantly under pressure whilst accomplishing its function of supporting and protecting the internal mechanism of the hoof as well as supporting the weight of the equine. The system works extremely well if the pressure is placed in the correct alignment with the body structure. An imbalance of the pressure can and will cause a breakdown or misalignment of the internal structure of the hoof. Many of the responses to this pressure can be found in a close and detailed examination of the external foot structure. Further this then causes undue loading of the muscular-skeletal system of the equine. Again the horse’s body responds by changing the way it moves and neutral posture. This is sometimes referred to as orthopaedic balance.

For the rider and trainer problems present as a resistance, the horse does not want to go forward, or resists the left rein, or canters nicely to the right and resists the left lead and so on. Getting to the bottom of these issues requires careful examination of the upper body as well as the feet, and then assimilating the problems and effecting a solution. Some individual cases may be a long term project and may take a long time to resolve. In other suspect cases it may be necessary to have X-rays taken to eliminate, or account for developing pathology. The bottom line is there is a cause for every problem your horse is having.