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2 1/2 yr old MFT filly with cat-hams?
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DCA
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 Posted: Wed Nov 28th, 2007 09:11 pm
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I am so glad to have found this forum!  I recently completed Dr. Deb's Principles of Conformation Analysis series (PCA series) and am so glad I can come here for any questions I may have!

I have a 2 1/2 year old MFT filly who I believe may be cat-hammed.  She is very wide through the pelvis, but narrows through her thigh/stifle.  She also stands very base narrow in her hind feet and when she walks, her hind feet are very close together.  I don't consider her cowhocked, as her hind cannons are straight down from her hocks and she does not toe out.  However, I do consider her to have fairly crooked legs with sickle hocks.  She has an amazing overstride.  Maybe too much so?  Not sure what would qualify as "too much".  Her hamstrings also seem really long and "stringy" to me.  Please excuse my terminology if it's incorrect.  And if possible, correct me so that I can use the right words in the future.

My question is:  At 2 1/2 years old, could this lack of muscling be caused from being stalled most of her life, with little turn out (probably from the age of 6 mo. to 2 years).  Or, is it genetics?  If she is cat-hammed, how will this be a detriment? 

I noticed on pg 21 of PCA series, Dr. Deb says Horse #3 "exemplifies  the hind limb conformation known as cat-hammed,..."  And she goes on to say that gaited horses need to be able to trot and canter as well as gait. 

My filly does hard trot and canter, so I'm relieved that her conformation allows for those gaits, as well as her fox trot gait.  I've had her for almost 3 months now, and I have seen some improvement in the muscling in her quadriceps, but not enough to get excited about. 

I hope this information helps to give me some insight.  I have attached the only good picture I have.  Taken by her previous owner in June or July of 2007.  She would be 2 years old in the picture. 

Thanks so much for any help!

Attachment: Mocha.jpg (Downloaded 490 times)

DCA
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 Posted: Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 03:59 am
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No takers, huh?  Could anyone comment on her hind leg angulation?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 05:59 am
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Be patient, dear. I've just come off a five-day intensive class and do not have time to reply yet. You must not expect that you will be answered IMMEDIATELY or ON DEMAND in this Forum, by me or by anyone else. -- Dr. Deb

DCA
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 Posted: Sun Dec 2nd, 2007 03:16 pm
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Yes, that is an area I lack in...patience.  I actually thought I would rephrase my question to ask about hind leg angulation as I know the picture I provided probably isn't the best for judging cat-hams.

I understand you are busy and I'm sure have an insane schedule.  Didn't mean to push.

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 05:54 am
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Dear DCA -- OK, now I'm ready to start on this. The first question I have for you is, is this your first horse? -- Dr. Deb

DCA
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 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 04:18 pm
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Hello Dr. Deb!

No, this is not my first horse.  I have been involved with horses most of my life as I grew up on a cattle ranch.

However, I am not at all familiar with this breed (MFT) as I have always had Quarter Horses and Arabians.  I know that gaited breeds are conformed differently and this filly is no exception (as far as I can tell).

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 07:05 pm
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OK, just checking, DCA. Sometimes I get letters from people, or a student will show up in a clinic, and the type of question they ask -- whatever the technical content of the question may be -- what the question is really about is "is my horse OK" or "do you approve of my horse", not about what the question on the surface seems to be about.

I understand from your reply, however, that you really are asking whether we can say the horse posted is so-called "cat hammed". And the answer to that is no, the hindquarters are very smoothly conformed.

The animal is somewhat long in the total hind limb length, which, as from reading the "Principles of Conformation" books you probably know, is the total of the length of the femur + gaskin + cannon + pastern/hoof segments of the hind limb. You add these four segments together on any horse, and compare the total to the standing height at the croup. The higher the total hind limb length, the more "angulation" there will be in the hind limb. This is a much more accurate way to gauge what the hindquarter is going to do, or unsoundnesses it is likely to suffer, than trying to measure the angles themselves (they are difficult to measure accurately, whereas measuring even the femur-span on a horse is relatively accurate).

So by noting that your horse has relatively long total hind limb length, I am simultaneously saying that there is a fair amount of angulation.

The most telling way to assess what this means will be for you to stand the animal up so that at least one hind cannon bone is dead vertical, and snap a photograph just at that moment. When (and ONLY when) the hind cannon is vertical, you can drop an imaginary plumb line off the point of buttock. You then see where the plumb line falls. In your horse's case, it will fall ahead of the center axis of the hind cannon bone.

I cannot tell from the photograph you provide (which does not have either hind cannon bone vertical) how MUCH the line will fall ahead of the center of the cannon bone. If it falls only far enough ahead to "skin" the front surface of the hind cannon bone, there is no problem really. If it falls farther ahead than that, depending upon how much farther ahead, you will be looking at an animal that is more prone to damaging its hocks, i.e. curbs and spavins, and also will have more difficulty with "down" transitions, creating suspension in the trot or canter, or jumping.

This does not mean "impossible" but merely that you will need to pay special attention and take special care to teach these things to the horse, or set it up so that he can perform them, in good form.

Extra-long hind legs have been bred onto many Tennessee Walkers and they get into the MFT through the 'Walker mares that are often accepted in that breed as broodmares (MFT and TWH share many bloodlines now, and thus they share conformational traits). It is the belief of some TWH and MFT aficionados that hind legs so structured "help" the horse have a bigger lick (colloquial term for length of hind step). It is true that the horse can stretch a longer hind limb farther forward, however, the need to do so arises from the breeder or trainer not understanding that the PRIMARY source of power and style in the "lick" comes from the coiling of the loins and the rounding of the back -- i.e. true collection -- rather than merely from waving the legs around. Many people believe that the hip socket is the uppermost joint of the horse's hind limb -- but it is not so. The truth of the biomechanical matter is set forth in the two-part series posted in "Knowledge Base", part One of which is "Lessons from Woody" and Part Two of which is "True Collection."

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb  PS I don't understand what you meant by "stall bound" in the title to this thread when you began it. -- DB

DCA
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 Posted: Tue Dec 4th, 2007 07:56 pm
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Thank you so much for your reply, Dr. Deb!  My main reason for asking the question I did stemmed from the "Ranger" article, as well as the PCA series.  The TWH in question looked to be very akward and he, as well as my filly, was 2 1/2 at the time the article was written about him.

I have had my concerns about my filly's hind legs/hindquarters, but, as you stated, the breeder told me that being sickle-hocked "helped them with their gait".  I thought the filly was very balanced overall and I liked most other things about her, so I went ahead and purchased her.

I lack experience in understanding how a foal grows and changes as it matures into adulthood.  What angles change, which remain fairly constant, how muscling changes, etc.  Because, from the hind view, my filly is very wide in the pelvis, but lacks "britches" I was not sure whether this was from her living in a stall with little turn-out most of her life (hence my term stall bound) or whether this lack of muscling is due to her conformation and it is likely to never become full.

I know the picture I provided was a poor one and it helps to know how how much the cannon can be past the plumb line before injury to the hocks can occur. 

Because she is in her "teenage" years, will the THL or angulation change over the next several years as she matures?  I'm thinking that it may, but not enough to really make a significant difference in her overall conformation.  Am I correct in my thinking?

This again, is where my lack of knowledge comes into play.  Is it lack of maturity or  underlying conformational faults?

I hope I'm making sense!  And again, thank you so much for taking your time to answer my question!

Stacee

 

 

 

 

Last edited on Thu Dec 6th, 2007 04:21 pm by DCA

DCA
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 Posted: Sat Dec 8th, 2007 04:17 pm
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Hello Dr. Deb!

I am not trying to beat this subject to death, but I have come to the realization (after reading the PCA vol. 3 for the third time) that I am definitely looking at this filly's hind legs the wrong way.

She obviously has over-angulated hind limbs, but this seems to be only one issue of several.  Because I see her as narrow through her stifles (standing behind her), I thought maybe it was just a lack of muscling there that was causing her to stand so narrow at her hind feet.  But, I am now understanding that I've been concentrating too much on the angulation as opposed to how the stifle, hock, fetlock, and hoof are oriented to eachother. 

I do have a hard time visualizing the plane that bisects these parts of the hind limb to help determine how the hind leg is conformed.  So, I am still working on that.

From what I can tell at this point, her stifles point more forward than they should.  Her hocks do not point inward, and her toes definitely do not go outward.  When she walks, I see that she carries her weight on the outside of her hooves.  And I can definitely see where she may have intereference issues.  She appears to have the conical build that you mention in your series.

So, my GUESS is that she must be bowlegged.

According to the PCA vol. 3, a cowhocked horse will appear "pinched" through the stifles, while the bowlegged horse will be more full and muscular through the stifles.  I believe her to be more "pinched" in the stifle area.  So, I was confused as I was seeing the "pinched" stifle, but no inward pointing hocks or outward angle to the toes.

Obviously, I am still trying to work things out and learn how to visualize that plane to accurately determine how her hind limbs are constructed.  In the meantime, I am really enjoying learning all of this!

 

 

 

 

iceryder
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 Posted: Mon Dec 10th, 2007 12:23 am
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>>>the breeder told me that being sickle-hocked "helped them with their gait"<<<

I think this is an old wives' tale (maybe an excuse for bad conformation or poor breeding practices).  I believe that sickle hocks and cow hocks are poor conformation for gaited horses.  I think gaited horses should still have good legs, not sickle-hocked, which would be different than more angulation or more total length.


DCA
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 Posted: Mon Dec 10th, 2007 04:13 am
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I definitely agree that sickle-hocks and cow-hocks in their extreme forms are conformational faults, but I do think there are many people out there who still look for these traits in their horses whether or not their beliefs are correct.

One example that comes to mind is sickle-hocks in stock horses.  Some people think that it helps the horse to get their hind quarters under themselves.

 What I have read (and Dr. Deb mentions it in her Principles of Conformation series as well) is that some Gaited horse breeders breed so specifically for the "gait" that they are breeding in unsoundnesses because the leg conformation is falling into that "extreme range."

Like I said, I am new to the Gaited breed.  I do know that my MFT is highly gaited, and she simply moves much different than my APHA or any of my Arabians.  Her overstep is probably 4 inches (her hind foot print goes over her front track).  I don't know how much is "too much" as far as an overstep is concerned, but from what I understand from my reading is that a capped track (terminology is probably wrong) would be better.  You are still getting that hind leg to reach under, but there wouldn't be the tendency for the hind to hit the front foot.

I am really enjoying learning more about the gaited horse movement and conformation in general!

 

 

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Dec 11th, 2007 07:33 am
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Dear DCA:

There is no such thing as a "gaited horse". There are only horses that have a knack for certain coordinations of the limbs. The reality is, you take a horse that has a knack for certain of these coordinations, and you FINISH HIM IN GAIT. In other words -- the gaits that your horse produces without guidance and instruction is no more valuable than the gaits that a Thoroughbred or Welsh or Lipizzan produces without guidance and instruction. 

"Gaiting" is just a form of walk that has more energy than an "ordinary" walk, "flat" walk or "dog" walk. Spanish Walk is walk, Paso gaits are walks, what the "Walking Horse" does is a walk. The walk is by far the most important of all gaits, because all other gaits are built from it, and the walk "contains" all the other gaits.

Please do not concern yourself AT ALL with what your horse's "overstep" is. You can kill a horse with this. It's a fallacy that the dressage people have, as well. You let the horse take whatever step he offers, and rather than addressing this, you address what is crucial, i.e. is he straight, is he soft, is he with you mentally, and is he following your feel and allowing you to feel of him.

As to hindlimb coordination: please stop guessing, and start LOOKING. Nobody can decide FOR you what you yourself have observed.

If the horse typically stands on the outside rim of the hind hoofs, then yes, the animal is bowlegged. Bowleggedness may be structural in the sense that the hocks themselves are canted; it may be structural in the sense that the hocks are thin, weak, and have a tendency to wobble outward or bow outward; or it may be due to wrong trimming of the hind hoofs, or to overtightness of the muscles of the upper inner thigh.

Be careful that you see the plane of assessment, and consider only this in figuring out what the orientation and structural configuration of the hind limb as a whole is. The plane of assessment is not to be confused with the degree of muscling. Muscles, as you probably know, overlay the bones; they are apart from, and in addition to, the bones. The plane of assessment just tells you where the bones are, what orientation the chain of limb bones has with respect to the sagittal plane of the body, and whether the limb bones are in good alignment with each other. -- Dr. Deb

 

DCA
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 Posted: Tue Dec 11th, 2007 08:03 pm
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Ha!  So true...I guess all horses are "gaited horses", huh?  Would a more proper term be "easy gaited"?

I have heard before that the walk is the most important gait and that when looking for a dressage prospect, one should really study the walk of the horse in question.   I don't know if this has been discussed before and I'd be more than happy to start a new thread to ask this but, can you tell me what specificially to look for in a "good walk"?

I'm so glad that I don't need to worry about her overstep.  I have read that it could cause stumbling, so that was in the back of my mind.  This filly is only 2 1/2 so I haven't even started her under saddle training.  I saw her to be too immature, then after reading the Ranger article, I am glad her previous owners hadn't started her either, as they saw her as "very ready".

As far as "guessing" what kind of hind limb configuration my filly has, I hate the fact that I am guessing.  I want to KNOW and understand, that's why I'm trying to piece it all together.  In all honesty, I've never seen hind legs conformed like this before.  And, up until recently, I've never actually taken the time to sit back and STUDY conformation like I do now.  So, it's very possible that I could have seen other horses built like her, but never noticed before.

I have sat there and just stared at her hind legs and watched her walk as well.  Sometimes when she walks, she almost placed her hind foot inward, and then the next inward in front of that...almost like a person stepping heel to toe, but not quite that extreme of course.

I've tried to watch to see if her hocks wobble or bow outward, like you mention, but I'm really not seeing that either.  I was riding my other horse with my neighbor who owns a Peruvian Paso, and I saw his hock wobble as he placed his weight.  It was very easy to see. 

Ok, I am going to get some help from my husband to see if he will lead her toward and away from me and then get some really good pictures from behind so that I can get a better view of the plane to check for alignment.

I may post them on here, if that's ok?  This may be a good learning tool for others as well?

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Dec 12th, 2007 07:28 am
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Yes, go ahead and post some rear views, DCA. That way, none of us will have to guess.

And no, there's no such thing as "Easy Gaited", either. I'm trying to get you to break out of the mental prison that these terms lock you into. A horse is just a horse. It does not matter what breed or type it is. They all have a range of limb coordinations. Some of those coordinations are common and thus they are recognizable to people and they get names. Some other limb coordinations are less common, or they are common but tend to be fleeting or transitional, and those coordinations are thus less recognizable to people and therefore tend to not have names.

Just look at what the horse is doing, and try not to name it at all. Don't try to fit it into any pre-existing category. Don't try to decide whether what the horse is doing matches one trainer's idea of what a foxtrot is or is not, for example. Just look at what the horse is doing.

In assessing any gait, the first two things you want to know are:

a) is it fluid -- not stiff looking, pronky, jerky, pounding or rough

b) is it symmetrical -- the horse does not look "off" or lame; whatever happens with the left pair of legs should be repeated by the right pair of legs (at the canter you have to change the lead for this to happen).

Most people have no idea, really, how to assess or even correctly identify gaits. This is what we'll be doing in this coming Spring series in New Zealand and Australia -- the topic was suggested by students and my sponsors, and I think it's a good one for all students to delve into.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

DCA
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 Posted: Wed Dec 12th, 2007 05:00 pm
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What you say definitely makes sense, especially when I sit back and think about it.  But, because these terms are everywhere, it makes one really have to do some rethinking/reprogramming.

I do remember in your PCA series Vol. III that there is an Arabian with longer, crooked legs that you say could possibly do the fox trot or rack if he stiffened his back.  This was my first introduction to how a horse breed, not inclined to those gaits, could perform them given the right combination of conformational traits.  (I am trying to avoid certian terminology here).   

And from what I understand, there are Walkers, MFT's, etc. who cannot perform the Running Walk or Fox Trot, etc. due to the fact that their conformation simply doesn't allow for it.  So, it would make sense "gaited breeds" don't exist because if they did, there wouldn't be such discrepancy within these breed's gaits.  Am I on the right track here?  One must examine each horse on an individual basis.  It is the horse's conformation that will determine how the horse will move.  From there, it is up to the rider to help develop and refine that horse's preferred gait(s).

I think a series on assessing and identifying gaits is a wonderful idea!  Will there be a book to follow?  I sure hope so!

I will get some pictures of my Mocha this weekend and get them posted.  She's a wooly yak right now, but I'm sure you'll be able to see beyond her hair coat!

Thank you so much for all of the information you've shared! 

Stacee

 

 


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