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Question about the trot diagonals and spine motion
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Apples
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Joined: Wed Dec 19th, 2007
Location: Ontario Canada
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 Posted: Sun Mar 8th, 2009 11:56 pm
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I am thinking about the motion of the spine when the horse is in trot. The diagonal thrust of the legs result in a ‘swinging’ (side to side) motion of the whole body while it is going forward. If a horse is straight relative to the line of travel, and for the sake of argument, is correctly coiling his loins, raising his back, coming up thru the withers, raising the base of his neck, I have a question about the motion of the spine.

 

Is there a rotation and/or twisting happening with the spine or any part of it? It has been suggested to me that the gentle swaying of the hair on the tail, is a result of this spinal ‘twisting’ that is being transmitted down the spine to the tail at the trot. I thought the tail swaying was a result of the diagonal thrusters, that is the motion of grounding then suspension on the diagonals. Is there a rotation or twisting happening with the spine between the point where the horse’s one diagonals are grounded and the next diagonals are grounded?

 

Dr. Deb, could you share your thoughts on this? Much appreciated.

DrDeb
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 Posted: Tue Mar 10th, 2009 07:53 am
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Apples, which direction do you think the 'ripple' in a horse's spine goes? Back to front, or front to back?

So you have it basically right, and your friend who suggested that the tail in a trotting horse waves because of a ripple coming from front to back, has it backwards.

If the horse is relaxed as he trots, the side-to-side motion of the tail is not made by any part of the spine. It is PERMITTED by the fact that the spinal muscles are relaxed; if they were not relaxed, then the tail would be carried stiffly, as would the loins, midspan, and neck.

When the right hind leg is grounded and thus contributing to thrust, the left hind leg will be reaching forward. The thorax coordinates with the hindlimbs in a trot in such a manner that, if the right hind leg is grounded, the body will be convex on that side and concave on the opposite side, where the hindlimb is reaching forward.

The spine of a horse that is trotting in a 'relaxed' manner, i.e. one that is untroubled but just happily trotting along, has an elastic resiliency that I compare to a diving board, except that in a horse the spine bows not only up and down but also, and simultaneously, from side to side, and also rotates about its long axis. All that has to happen for the tail to 'wave', therefore, is that the hind legs keep on pumping down against the ground. They make the tail wave, and they also send the ripple propagating forward through the loins and back clear up to the hyoids and the front teeth.

And yes, of course, the hindlimb thrust creates a complex, 3-dimensional set of ripples. There is an up-down component, there is a side-to-side component, and there is also a rotatory component. When you sit the trot you feel all three.

People who have trouble sitting the trot, often have this trouble because they "conceive of" the trot motion, that is the motion they receive from the horse's back, as being only up-and-down. But one of the keys to sitting the trot well is to have your waist tip (in exact time with the horse, and to the exact degree) from side to side. This is a reflection in the human body of the rotatory component of the trot motion in the horse's back.

When you sit "on the outside of the horse" -- which really means you remain square in the middle of the horse, directly over the spine -- when the horse tracks a curving figure, then this is the reflection in the human body of the side-to-side component of the trot motion in the horse's back.

And, when you yield in the waist and allow your crotch to rise with the motion of the trot, that, of course, is the reflection in your body of the up-down spinal dynamic coming from the horse.

So it takes all three. A 'rainbow tail', meaning relaxed, lightly arched upward, and swaying without active swishing, is an excellent signal that conditions in the rest of the horse's spine are what we would hope for. -- Dr. Deb

Apples
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Joined: Wed Dec 19th, 2007
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 Posted: Wed Mar 11th, 2009 12:51 am
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Such was my conundrum, because I always understood that the flow of energy from the forward movement of a horse travelled back to front. Thank you for the detailed explanation.

 

If I understood correctly, the rotation around the axis of the spine would be simultaneous in 2 directions? That is, when the left hind is coming forward the rear part of the spine would rotate to the right, but at the same time the front right is also coming forward therefore rotating the front part of the spine to the left. If I’m right, does one of the rotations have more impact on the rider, or is it just different dependent on the combination of horse/rider conformation, or is negated by the presence of a saddle? And if this is a stupid question, just ignore me. But the fact that the trot is typically the most difficult gait for the rider to find their balance, and then sit well, is interesting to me.

 

I particularly appreciated your use of the term “yield” at the waist in the trot (as opposed to “relax” at the waist). It is a more accurate way to describe that you are allowing your body to ‘follow’ the horse’s motion without losing the toned muscle response you need to maintain the communication (and of course, your balance)
 

Last edited on Wed Mar 11th, 2009 12:57 am by Apples


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