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Horse Stumbling in Front
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DrDeb
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 Posted: Sun Jan 24th, 2021 10:03 pm
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I am posting this correspondence for the benefit of all our readers. You're getting the first couple of exchanges here dubbed out of private EMail received today, January 24, 2020; after which I usually ask the person who has written in to continue here in the Forum:

* * * * * * *
Dear Dr. Deb:
PLEASE I need help. Everyone I have shown this video to says "Ive never seen anything like that before". I have x rays - more video and lots of heads that have been scratched.   In a blog I read some one was saying they had also had this issue and that Dr Deb had written a paper mentioning it so please - I have lots of info and a story of course - here is a video to start. Hoping you can help-- Tracey

 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JUJymG3AR6w
 * * * * * * * *
Dear Tracey:
We need to be sure that you’re legit before we click on your video link. Can you be more specific about what the video shows, before asking me to watch it? What has your veterinarian said about it? Also, how old is the horse? What breed? What sort of riding do you do, or what use is the horse put to? Is it a mare, stallion, or gelding? And, how much experience do you have in owning horses?
 Please be as brief as possible. You are asking for my time with no mention of how, or whether, you intend to pay; so please respect the fact that you’re asking a favor. Thanks for the courtesy.-- Dr. Deb
* * * * * * * *
Dear Dr. Deb: Thank you for your fast reply.
The video is a short  few clips spanning the last year of my horse moving and tripping - I do have lots more of his movement and a assessment to see later
 
The vet said - stay apparatus but never seen anything like it. X-rays of carpus joints are clean - navicular is clean.
The horse nearly collapsed while sleeping once or twice in paddock
Fell onto both front knees at vets when holding uponeleg for x-rays - (was sedated) - so it's like the stay apparatus locks to start with but as the shoulder moves over the carpus it unlocks too early and buckles??

Thomas is a gelding, 16 years old, advanced dressage horse - super well looked after with 4cyte over past 3-4 years

Has had a suspensory injury - with previous owner - don't know details yet - 
Have owned horses and breed horses for 15 years.

I am happy to pay but just had so much outlay to people who can't help. 
Planning on getting scans done in next couple weeks
Thank you so much
Tracey
* * * * * * * *
Dear Tracey:


The likelihood is that when your horse incurred the suspensory injury, he also stretched and/or tore or even ruptured the subcarpal check ligament. This is in fact very common. Does the animal appear to be “over at the knee” either all the time – as if that were how he is conformed -- or else after you ride him? Do his forelimbs ever appear to be trembling, particularly after exercise?

What will help you the most is to learn the mechanism of the forelimb reciprocating apparatus, which is often referred to as the “forelimb stay apparatus”. It is actually a reciprocating system, as you will see as you study the attached articles recently published in “The American Farriers’ Journal.” I do these articles for the purpose of educating the public. Once you have read the articles, you might also like to make your veterinarian aware of them (you may forward a copy of the attachments to him or her). The articles attached to this Email are actually the last two in a series of nine articles published by AFJ; if you and/or vets would care to read the whole series, it’s available on line where it says at the end of the no. 9 article.

Your vet(s) may not be familiar with conceiving of the forelimb “stay” apparatus as a reciprocating system, so they might want to read the earlier articles in the series wherein I explain my use of that terminology, as well as going into every detail of tissue composition and structure and the modes of attachment of the various tissues involved.

After you study the attached, if you then have further questions feel free to write back to me – at the Forum. As to charging: I don’t usually. However, I also don’t do private consultations. So with your permission I am going to enter this correspondence as a new thread at my online blog/international classroom, called “The Forum”, which is located at http://www.equinestudies.org, my main website. Click on the link and then find the button on the lefthand side of the page that says “Forum” and it will take you there. You will want to register in order to see/post still photos (please – no videos, they take too much space; videos can be posted elsewhere). When you post to the Forum, your correspondence will be read by about 5,000 other horse owners, some of whom have been corresponding there since the 1990’s when we first put that board up. This is what serves to justify my time.

It will also, I hope, become one of your valued resources, as there are thousands of threads on all kinds of horsemanship topics which I have answered over the long span of years. -- Dr. Deb


 


T Tyree
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 Posted: Mon Jan 25th, 2021 03:46 am
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I have posted 2 photos, to see if he is over the knee, my inital reaction is no he isn't - what arre your thoughts - however sometimes he can tremble and also if you tap him behind the carpus it will give way forward - when he is just standing still.

T Tyree
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 Posted: Mon Jan 25th, 2021 04:30 am
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Right carpus

Attachment: Screen Shot 2021-01-25 at 6.28.58 PM.png (Downloaded 79 times)

T Tyree
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 Posted: Mon Jan 25th, 2021 04:32 am
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Left carpus

Attachment: Screen Shot 2021-01-25 at 6.31.52 PM.png (Downloaded 79 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Mon Jan 25th, 2021 06:40 am
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Dear Tracey: Great, glad to see you here in the Forum where we can receive comments and be read and thereby benefit a much greater number of people.

As to being "over on the knee": Many WB's are built so that they are rather "full" through the knee, and this is, in fact, the best way to build a horse's forelimb. I asked you what breed he was and I think you did not answer, but I'm guessing it's some mixture of TB and WB (almost all registered WB's are 90% TB or better anyway).

Many horses with damaged checks stand "buck kneed" but your horse is not showing that.So damage to the check ligaments is not showing up in terms of the horse's stance or apparent conformation. However, the fact that the knee easily buckles forward is plenty of evidence for damage to the checks by itself.

So where do you go from here?  You can ask a vet whether there is some non-invasive technique of imaging that they can use to examine the subcarpal check ligament, but although this would be lovely as a way of confirming a diagnosis, I doubt there is a way to know for sure. (I am not making a diagnosis here, you understand, as I am unqualified to do that, but most people would like to have a hard-and-fast idea of whatever is wrong, so I am suggesting you employ a veterinarian to find out whether that is possible).

Practically then, assuming you're not really going to be so silly as to try to pursue a definite diagnosis based directly on discoverable tissue damage -- then you must go on what you have already observed about the ease with which this horse's forelimbs will buckle, and the history of a torn suspensory.

And the prognosis for either one is not good, because there is no "full" or complete repair for either a torn suspensory or for stretched/torn check ligaments. If you had been hoping that this horse would be competitive, I'm sorry to have to tell you that will not be the case -- even if you are so lucky as to be expensively sponsored, and have your own staff groom and on-call private veterinarian -- the demands that competition places upon dressage horses, and especially since the winning form in many exercises is so grossly incorrect (I am thinking particularly here of the "extended trot") -- that's very likely how the animal tore the suspensory in the first place. So they rehabbed him and passed him off as sound onto you. But he is not sound and never will be for that type of use.

Further, he is dangerous. Any horse that has been observed to fall to its knees for ANY reason is already a candidate for pasture retirement or else the knacker's. I cannot emphasize this enough: you should not be riding this horse, neither should anyone be riding this horse, because doing so creates an excellent chance of breaking your neck.

So now, I have laid on you the bad news. The good news is there are millions of perfectly good, sound horses out there begging for homes. Next time, I advise you to be more hand-in-glove with your veterinarian -- you have to find a vet you like and trust, and I would go looking for one with experience doing prepurchase exams for dressage competition. And then you do what he or she advises; you listen and you do that, even though (as you say) you have some prior experience with owning horses. The fee for the prepurchase exam is, or would have been far less, I am guessing, than what you have now subsequently had to spend asking around for advice. I have been honest with you so hopefully that process will stop here, and you turn to figuring out where to retire this horse and start go looking for another one.

Best luck in the quest, I am sure you'll find something nice. -- Dr. Deb

T Tyree
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 Posted: Mon Jan 25th, 2021 06:21 pm
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Thank you for your observations.

I had my concerns that is might be a check ligament - so this is not totally a shock.

however if I want to recoup some of the money I paid for him. I truely believe the owner did not know there would be an ongoing issue with him, but she did NOT disclose the fact he had a suspensory injury until after I took him to the vets for x-rays - I keep in contact with her.

He is not capable of performing as a schoolmaster as was advertised. So I feel I need some proof to show her - but I'll discuss it and see how we go.

I haven't ridden him for a month now - as although my vet said ok to ride - I could see he was in discomfort.

Last edited on Mon Jan 25th, 2021 06:21 pm by T Tyree

Kuhaylan Heify
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2021 02:28 pm
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Deb: How does incorrect form in the extended trot cause the front end reciprocating system to break down?
best
Bruce Peek

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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2021 08:59 pm
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Welcome to the Forum, Tracey and thank you for sharing all this information. I am sorry the horse is to be retired but such is Life. He is very handsome. Good Luck for the future.

Looks like there is a tonne more stuff for me to read in the AFJ. I am relooking at hooves and conformation, about to get all the books out and start photographing. It would appear I have been making a lot of mistakes in my trimming and assessment of my horses so here goes another learning curve!!

Keep safe everyone. Cheers Judy

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2021 10:00 pm
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Bruce, an excellent question and one which I was hoping someone would ask. Look at the illustration that appears below, and then also at the two posts which follow. The illustration below shows the essential anatomy of the forelimb.

Note the flexed posture of the "knee" (carpus) joint. At the same time, note that the horse still has the heels of its hoof in contact with the ground.

This is the one and only position which the forelimb can adopt which simultaneously puts strain on the suspensory while slacking the flexor tendons (which is why the knee can be flexed: the check ligaments attach from the flexor tendons to the back of the carpus and the back of the distal forearm. If the flexors are tensioned, as they normally would be when the horse is standing or moving normally, the downward pull that the horse's weight coming into the ankles would depress the ankle joints and thus, via the check ligaments, also hold the knee firmly back. If you don't understand this, then you need to study the AFJ article with the biomechanical model of forelimb reciprocation in it. If anyone does not have access to this article and wants it, you may EMail our office at office@equinestudies.org and we will send you the .pdf).

The most common reason that the horse's knee would be flexed like this in movement, giving the characteristic "kinked" appearance to the forelimb, is that the hoof trim is out of balance in the manner of "long toe, low heel". This delays the breakover enough to "pin" the heels to the ground, and the horse compensates by bending its knees (exactly what will happen if you try to go walking about in swim fins; not only will you find it difficult to pick your heels up, you'll also find out that the only way to accomplish that at all is to flex your knees. This is also why Birkenstock-type shoes and sandals can be therapeutic. Their key design is that the shoe sits your heel lower than the ball of your foot, and thus forces you not to stand and walk with locked knees. But don't get confused! It's great for humans to NOT walk with locked knees; but the proper way for the horse's forelimb to function is for the carpus to be locked in a straight-open position until the heels come off the ground and there is the moment of breakover, at which instant ALL of the joints of the forelimb flex -- every joint from the shoulder down to the coffin joint.

My point here is that if the hoof is out of AP balance -- "long toe, low heel" -- then it would not matter how good or godawful the rider's philosophy of what is proper to demand of the horse is, he's going to have trouble picking his heels up and the breakover is going to be delayed.

But that is not, unfortunately, the only reason why breakover is delayed in many cases. Many times we can observe that the horse has had meticulous and very appropriate trimming and/or farriery, and yet we can regularly catch him in this dangerous posture, which again please note is the one and only position in which the forelimb can be placed which puts strain on the suspensory apparatus while simultaneously slacking the flexors/checks. This "other" reason is that the rider's philosophy sucks, and the whole training protocol that she has spent money to purchase sucks, because it says "the horse must GO MORE FORWARD". The attempt to achieve this impossibility -- the totally wrong picture that the rider has in her mind as she goes out to start a practice ride -- causes her to constantly push the horse off its balance from back to front. In short it causes the rider to push the horse "onto the forehand", and the tilted-forward balance that this creates will also easily hold the heels down and delay the breakover.

The worst and most dangerous moment that we see in all of riding, including racing and Tennessee Walking Horses with weights, stacks, chains and caustics, is where the competitive dressage people ask their horses for "extended" trot. It has been many years since I observed an actual extension of stride exhibited at any dressage show; so that nowadays what is regularly rewarded with first place is the horse with a huge fore STEP and no extension of STRIDE at all (you understand, the two are completely incompatible). To the next post I attach two examples -- one, Alois Podhajsky on his Maestoso Alea performing an "extended" trot (Podhajsky was not a very good trainer or rider, although he was an important Nazi officer); vs. an image of Lendon Gray on "Seldom Seen" actually performing an extension of stride. Now, again, if you do not understand this -- and I expect most people reading this will not understand it because they don't understand that there is a difference between extension of STEP and extension of STRIDE, then you need to EMail our office and make arrangements to purchase the Conformation Workbook which explains this clearly and in detail. The book costs $35 to any address in the U.S. or APO; outside the U.S. postage will be added. Our EMail address for this information once again is office@equinestudies.org.

Lest, however, I be accused of just hating competitive dressage -- I don't just hate competitive dressage, I hate LOTS of things that can be seen at an all-breed, all-styles horse show or expo -- then in the last post following I present a drawing of a Western Pleasure competitor with the same "kinked" dangerous forelimb position (the image taken, as almost all of my drawings are, directly from photos which I have taken; but I make them into drawings so that neither the rider nor the horse can be identified). The WP horse is just as much "on the forehand" as the dressage horse; however, he's in somewhat less danger of actually tearing a suspensory than the dressage horse is, because he is moving rather slowly. As force increases, the danger to tensioned bodyparts increases dramatically.

So, to repeat again: the "kinked" posture of the forelimb is the one and only position in which the forelimb can be placed that simultaneously tensions the suspensory apparatus while slacking the flexor tendons. Why is this so dangerous? Because it is the flexor bundle, not the suspensory, which supports the horse's ankle. If you were to cut through the flexors (or seriously tear/bow even one of the flexor tendons), the only structure remaining that can keep the ankle from descending all the way to the ground is the suspensory apparatus; but the suspensory apparatus is in fact too weak to do this. Therefore, if on Step One the horse tears one or both flexors, on the very next step he will also tear the suspensory apparatus in that limb.

Tracey, our original questioner in this thread, informs us that her gelding is an "advanced level" dressage horse, in other words, has been in competitions and has undoubtedly been trained to win: and what wins in the show-ring today is extension of STEP not extension of STRIDE, and thus my surmise that it is the incorrect training of the horse, the wrong philosophy, the wrong mental picture which prevails in that corner of the equestrian world, which originally ruined her horse (as it has also ruined many other horses). And hence I challenged her, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, as to whether she has her own professional groom and private on-call veterinarian, so that after every training session she can get off and let them then set the horse up with all kinds of bandages and liniments and scan him for tissue damage and whatnot. Because that is what you are going to have to do if you compete at high levels in that venue; and even then, your horse will likely be retired (as Tracey's has been) after only a few years.

What I would say to Tracey, and to everybody, is this: you don't need to buy a "schoolmaster." That's a suggestion mighty handy to professional competitors who have three or four damaged horses to get rid of at any given time. What you DO need is to learn how to ride properly, so that you have a philosophy that is rooted in the actual biology of the horse, and so that you have the proper mental picture as you go out for each day's training or riding session.

And that begins with utterly and totally erasing the concept of "the horse needs to go more FORWARD." I have yet to meet any horse that needed to go more forward. If he is walking around in his paddock, is he not going forward? What! Are you going to tell me you have a horse that only goes backwards or sideways when he's let loose? Geez, I'd like to see a video of THAT!

So you don't concern yourself with whether he goes forward; assuming he's a normal, healthy horse he LOVES to move and most of it will be in a forward direction. But the moment you ask a horse to go faster than it wants to, or if you ask it to take a longer hind step than comes natural to it at the stage of training it is in, you will knock the horse off balance from back to front; you will cause him to PUSH himself off balance. And yet didn't you tell me that you thought the horse ought to work off the hindquarter?

"To work off the hindquarter" means to WEIGHT the hindquarter, just as to be "on the forehand" means to cause the forehand to carry more WEIGHT. So if you want the horse to work off the hindquarter, you must not permit him to advance by throwing his weight to the front, transferring it to the front, dumping it into the forehand -- however you want to express that. To learn how to ride a horse this way is well explained by Mike Schaffer in all of his printed books and E-books: and you need to go study those and FORGET EVERYTHING that the Germans (and worse, the Americans who like to pretend that they are German) tell you.

This should be enough explanation to answer Bruce's question and I also hope, to set the more dedicated students who read here in quest of the three resources I have named:

1. Mike Schaffer's books
2. The Conformation Workbook
3. The American Farriers' Journal article explaining the reciprocating apparatus (often called the "stay apparatus") of the equine forelimb.

Happy riding, y'all. Achieving so-called "upper levels" is extremely easy once you know how, and you'll find that most ordinary horses -- so long as they are cheerful and willing and you keep them that way -- are capable of it. -- Dr. Deb


Attachment: How to Tear or Pull a Suspensory Anatomy1.jpg (Downloaded 62 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2021 10:14 pm
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Alois Podhajsky performing a quote-unquote "extended" trot. In fact, the only thing his horse is extending is its free foreleg. Note the kinked posture of the contacting forelimb.
Note also that the "V" formed between the two forelimbs is larger than the "V" formed between the two hindlimbs. This is a handy visual way to tell that there is more weight being borne by the forehand than by the hindquarter.

Attachment: How to Tear or Pull Suspensory Podhajsky1.jpg (Downloaded 63 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2021 10:18 pm
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A drawing of Lendon Gray performing a real extension of stride (also called an "extended trot" which is just short for "extension of stride at the trot") upon her multi-champion gelding Seldom Seen. Extension of stride happens during FLIGHT -- the period of time when the horse has no feet on the ground, also called the "period of suspension". Compare this image to illustrations in Podhajsky's "The Complete Training of Horse and Rider" or in Wynmalen's books (Wynmalen was Podhajsky's student). These guys both were terrible riders, but they were literate so they certainly "talk the talk"; however they don't "walk the walk", as proven by the previous photo.

Attachment: How to Tear or Pull a Suspensory Lendon Gray1.jpg (Downloaded 62 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2021 10:23 pm
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A drawing of a contemporary dressage competitor executing, in an even more extreme form than demonstrated by Podhajsky, an incorrect philosophy and damaging process of training.

Attachment: How to Tear or Pull Suspensory Dressage1.jpg (Downloaded 61 times)

DrDeb
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 Posted: Wed Jan 27th, 2021 10:25 pm
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The wrong philosophy in Western Pleasure is to confuse collection with slow forward movement. The horse below is collected in no sense whatsoever. For more on this topic....somebody needs to write in and ask.

Attachment: How to Tear or Pull Suspensory WPleasure1.jpg (Downloaded 63 times)

Kuhaylan Heify
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 Posted: Thu Jan 28th, 2021 02:10 am
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Dr. Deb: The line drawing of Lendon Gray looks like one of my old instructors who rode Lippizans.. So the dead giveaways are flicking and smaller hind leg vees than front leg vees..
best
Bruce Peek

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 Posted: Fri Jan 29th, 2021 05:46 pm
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Just been mulling over the trot that has one leg on the ground beside the ugly one with horse being pushed 'more forward'. Perhaps the Tolt or the Faux/Fox Trot?

Yes please to more info on the WP horse, to me he looks flat, no coiling of the loins or raising the base of the neck.

The images of the front legs in the AFJ are very timely. I have been over trimming the heels in my horses/ponies and one mare in particular is now very reluctant to stand on her heels. The drawings make it all so obvious as to how important it is for her to get comfortable loading her heels for her future soundness.

Kind Regards
Judy


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