Did you know that every horse has to contend with centrifugal and shear forces?
Come on…admit it…these aren’t the usual terms we toss around in the riding ring or during a lesson. But the physics of the horse’s movement, in particular on the circle or curved path upon which we so commonly ride him, have an incredible impact on his ability to perform optimally and move in a way that promotes longevity and soundness.
In STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE by Gabriele Rachen-Schoneich and Klaus Schoneich, we begin to gain a familiarity with the kinds of real and perceived forces we experience when working with horses, and how those forces impact the horse’s body and thus the way he moves.
Very simply stated, an object or being traveling on a circle behaves as if it is experiencing an outward force (what we know as centrifugal force).
When the horse moves on a curved path to the left, for example, the perceived centrifugal force is evidenced by the horse’s right outside shoulder falling out, which makes the horse concave to the left. When the outside shoulder falls out, the rest of the body must follow.
A speed skater has the same problem when he comes to a bend on the track. To counteract what we know as centrifugal force and avoid being pulled outward off the track, he crosses one leg in front of the other. The horse on the circle behaves in a similar way, as shown by the way he puts down his front and hind feet. Ultimately, such “crookedness” during movement causes strain on the right forefoot, as well as on the tendons, navicular bone on that side, and spine.
Shear force in the horse is similar to a pair of scissors: one of the “blades” (sides of the horse) remains fixed while the other “shears away” diagonally (see illustration below). Since the horse’s joints are designed for carrying him forward rather than making this sort of movement, shear forces place enormous strain on the contact surfaces and ligaments associated with these joints. The most commonly encountered consequences are knee and hock problems and gait irregularities. Shear forces place considerable strain on the sacroiliac joint, as well.
The good news is, with correct training, these forces do not have to derail your horse’s straightness and soundness. For over 30 years, Rachen-Schoneich and Schoneich have worked with, and successfully “cured” through appropriate gymnastic training, more than 4,000 horses with straightness problems related to the forces they encounter when being worked or ridden, as well as incorrect or insufficient training; bad riding; veterinary misdiagnosis; and poorly fit tack and equipment. In STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE readers begin to see how, with sufficient attention to gymnastic training on the longe and in hand, horses can be ridden without ever sacrificing correct locomotion.
STRAIGHTENING THE CROOKED HORSE has just been re-released in paperback, and is available now from the TSB online bookstore where shipping in the US is FREE.