It’s all a question of balance

Part I – Horizontal balance

There are many discussions and questions about the balance and imbalance of the horse:

  • The horse is naturally unbalanced, or is it completely in balanced for itself?
  • Should it be “corrected” in its Im / Balance to let it move healthy under saddle?
  • When does balance develop in the horse and how does it benefit?
  • When is this disturbed?
  • And with the horse’s balance or imbalance, does the center of gravity in the horse change or not?

The musculoskeletal system of the quadruped horse

As with any vertebrate, the horse’s body is structured by bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and the myofascial network that spans the bones like a spider’s web (tensegrity model).

This structure contains certain physical statics that determines the horse’s balance in the movement. But since the horse’s body, like that of every vertebrate, is a dynamic system, the center of gravity of the horse is also variable.

The balance

The balance and thus the center of gravity of each horse is, in my observation, individual and can be measured. The following measurements show how the horse’s structure influences the balance of the horse.

  • Yellow line: hip joint – base of the neck (HW-C5)

Depending on the conformation, mobility, strength and training level of the horse (flexible or steep, stiff hindquarters), the hip activity influences the base of the neck .

  • Blue Line: hip joint – shoulder joint

 The hip activity also affects the shoulder joint.

  • Vertical of the lines: hip joint – ilium and shoulder joint – scapular = center of gravity

Hip and ilium activity affects the shoulder joint, which in turn affects the center of gravity.

These different starting points are variable in their activity and in their influence on each other. That is, depending on how the hindquarters of a horse work and shift the weight of the horse’s body towards forehand in their thrusting activity, it releases more or less pressure on the neck base and the shoulder joint .

Movement organization

The horse begins, for example, for the preparation of the trot to build up the thrust on the removal of the hindquarters toe. It extends all hindquarter joints and releases the pressure up into the hip joint. It reacts with extension and relieves the pressure on the sacroiliac joint, which expedite the thrust with the lumbosacral joint further forward. The vertebral, muscular and myofascial chains are involved into shifting the thrust and body mass forward, so that, among other things, the load on the base of the neck is released, which releases it onto the shoulder joint. Thus, the diagonal front leg of the advancing hind leg in load absorption and subsequent traction can bring the body mass in motion. If the hindquarters push very strongly during the initiation of the movement or if the hip joint is possibly even overstretched and / or the hindquarters are very strongly raised, correspondingly more pressure is created on the forehand ie the base of the neck and / or the shoulder joint. Both can be loaded separately. If the neck tends to be carried higher, there will be less downward pressure into the base of the neck. However, depending on muscular and fascial activity in the area of ​​the shoulder girdle, the shoulder joint may still sag. If the hip joint gives less pressure because it is more flexible, less pressure will be created on the forehand. This also changes the center of gravity in the horse. Depending on the position and action of the hip and hindquarters, the activity of the ilium and the sacroiliac joint changes. Strong pushing activity extends the joints more and flattens the line forward. Depending on the shoulder / shoulder joint activity in higher or lower position, the line raises or lowers. Say the focus moves forward or backward. Depending on the height or depth of the hip joint and / or shoulder joint.

Different conformations – different balance

Trainingconditions – different balance

Depending on what kind of conformation the horse has, more or less load is created on the forehand. This is a natural body behavior for the horse and thus a natural balance. If the horse is ridden, there will be weight overload in the area of ​​the 12th-15th thoracic vertebrae, which alters and even restricts the activity of the shoulder. This in turn leads to a back coupling and restriction in the area of ​​the back muscles, which is responsible for the transport of the thrust. This leads to a limitation in the activity of the sacroiliac joints and thus of the hip joints. Mostly they overextend. Thus, in many horses, the balance changes and leads to an unnatural imbalance. The center of gravity so moves forward and the forehand is overloaded unhealthy. So if the horse tends to overload the forehand under the rider weight, compensation patterns arise and dysfunctions in various muscles. Contractions of the back are among the most common ones. This can lead to negative chain reactions.

The conclusion is, of course, to ensure that the horse does not build unhealthy patterns and no deterioration in the muscles, ligaments and tendons arises. Thus, it is important to see how the horse organizes itself in the movement, and whether it compensates because it may be disturbed in its natural balance. For the hip joint, as well as the other joints of the hindquarters should work freely. In extension and flexion to the same extent, so that the hindquarters do not stand up and too much thrust and pressure is transmitted to the forehand. In the forehand it must be ensured that the base of the neck works freely and lifted. As a result, different muscles make sure that the shoulder does not sag and the entire shoulder girdle remains raised. If the rider is able to establish the horizontal balance, ie a balanced state between hindlimb and forehand action, then perhaps only slight compensation patterns arise in the horse and it remains healthier by more balance.

True calmness is not lack of activity. It is the balance of movement

Nicole Weinauge

Photo credits: © https://www.lernen.net, © 3D Horse-Anatomy, https://biosphera.org, © https://www.physiotherapeuten.de, © Kristin Howe www.pferdephotografie.de, © https://www.lgks.eu,