No joint can develop so much injuries as the hock joint:
- Bog spavins
- Capped hocks
- OCD (Osteochondrosis)
- Left and right hock look asymmetrical
- On-again/off-again lameness
- Resistance in going downhill
- Resistance in backing up
- Resistance in collection
- Back sore
The hock joint
Because of the ingenious assembly of the seven joins in the hind legs, the hind legs have a spring-like force.
2. hip joint
3. stifle joint
4. hock joint
5. fetlock joint
6. pastern join
7. coffin joint
Here’s a video of the skeleton of the horse so you can see all joints:
The hock is a complex joint, and consists of many bones.
The hock is equipped with is the main source of activity for thrust and carrying force, depending on whether the hind leg acts more against the center of mass or underneath it.
It’s called the ‘jumping joint‘ bcause its main purpose is to produce jump-like movement.
But also in collection this joint has a major function; in collection the hind leg is bent to a great extend and the hock has to do most of the work unless the upper, stronger joints and it’s muscles are more developped.
The hock suffers most under the rider if the horse is poorly riden or trained, which means;
- Making too tight turns
- Making too sudden stops
- Not taking care of the natural imbalance of the horse – which will not only damage the hocks, but also the front legs
- Lack of warm up before starting collection
- Overloading the hind quarters in collection (too long/too much)
- Practising collection when the muscles are not enough developped yet
Prevention is key!
The rider has to increase the strength of the hind legs through appropriate exercises to keep the horse sound during riding.
With appropriate exercises the hocks and the other joints of the haunches can be made flexible and the muscles can be developed, to prevent all strains and overtextensions of the ligaments and joint capsules as well as all the other tissues in and at the joints.
The more ‘pushy’ and stiffer the hind legs are by nature, the more carefully and patiently they must be trained.
When a horse as strong and stiff hind legs, the hind legs will first be trained individually (keys #3, #4 and #5 in ST) until they have been prepared for simultaneous bending (key#6 in ST);
- By practising only one hind leg first, the ST trainer has to overcome the resistance of one hind leg only – so one leg at a time – and the horse will be able to rest the other hind leg that has been previously worked more before the trainer changed rein.
- This can be done with the exercises circle, shoulder-in and haunches-in in hand and the hauches-in variations.
- These exercises will be trained first from the ground, later under saddle, and in all gaits.
- Gradually these exercise will be also practiced with an increased amount of collection.
- Once the horse has gone through all these stages, both hind legs can start to bend simultaneously; first in the half steps, and the more the horse let itself collect he can practice the piaffe and canter pirouette.
A well trained horse is much better protected against hock issues and other injuries in the hind legs.
But in case the hock issue already arised, here’s an approach on how to deal with it.
The ‘flexion’ test, is a lameness examination done by vetenarians, and it can make hock lameness easy to spot.
Treating the horse with injections in the joints is very common, but might do more harm than good.
There several ways to keep the hock condition under control and to keep the horse more comfortable:
- A healthy weight (additional pounds place more stress on joints)
- A good diet
- Properly trimmed feet
- Teamwork with your veterinarian
- Food supplements might help
- Turnout in the paddock/pasture
- Mild activity
How can Straightness Training help your horse?
Straightness Training exercises might help horses with hock issues:
- to activate the stronger parts of the horse’s body (muscles, tendons) to support the weaker parts (hock joint)
- to strengthen the muscles to stabilize the joints
- to strengthen the ligmanents between bones
- to stimulate cartilage to become stronger
- to stimulate the production of synovial fluid in the joint
- to nourish the joint with fresh synovial joint fluid (when the joint is not bearing weight)
- to clean the joint and to remove damaging waste products (when the joint is bearing weight and the joint fluid is compressed out of the cartilage)
- to reduce stiffness and to increase suppleness
11 Guidelines on how to train your horse
Pay close attention to how your horse feels and make the necessary adjustments in your training to ensure that your horse stays happy, fit, healthy and sound.
Here are some guidelines to keep your horse going:
- #1: Team up with your veterinarian to determine the best exercise program for your horse.
- #2: Make sure to warm up long enough from the ground, before you start riding.
- #3: Stay in the comfort zone of your horse and train ‘light’ to avoid discomfort and injury.
- #4: Adjust the keys of training to how your horse feels. There may be days when a simple LFS in walk will suffice. At ‘good’ days you might ask for some steps in mild collection in trot if your horse is familiar with that and has been educated to that level.
- #5: Adjust the training pillars to how your horse feels. There may be days when you only do the lateral movements (shoulder-in, haunches-in, renvers, and half pass) only from the ground and not ridden.
- #6: Adjust the exercises to how your horse feels. Use ST exercises to keep joints mobile while being careful not to overstress arthritic joints. Start any new exercise slowly and watch for signs of discomfort and for early indicators of a problem.
- #7: Adjust the gait to how your horse feels. At some days, only work him in walk, when he feels good, work him also in trot or even canter.
- #8: Adjust the transitions to how your horse feels. At some days decide to only do smooth progressive transitions (walk-trot, trot-canter), and skip the non-progressive ones (walk-canter) which ask for increased engagement.
- #9: To not stress the joints, avoid
– work at speed
– sharp turns and canter pirouettes
– exaggerated gaits and extended trot
– extreme collection
- #10: Keep training if possible!
- #11: Remember to check this article: 17 Tips to keep your senior horse fit and happy >>
Did the vets gave up on your horse?
When all possible causes of your problems are considered and specialists such as veterinarians, and other specialists do not offer a solution, natural asymmetry and your way of training and riding might be considered as the cause of the problems of your horse.
Straightness Training can help you with developing your horse symmetrically in body and limbs and with keeping your horse supple, mobile, fit, healthy and sound until an old age.
If you would like to have a taste of what Straightness Training is about, feel free to join my free training.
It will give you a good impression of Straightness Training, so you can decide if this is the right approach for you and your horse!