Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Muscles, Tendons, and Ligaments


When it comes to equine locomotion, it takes three to tango.
Galloping a mile on the Curragh. Barrel racing. The passage, piaffe, and flying changes. The horse has always been a coveted creature for his magnificent capacity to perform acrobatlike feats. But don't be deceived: Despite his apparently effortless athleticism, all of his individual body parts are hard at work.
As the poet Lily Whittaker eloquently penned,
"What is a horse?
A horse waltzes like breeze over rivers.
She curvets and leaps like rain shivers.
A horse is a marionette."
Indeed, the muscles, tendons, and ligaments function as the wooden cross and strings that drive the marionette's movement. Horses' beauty in motion is achieved via the culmination of a complex and highly integrated interaction between muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and a variety of other connective tissues. Successful coordination of all musculoskeletal system components is imperative for smooth, fluid, pain-free movement. Injury to or malfunction of any part of the locomotor apparatus will negatively impact performance.
By virtue of their remarkable athleticism, horses are prone to injury. Musculoskeletal injuries are the most common cause of poor performance in horses. Understanding the intimate relationship between these three different types of structures is an important first step in keeping them healthy. This article reviews the structure and function of skeletal muscles, tendons, and ligaments, looks at some common concerns associated with each of these structures, and briefly discusses means of keeping them healthy.


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