Monday, August 16, 2010

That Big Trot
Monday, August 16, 2010 by Duncan McLaughlin

Endurance riders love a BIG trot. When looking at your upcoming superstar or admiring how your favourite horse trucks down the trail, nothing excites more Oohs and Aahs amongst endurance riders than that big trot. Many endurance horses, maybe yours, undertake most of their competition miles in that big trot. I would like to suggest there are a number of reasons why the big trot is not the be-all and end-all and that more canter should be included when covering distance, for a number of reasons including:

1. Energy efficiency;
2. Scapular inhibition; and
3. Lumbar/sacral strain.

photo: This horse clearly demonstrates all the hallmarks and pitfalls of a big trot. Although momentum plays some part in his extravagant movement, this degree of limb hyperextension requres a significantly higher degree of muscular effort than would a more modest stride. His scapular (the large bone of the shoulder) is forced through an excessive range of motion with the scapular cartilage (at the top of the shoulder blade) hitting the saddle with each stride. His hind legs are widely separated - one forward, one backward - placing excessive strain on the joints of the pelvis/sacrum and the lumbar region of the back. For these reasons, his neck is short, his back is hollow and his hindlegs show minimal joint flexion at hip, stifle and hock; instead they swing, pendulum-like, outside the path of the forelegs.

1. Energy Efficiency
When your horse moves in hyperextension, that is lengthening more than provided for by momentum, excessive muscular effort is required: extended gaits are not energy efficient. The further forward the hoof lands relative to the body mass, the more braking action occurs. Generally, a hyperextended hoof also stays on the ground for a longer period of time; tempo decreases as stride length increases. Muscular effort is required to overcome both the increased braking action and the inertia of the grounded hoof. From an energetic point of view, for most horses, any work faster than 15km/hr (ca 9mph) should ideally be performed at the canter rather than trot.

..full article at


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