The Horse

DEC 2018

The Horse:Your Guide To Equine Health Care provides monthly equine health care information to horse owners, breeders, veterinarians, barn/farm managers, trainer/riding instructors, and others involved in the hands-on care of the horse.

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Page 44 of 51

SPORTS MEDICINE | The Horse December 2018 45 CHRISTA LESTÉ-LASSERRE, MA T here was a crooked man, and he walked a crooked mile. He found a crooked sixpence upon a crooked stile. He bought a crooked cat, which caught a crooked mouse, And they all lived together in a little crooked house. So goes the traditional English nursery rhyme. But what if the equine science world added one more couplet? He rode a crooked saddle strapped on his crooked horse, And together all the crookedness made the crookedness worse. The crookedness we see in horses isn't exactly the same as that of the crooked man and the crooked cat, of course. While some forms of crookedness are conformational, usually when we speak of crookedness we're talking about the horse's movement. Ideally, say veterinar- ians, horses should move in a straight line in a straight axis. It makes them better athletes and sounder horses. Like the crooked man, we might ac- centuate our horses' natural crookedness with our own—or by riding in ill-fitting saddles. But we can also improve it with good posture, tack, awareness, training, exercises, and veterinary care. The Many Facets of Crookedness What is a crooked horse? Our sources describe several kinds: Conformation-related Some foals are born with or develop angular limb defor- mities, such as valgus (knock knees) and varus (bow-legged) carpal joints, or rota- tional deformities, in which the toes point in or out. Rotational deformities can occur in technically straight, albeit twist- ing, legs and are often associated with a narrow stance, says Valerie Moorman, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS-LA, assistant professor of equine surgery and lameness at the Colorado State University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences' Equine Orthopaedic Research Center, in Fort Collins. Horses lacking conformational straightness tend to have side-to-side imbalances, she says. Or they might move in a straight line but show "winging" (out- ward limb swing, also called "paddling") or "dishing" (inward limb swing) during movement. Corrective shoeing, physical therapy, and, more rarely, surgery can usually correct these kinds of crookedness in the first few months of life. Uneven rein contact Horses can take asymmetrical rein contact, leaning more on one side than the other, says Sue Dyson, MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, Dipl. ECVSMR, FRCVS, head of Clinical Orthopaedics at the Animal Health Trust Centre for Equine Studies, in Newmarket, England. This usually reflects underlying musculoskeletal pain, often hind-limb lameness. She says it might result in the bit pulling through the horse's mouth more on one side than the other. The horse might be more difficult to turn one direction. The rider might say the horse simply "feels different" on one rein than The Crooked Horse Conformation, asymmetrical rein contact, or adaptation to lameness, among other factors, can affect a horse's straightness. SUSAN KORDISH Is training or lameness to blame?

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