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Anatomical Knowledge is the Foundation to Understanding Biomechanics

Optimal performance requires balanced interaction of all elements of the distal limb

Farrier Takeaways

  • The limb acts as a mass-spring system due to the distinct extension of the metacarpophalangeal joint and the elastic recoil in long tendons of the distal limb during the stance phase.
  • The lateral and medial collateral ligaments together with additional ligaments provide stability to the digital joints.
  • A certain amount of mechanical stimulus is necessary to maintain bone tissue, as determined by genetics, metabolic factors and interaction with adjacent tendons and ligaments.

To understand the biomechanics of the equine distal limb and the pathogenesis, diagnostics and treatment of orthopedic disorders affecting this region, comprehensive anatomical knowledge is essential.

The equine distal limb is defined as the part of the extremity located distal to the carpal or tarsal joint.1 In this region, numerous structures that are composed of different, highly specialized tissues are arranged in complex three-dimensional construction. These structures are bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, synovial structures, blood vessels, nerves and the hoof as modified skin covering the end of the extremity.2 All structures are spatially and functionally closely related.3

Optimal functional performance of the equine distal limb for static support and locomotion requires a fine-tuned interaction of all elements of the distal limb. The arrangement and function of all structures of the equine distal limb are adapted to the maximal erected digitigrade posture used for weight-bearing and locomotion.4

The digitigrade posture of the distal limb is characteristic for animals that have the ability to move at high speed.5,6 Their metacarpal/metatarsal bones are maximally…

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Jennifer hagen 5

Jenny Hagen

Jenny Hagen, DVM, PhD, CF, is a veterinarian, re­searcher and certified farrier. She is in private practice for equine ortho­pedics and chiropractic. She is a mem­ber of the faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Leipzig University in Ger­many.

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