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How the Horse Exchanges Energy in its Hind Limb

Making the connections between the spine, stifle and hooves

Fifth in a Series

In this series, Dr. Deb Bennett examines the equine hind limb. In this installment, Bennett explores hind limb reciprocation.

Farrier Takeaways

  • The reciprocation in the horse’s hind limb can be summarized by two rules: whatever the stifle does, the hock must also do; and whatever the lumbo-sacral joint does, the stifle is meant to do.
  • Since the lumbar-to-stifle connections and functioning are not emphasized in all veterinary anatomy courses, there is often confusion about the importance of the equine spine in locomotion.
  • Collection starts from and is always primarily the product of coiling of the loins. It is continued when the free span of the back rises, and it is completed when the base of the neck rises.

At the most fundamental level, reciprocation means energy exchange between linked parts of a biomechanical system.

We learned in the previous installment that the horse’s hind limb joints are tied by anatomical straps (in the form of tendons and muscles with tendinous cores) so flexion and extension must occur in coordination. This does not concern the stifle and hock joints only. From the top down, the joints that participate in reciprocation are the lumbo-sacral (L-S) that connects the lumbar spine to the sacrum, the hip socket, stifle, hock, fetlock and coffin joints (Figures 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 8). In addition, there are joints in the horse’s hind limb, such as the sacro-iliac (S-I), the joints between the tibial and fibular tarsal bones and those between…

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Dr deb bennett

Deb Bennett

Dr. Deb Bennett has studied classification, evolution, anatomy and biomechanics of the horse. She worked at the Smithsonian Institution, until founding the Equine Studies Institute. She is an author who has published four books on horse-related topics, in addition to articles in most major equine magazines in North America.

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