An inexperienced rider climbs into the saddle and sits on a horse. What happens? Snickers and giggles come from the other end of the barn.
“We haven’t seen the rider go anywhere yet,” says Welsh farrier Grant Moon, “and we’ve already made the decision they can’t ride.”
Posture matters, and not just for humans. Posture is incredibly important to horses. Since they spend at least 20 hours a day standing, the posture a horse develops helps conserve energy.
“We speak so much of conformation,” Moon says. “Everyone has heard of that and spoken of that, but how many use the word posture in horseshoeing? It’s a subject that some folks are aware of, but not the majority.”
Standing normally on a level surface, a horse’s legs are perpendicular to the ground. When a horse shifts its posture because of ground surface or injury, it’s compensating. This change exerts more energy and places increased strain on tendons and ligaments.
“There’s a very big difference between base narrow conformation and base narrow compensation,” Moon told attendees at the 2014 International Hoof-Care Summit in Cincinnati. “Many of the horses we see that are base narrow are not base narrow. They’re compensating for an inappropriate trim.”
It’s important that hoof-care practitioners understand that they can affect a horse’s posture.
“The riding instructor doesn’t walk up to the person on the horse and say, ‘You have horrible conformation,’” Moon says. “They say, ‘Would you mind sitting up straight? Would you please put your shoulders back?’ They improve posture.
“As a horseshoeing industry, we forget about posture totally because we’re so tied up with everything else.”
Observing a horse dynamically can help a farrier identify poor posture.
“You can anticipate from postures of the horse what kinds of riding problems you’re going to have,” explains the International Horseshoeing Hall Of Fame member. “If you have a horse that stood behind vertical, when that horse is ridden, it’s probably going to ride hollow. It’s probably heavy in the hands.”
As a farrier, if you become adept at recognizing posture problems, it could mean an increase in business.
“It’s a wonderful subject and it’s one way I’ve made money,” Moon says. “I’ve gone to a place and said to the rider, ‘Is that thing heavy in your hands? What are you doing, putting an artificial frame in there?’ And they say, ‘Yeah.’ They’re trying to bring that hollow-backed horse into an artificial frame. It’s not a real frame because they are trying to compensate for poor posture.”