Advantages & Disadvantages of Lateral Movements
Lateral Movements are usually performed on good ground at relatively slow gaits and therefore pose few problems to the musculo-skeletal apparatus of clinically healthy horses.
During the stance phase of a limb in lateral movements; landing is initiated on one aspect of the hoof while propulsion is initiated on the opposite side of the hoof (as seen in the image). This results in placement of asymmetrical loads at the articular surface as well as asymmetrical traction on the collateral ligaments, which could cause damage to horses with existing ligament or joint pathology.
During each step, the pressures on the hoof pass from one side to the other, placing asymmetrical stress on the ligaments (tension) and joint surfaces (pressure) with translocation of these forces. This means that horses with pre-existing articular problems should not undertake these exercises, or they should be done with caution, as they are at risk of perpetuating the problem.
The addition of these ligamentous stresses to the normal biomechanical loads means that exercises involving lateral movements should only be undertaken after a long warm-up, which stretches the collateral ligaments through their viscoelastic nature. However, the excessive biomechanical stresses can be limited if the horse is trained on soft ground. Alternatively, lateral movements can be used to warm-up the collateral ligaments of the lower joints in order to prepare the horse for more stressful exercises such as the pirouette.
Despite the few musculoskeletal disadvantages, lateral movements offer several advantages in physical preparation and training of the athletic horse.
They place certain prominent muscular groups under variable degrees of contraction and lengthening and improve the overall length and efficacy of movement. E.g. the gluteal muscles improve overall impulsion of the hindlimbs, the iliopsoas muscle facilitates and increase in lumbosacral mobility and hindlimb engagement, and the pectoral muscles increase the forwardness of the forehand.
Lateral movements also work groups of muscles that are infrequently or rarely used. In particular, the encourage development of the adductor and abductor muscles and activate certain deep muscle muscles.
If your horse is experiencing muscle restrictions during lateral movements, schedule an appointment today with MEL Equine for a full assessment on 0423 051 781 or by messaging the page.
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