Training the performance horse
Observation of the following points when exercising and training the performance horse will help to protect bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles from injury:
- Feeding a balanced diet will ensure that the necessary nutrients for energy production, and tissue maintenance and repair are available.
- Water is essential to maintain all body functions; therefore a supply of fresh clean water must be available.
- The salts lost in sweat should be replaced in the form of electrolytes in the diet; these body salts are vital for nerve and muscle function.
- Thorough warming up before executing strenuous or difficult exercises will ensure adequate blood supply to the muscles and minimise the rise of injury.
- Thorough cooling down after exercise will help the circulation remove the toxic waste products of exercise (for example, lactic acid) and reduce muscle stiffness.
- Allowing the horse periods of relaxation and stretching during work will help to prevent tension. When muscles are held in tension (think how your shoulders feel after a stressful drive) the blood supply is inadequate to remove waste products which accumulate and increase the risk of injury and stiffness.
- Regular shoeing to keep the horse’s feet in balance will ensure that the joints of the limb remain in correct alignment and that the forces generated during work are transmitted up the limb in a way that minmises the risk of injury.
Points of the horse (Fig. 1.2)
Familiarity with the surface anatomy of the horse is important so that underlying structures can be identified. The horse has evolved over many thousands of years from a small fox-like creature with four toes on each foot to the animal it is today with a single hoof at the end of each limb. Figure 1.2 shows the points of the horse in detail.
The skeleton (Fig. 1.3)
The skeleton is the framework that supports and protects the soft tissues of the horse’s body. In Fig. 1.2 many bony areas lying below the skin are identified. Figure 1.3 shows the positions of the bones that give rise to some of the points of the horse.
Functions of the skeleton
- The skeleton is made of bone.
- Bone protects soft tissue; for example, the skull encloses and protects the brain, and the vertebral column encloses and protects the spinal cord.
- Skeletal muscles are attached to bones via tendons to enable movement.
- Bone is a living tissue with a supply of blood and nerves.
- Bones meet and articulate at joints that vary in their ability to move.
- The ends of the bones making up movable joints are covered by cartilage, allowing them to slide smoothly over one another.
- Ligaments bind bone to bone, supporting the joints.
- The interior of the joint is lubricated by synovial fluid which is secreted by the membrane covering the cartilage at the ends of the bones.