SPOT­TING TROU­BLED HOCKS

EQUUS - - Eq Handson -

“His hocks hurt” is a com­mon ex­pla­na­tion for a why a horse, par­tic­u­larly an older one, isn’t mov­ing well. But it’s not al­ways easy to tell if hock pain is the cause of gait trou­bles.

Painful hocks, un­less re­lated to an in­jury or spe­cific pathol­ogy, typ­i­cally cause sym­met­ri­cal or nearly sym­met­ri­cal changes in the gait, with the horse tak­ing shorter strides than nor­mal with his hind legs. Hock pain can also cause a con­sis­tent “hitch” in a horse’s stride; in­stead of the can­non bone smoothly arc­ing down to­ward the ground at the end of the stride, it will pause abruptly

at the same place in each step. This is more no­tice­able on the in­side hind leg when the horse is work­ing on a cir­cle.

An­other way to de­tect hock pain is to look at the rest of the horse’s body. Hock trou­ble is of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by sore­ness in the lum­bar area of the spine and at the top of the croup. This is caused by the back mus­cles work­ing dif­fer­ently to ac­com­mo­date pain in the

hocks. The two ar­eas are re­lated: Back pain ac­cel­er­ates hock is­sues, and hock is­sues can give a horse a sore back.

Notic­ing these signs takes prac­tice. Start watch­ing var­i­ous horses to see if you can spot sore hocks. But don’t get para­noid. Some mild hock stiff­ness is nor­mal in older horses and is rarely a lim­it­ing is­sue in those not work­ing at the high­est level of com­pe­ti­tion.

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