In this first of a four-part series, Dr Gerd Heuschmann begins his exploration of how the horse works with a focus on joints. Parts 2,3,& 4 focus on other aspects including horses’ feet, and back and are available for everyone signed up to the Equitopia membership program.
LET’S GET STARTED
I would like to begin by looking at the joint – I could take the lung or I could take the heart and make the same point, but a joint works very well to illustrate what I want to say.
What do we need to have in a joint? We need at least two bones. We need a joint capsule, we need the cartilage and we need the fluid inside. So here is my question – how do the cells within the joint get their nutrition? The blood?
There are some tissues in the body which have no direct blood supply – in this case, the cartilage, and it is also the case in the tendon tissue. As many of you know, if you take a small piece of cartilage and put it under the microscope, you will see many big round cells. Living cells that have to deal with the stress that we place on our sporthorses. And the horses with the lowest level of stress, the dressage horses, are where we have the biggest problems.
Where does the cartilage get its food from? There are only two possibilities. The first is that it is transported through the bone, or the other possibility is the synovial fluid. Now we have the interesting question – how do you get anything into this hard, smooth, elastic tissue? It is the so-called ‘swamp’ principle. When you have the weight bearing phase in the movement of the horse’s leg, the cartilage is pushed together, the waste is pushed out, when you have a loose horse, and the swinging phase, this creates a vacuum in the joint, and the cartilage sucks in the nutrient.
Let’s think about the Zebra walking 19 hours a day. The joint nutrition is perfect, pressing out, sucking in, pressing out. This is how the cartilage lives.
HORSES NEED TO MOVE!
Now think about a horse in Europe, twenty three and a half hours in the stable. This is what makes the veterinarians wealthy!
The horse is built to move. It was interesting the dressage trainer, Jean Bemelmans says he takes his horses out at least three or four times a day, that the horses move their bodies at least four hours a day.
As vets, we earn most of our money from bad riding and from horses being kept in the stable.
What is the first sign for the rider or the trainer, that there is something wrong with the cartilage in the joint? What would you do, if you were the cartilage and you recognized that the nutrition level is too low – it doesn’t get enough to eat? Increase the pressure in the joint – and then you get wind galls.
Suddenly our wonderful dressage horse gets wind galls. If you ask the young professional riders where the windgalls come from, they have crazy ideas, diet, whatever. But they come from a lack of movement, they come because horses spend too many hours in the stables.
Make the veterinarians poor – take the horses out of the stables!
Part 2 of this post may be accessed by members at this link.
IN CASE YOU’RE INTERESTED:
Gerd Heuschmann’s course: ‘Equine Biomechanics: Head and Neck Position’ is available for purchase in the store. Find out more at this link.
You may also be interested in a course, developed by internationally acclaimed veterinarian Dr Carol Gillis – Equine Healing And Rehabilitation Of Tendon And Ligament Injuries – A Basic Introduction. Find out more at this link.
All our courses carry a 10% discount for everyone signed up to the Equitopia membership program.