The Equine Balance Equation:
What It Is And Why It's Important To You and Your Horse
Where there is balance, there is harmony. In this text, harmony refers to the horse and rider moving freely, naturally, and balanced, without having to compensate for pain or discomfort. The Equine Balance Equation consists of four basic elements that, when added together, will produce a well-balanced horse and rider. The Equine Balance Equation: Balanced Teeth + Balanced Feet + Balanced Muscles + A Balanced Rider = A Balanced Horse. A balanced horse is a secure horse to ride, capable of performing at higher levels of competition than an unbalanced horse of equal talent.
Balanced teeth, or effective equine dentistry, is a cornerstone in horse health. A horse's welfare and his very survival depend on a healthy and properly functioning mouth. This is a commonly neglected area, largely because it is hidden from view. A horse plagued with mouth discomfort will not eat properly, cannot efficiently digest his food and will fight the bit and his rider looking for an escape. Not only does poor dental care cause mouth pain, it also causes TMJ sensitivity or poll pain. Every horse owner should have a basic understanding of the dental needs of the horse, why routine dental care is necessary and how to check a horse for proper grind and balance. A knowledgeable owner can ask an equine dentist specific questions, understand explanations and actively participate in the decision making process if extensive work is recommended.
Hooves are the base of the horse. Though more visible than the teeth, the feet are often overlooked and misunderstood. Their solid, tough appearance can be deceiving. To recognize balanced hooves, owners must first have an understanding of how the hoof functions, the purpose of each component, how these components work together and what a well-trimmed hoof should look like. Owners need to be aware of the warning signs a hoof, leg or shoulder may display indicating a problem. Hoof/ muscle damage is usually slow to occur and it is always slow to heal. An informed and diligent owner can prevent the consequences a horse may suffer due to improperly maintained hooves.
Balanced musculature equals balanced movement. With improperly balanced musculature comes dysfunctional movement. In order for a horse to be balanced, his muscular structure must be symmetrical. If his left side is over-developed compared to his right side, the horse is asymmetrical. He is either compensating to avoid discomfort/ pain or he is not equally exercised to produce well-balanced muscles. Asymmetrical muscle development can result from an imbalance in another aspect of the horse’s make-up. For example, if the front hooves are trimmed at different angles, the muscle development in the front legs and shoulders will be asymmetrical. Imbalance can also be caused by asymmetrical muscle development. Example, racehorses predominantly run to the left, over-developing the muscles on the left side. Owner recognition of muscular imbalance is the first step toward equine muscular symmetry. Doing something about it is the second step.
A Balanced Rider
Riders come in all conditions, shapes, and sizes. One little rider can make or break a champion. If the horse’s rider is unbalanced (i.e. more weight in one stirrup than the other), the horse is forced to compensate for this imbalance, since he is expected to move forward and straight. Stiffness and muscle soreness may result, which produces an unbalanced horse. A horse’s reluctance or inability to bend, extend or collect may be a direct result of the rider’s poor posture or lack of attention to detail.
Balance is a key aspect in successful horsemanship, no matter what your chosen discipline. Realize that obtaining balance does not replace the need for training and practice. It does, however, provide the necessary foundation for you and your horse to work together as a single unit and pursue your dreams. A balanced horse is a free-moving creature, unhampered by the outside influences he is subject to, due to domestication.
A four-part series will be presented in subsequent NHM issues to cover in depth each of these basic elements concerning equine balance.
About the author:
Beth Brown is an Equine Dental Technician practicing a 'natural style' of horse dentistry, primarily using hand tools and patience to float/ balance horses' teeth. She researches and practices barefoot trimming and natural horsemanship-style training. She currently lives in Lancaster, PA and helps care for 14 horses, 21 dogs and a wide variety of critters on her family's farm. Questions or comments are welcome.
B-B Equine Dentistry, LLC