Leading Joint Care for the perfect Take-off

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A show jumping career sees the horse jump fences of varying height and width from a variety of angles, lengthening and shortening their stride, accelerating and decelerating and turning sharply whilst maintaining balance at speed. Do you know that subtle changes in the way in which your horse approaches their fences may provide vital clues about underlying issues before major problems develop?

Biomechanically, the approach and take off to a jump are critical to the success of raising the horse’s centre of gravity high enough so that all limbs clear the fence. The path of the horse over each fence is determined by the vertical, horizontal and propulsive forces generated by the limbs in the approach and take-off to a jump. In the approach, the forelimbs brake suddenly which results in a directional change from horizontal to vertical to adequately raise the forehand, and the hindlimbs generate the propulsive forces for take-off and clearance.

At take-off, there are great demands placed on the supporting soft tissues of the forelimbs and maximum flexion of the hock joints and hyperextension of the hind fetlock joints. Take-off puts greater strain on the trailing forelimb compared to the leading forelimb. On landing the forelimbs receive considerable loading as they support the entire weight of the horse. There is hyperextension of the fetlock and coffin joints and strain on the flexor tendons and suspensory ligaments. Again, landing puts greater strain on the trailing forelimb than the leading forelimb. Joint health and soft tissue integrity are crucial for success.

Forces experienced by the limbs and the demands placed on the joints and soft tissues are further influenced by surface conditions, the use of studs and the height and width of the fences faced, and speeds travelled.

Horses with subclinical lameness due to joint or soft tissue problems may exhibit increased resistance on one rein, change legs behind in canter, be reluctant to perform flying changes to one side or the other, show a preference for one canter lead going into or landing after a fence, rush or refuse fences, jump to one side, have difficulty making distances through combinations, incur uncharacteristic jumping or time penalties or be less competitive on certain surfaces. They may also be more susceptible to back pain. Being aware of the potential significance of these changes may alert you to an underlying issue.

Training and rider ability are also critical. Training greatly influences aerobic capacity and muscular strength, take-off and landing distances, bascule and the height of the forelimbs above the fence. The rider’s ability also has a large influence on the horse, exerting measurable effects on the horse’s centre of gravity, change in velocity, acceleration, biomechanics and jumping performance. Hence, training and rider ability have important implications for soundness.

The demands of competition and training make the horse susceptible to chronic muscle soreness, soft tissue injuries, fatigue, joint inflammation, osteoarthritis and related pain induced behavioural changes. A carefully planned training program that gradually builds in intensity and duration is required. Additionally, prophylactic joint care, and veterinary assistance when any problems arise will help maintain your athlete in peak condition and limit lost training and competition days. Speak to your veterinarian about utilising the protective properties of EPIITALIS® FORTE in your showjumper’s joint care program.

The types of injuries that jumping horses are prone to reflects the unique demands of the sport on the horse’s musculoskeletal system. Appropriate training, expert coaching of the rider, careful attention to horse health and joint care together with an understanding of the unique demands that jumping places on your horse will provide the best chance of a long and competitive athletic career.

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