Podcast Episode 25: Downhill vs. uphill

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You know, when I walk or run, uphill is not my favorite. So you can imagine my surprise when a client told me her horse hates to go downhill.

I mean, downhill is the easy direct, isn’t it?

Hear more about the three items to check when your horse is reluctant to go downhill.

Renee Tucker, DVM

Links Mentioned:
Suspension Wiggle

Renee (00:00)
Hello, friends. Dr. Renee Tucker here. Hey, today I want to talk to you about kind of a weird one. What do you do if a horse does not want to go downhill, just walking or trotting, but they were reluctant to go downhill?

Renee (00:15)
Well, here’s three things that you can think about and check. The first one is going to be navicular problems. As I’m sure you know, the navicular is in the back of the front foot where the heel bulbs would be, so that’s in all the feet, okay? But typically, the front feet can get sore if there’s no navicular issues, and they’ll be sore in the heels. So the horse then does not want to put the weight on the heels, which they do more so when they’re going downhill.

Renee (00:44)
So that would be something for your vet to check. The second thing would be stifle issues. This is a little bit similar to us if we have sore knees, because the stifle, which is in the hind legs, is analogous to our knee. So, like, there’s a kneecap and all that kind of stuff. So the stifle is like trying to go downhill or us trying to walk downstairs with sore knees.

Renee (01:11)
It just isn’t comfortable. Okay, so stifles is the second thing that we check. And then the third thing and something you can check yourself would be the lumbar or the low back area. If the lumbar is stiff and sticky and just won’t bend or flex, well, the horse needs to flex the lumbar to talk the butt under, to get those hind legs further forward underneath the body to go downhill. So if the lumber won’t do, that horse is like, I can’t even make this work.

Renee (01:49)
I have seen horses turn themselves literally 100% sideways. So, yes, they’re 90 degrees down the hill, and they’re moving laterally downhill rather than just walking down the hill. Seems like a whole lot more work, but if you can’t do it going straight, you can’t do it. And they make themselves figure it out. The 90 degree more is pretty impressive.

Renee (02:16)
Plenty of horses bend themselves a little bit, or they curve their body a little bit to try to get that comfy spot so they can make it. But if they’re doing that kind of stuff, you want to check the lumbar. I know a lot of people are going to say, oh, it’s the Hawks. It’s the Hawks. Sure, the Hawks can be part of the mix, but I really find that the lumbar is way more of a major problem for horses who are reluctant to go downhill.

Renee (02:41)
So you can certainly check this yourself. There’ll be a link to our normal Thoracic lumbar wiggle video, where basically you just wiggle the horse’s back. It should wiggle kind of like a dog when they wag their tail. It should wiggle right to left evenly, and you could just wiggle it yourself. And if it can’t go wiggle side to side, it also cannot tuck under.

Renee (03:10)
So that’s a big deal for going downhill. And actually, it’s a big deal for everything. If you want any kind of collection or impulsion, you need that lumbar to be able to just tuck under that little bit so that the hind end can transfer all that power through it, through the back to get beautiful power movement. All right? So in summary, if you have any kind of reluctance to go downhill, you’re going to check the navicular issues, you’re going to check the stifles, and you’re going to do the lumbar wiggle to make sure that that low back is working.

Renee (03:43)
Okay? I think that is it for today. I’ll talk to you later.

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