Heartland Back Country Horsemen invited the public to a presentation by Dr. Olin Balch, DVM. at The Connection in New Meadows this last Tuesday evening. He has an excellent reputation with many national and international acclaims as an expert in his field of study.
Dr. Balch gave an outstanding talk on Horse Anatomy and Biomechanics. He started with basic terminology using diagrams on a screen. He delineated the structures of both fore legs and hind legs. He named the bones in the legs pointing out how they correspond to the same in human anatomy. The horse, however walks on his toenails- hooves that is, with the structures of the legs above the hoof providing a fascinating system of extension and flexion for propulsion.
Dr. Balch had an array of freeze dried bone specimens. He described them in detail passing them to all in attendance to handle and inspect closely. Dr. Balch talked about the biomechanics of the structure on the horse’s limbs pointing out the incredible pulley system that creates the energy involved in a horse’s movements. We all have seen the speed and power of a horse at a full gallop, and this presentation gave us insight as to how it happens.
Dr. Balch also showed how the horse’s ‘stay apparatus’ allows him to sleep while standing. There are ligaments that lock the horse’s legs so he can do this. Whether in motion or standing still the horse is a wonder of creation with external beauty we are drawn to.
Dr. Balch started his career with horses as a farrier which gave him a foundation leading to his excellent knowledge as a veterinarian. He talked about lameness and what weaknesses in conformation may be the cause. He also pointed out what equine disciplines can damage the structures involved. Many horse sports such as reining, jumping and racing can be particularly stressful depending on the training, conditioning and amount of hours the horse is expected to perform, whereas trail riding sports- recreational and competitive- Endurance and Competitive Trail Riding are more natural to the horse’s biomechanics.
At Heartland Back Country Horsemen riding the trails is what we do. We appreciate how the horse can carry a rider to the top of a mountain. The club is part of a nationwide network of Back Country Horsemen who work with forest entities, including the Forest Service to keep trails available to all user groups. So, the use of horses on the trail and how their anatomy and biomechanics work is of interest to the members.
Those of us who ride horses appreciate not only their beauty, and usefulness for travel in the forest, but also the relationship we develop with them. They are very personable animals that will give their all to do what we ask. Understanding the biomechanics in movement helps us in taking care of them at home in the barnyard as well as how to ride them to the best advantage for both horse and rider.
Dr. Balch gave an excellent talk that both the novice and experienced horsemen learned from. Thank Dr. Balch… see you on the trail soon!