You and Your Horse

Finding your own way with horses

Basics about anatomy and biomechanics – Part 2: 
The importance of the hindquarters

Posted by in All, Lungeing

Basics about anatomy and biomechanics – Part 2: 
The importance of the hindquarters

In the first part of this series we had a look at the back of the horse. We learned that a raised back very much depends on the engagement of the hindquarters.

The musculature of the croup is pulling backwards at the major back muscle and hence helps to raise the back only if the horse engages his hindquarters and steps well under his body. If you want to evaluate “good” or “bad” movement in horses, one major point to observe and consider is how engaged the hindquarters are.

The anatomy of a horse defines how far the hindquarters can step under its body. The length of the back and the shape of the croup play a role just as much as the angles of the haunches. Hence, it is generally not possible to say that a horse that tracks up (stepping with the hind feet into the marks the forefeet have just left on the ground) is moving correctly. Many horses are easily able to over-track one or two hoof-lengths while some horses have to step well under their body in order to track up. Look at the engagement of the hindquarters and try to get a feel for it:

  • Does the movement look supple and fluent?
  • Is there energy without restraining tension in the movement?
  • Or does the movement look restrained, stiff, short?
  • Do both of the hind legs step equally far under the body?

For clarification purposes here are some pictures of the Quarter Horse mare Starlet. I would like to say a big thank you to Teresa for letting us use these pictures of her mare who sadly passed away due to a severe colic shortly after these pictures had been taken.

Starlet is moving with short stepping hind legs; you can clearly see a large space between the fore- and hind foot:


The hind legs lag behind the body, the back is not raised:


Here you can see, too, how little Starlet is stepping forward:


A horse that is using her hind legs in such a manner moves on the forehand, which is detrimental in the long run!

In contrast, here a few pictures of active hindquarters:




The lowering of the croup and hence the raising effect for the horse’s back are, on the one hand, influenced by how far the hindquarters are stepping forward underneath the horse’s body. On the other hand it depends on the bending of the haunches. This is what we will talk about in the next part of this series.

(Translated by Gesine Jiménez Martínez)

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