You and Your Horse

Finding your own way with horses

Basics about anatomy and biomechanics – Part 3: 
Bending the haunches

Posted by in All, Health, Lungeing

Basics about anatomy and biomechanics – Part 3: 
Bending the haunches

When talking about the bend of the haunches we are talking about the flexion of the large joints of the hindquarters:

  • Hip joint
  • Stifle joint
  • Tarsal (hock) joint

The more the horse flexes these joints, the more collected he will be.

What happens while in collection

A collected horse will shift his center of gravity backwards, hence the forehand will be lifted and becomes lighter and the back is raised. The horse appears somewhat “shorter” and balanced on the hindquarters. Only if this is the case, we can see truly bent haunches and, hence, engaged hindquarters. Don’t let yourself be fooled; there are horses that have the ability to step far under the body but still do not raise their backs. If you have a closer look, you will see that the haunches are not engaged in these cases.

Engaged haunches means lowered hindquarters

In this picture you can see clearly how Aramis is bending and engaging his haunches in the canter – he lowers the hindquarters, the forehand is raised, the poll remains the highest point:


In these two pictures you can see the difference between a young green horse and a horse that is already more advanced in training:


In the first pictures you can see Anthony basically “falling apart”, he canters “into the ground”, the haunches are not engaged, the back is dropped. In the second picture you see the canter of Aramis being much more collected. There is a clear bend in the haunches which helps him to step far under his body. The back is raised and he looks like he canters “uphill”.

Collection is exhausting

The musculature of the horse’s hindquarters consists mainly of fleshy musculature which is only little interspersed with tendons. That is why collection is very tiring for the horse and has to be trained very carefully. Imagine you are supposed to carry a heavy backpack with your knees bent – that wouldn’t be a piece of cake, would it?

Besides the hindquarters there is the forehand which also plays a role in the evaluation of a horse’s movement. The freedom of shoulder movement, head and neck position, but especially the suppleness of the head/ arm musculature is crucial in this respect. This will be in the focus of our next blog post.

(Translated by Gesine Jiménez Martínez)

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