CASE STUDY: WINTER 2018
SCUFFING TOE, DELAYED IN BRINGING HIND LEG FORWARD
A client called me to look at her horse because he was scuffing his left hind toe and had a loss of power in the same hind leg. When I watched him walk in a straight line away from me he was scuffing his toe and carrying his left hind leg slightly to the outside of his body. He was also delayed in bringing the entire leg forward and under his body.
Interpretation of Gait Analysis at Walk:
My first thoughts were to assume if this problem in motion was of a muscular nature then it appeared to be related to the lower end of the Biceps Femoris which is the lower hamstring. The lower end of the hamstring basically flexes the stifle and extends the hip.
Breakdown of Muscular Problem:
All muscles contract and release. They only pull. It is the release process of the muscle that is effected by muscle tightness. When thinking about this particular muscle problem, one needs to break down the motions created by this section of the hamstring.
1.When the lower end of the Biceps Femoris flexes the stifle, meaning, bending the knee (stifle), then if it is tight, it will not release properly to extend the knee (stifle). If the muscle does not release easily, then when bringing the hind leg forward the horse will scuff his toe because the leg must extend in one phase of the stride. His toe will scuff because he is not completely free to easily extend the leg forward at the walk.
2. If it is the job of the muscle to extend the hip, then the same principle of the release process applies. It is the release process that is effected by muscle tightness. If the hip can extend, but the hamstring is tight, then flexion of the hip will be harder to do because the muscle cannot release fully to bring the hind leg forward.
I palpated all of the major muscles of the horse and found a significant spasm at the lower end of the hamstring behind the stifle muscles on the left side. I applied direct pressure, cross fiber friction and compressions to this area all of the techniques of the Wilson Meagher Method of Sportsmassage. I released the spasm and general muscle tightness. I asked the client to jog the horse away from me in hand to be certain the muscle tightness was reflective of a deeper structural problem. Then I had the client walk the horse in a straight line and he was no longer scuffing his toe and he was able to swing his leg forward under his body with ease.
It is the ease of motion that gives a horse their balance, coordination, reflexes, endurance and safety. Simple muscle tightness can compromise these critical requirements for good motion and performance.