Detecting Imbalances: What You Can Learn from Listening to Your Horse's Footfalls #59

#auditory awareness #brain training #debono moves #equinemovement #ras reticular activating system #sensory acuity Feb 06, 2024


You may pay attention to how your horse looks and feels, but do you notice how your horse SOUNDS?

Listening to your horse's footfalls can help you detect imbalances in your horse's movement and posture. And catching such imbalances early, while they're hardly noticeable, may prevent them from turning into more serious problems.

In this episode, Mary will explain what it may mean if your horse's footfalls sound uneven. 

And you'll learn why intentionally listening to your horse can strengthen your ability to notice when something is "not quite right" with your horse.  And help you take steps to guide your horse back to balanced, healthy movement.


Link mentioned in podcast: Healing Sweet Pea's Suspensory Ligament.  🐴


 💥Sign up here for free classes and be among the first to know when we open the doors to our online group coaching program, Move with Your Horse! 💥


Easily improve your movement and position in our FREE rider masterclass.

Feldenkrais® for Riders videos:

All information is for general educational purposes ONLY and doesn't constitute medical or veterinary advice. Please consult a qualified healthcare provider if you or your horse are unwell or injured. 


Hello. Today I wanna share with you something that's simple and really important that you're probably not doing with your horse. And once you hear it, you're gonna think, why haven't I been doing that all along? Why didn't anyone tell me about this before? Here's what it is. Well, let me give you the backstory. I just got off a call,

a zoom call with a client, one-on-one session, and one of the things she was telling me was that the, her horse had a club foot on the left front and attended an injury on the right front. So, you know, right away my brain starts thinking about, well, is it because the horse was compensating for the clubfoot and overusing that the right front,

et cetera, which it may very well be, but, but here's the thing. Most people don't think to simply listen to how their horse is walking or trotting or cantering for that matter. But if you just really get quiet and you take your horse somewhere where you can hear the footfalls. So if it's safe to walk your horse on concrete or asphalt or really hard pack,

something where you can hear the horse, and this is true whether your horse is barefoot or shod, by the way, love doing this with barefoot horses. So you have to, you know, you have to listen. But I can tell you so much about body habits that your horse may have, like movement habits of loading one leg or one side,

or one diagonal pair more than the others. So I'll, I'll give you another example. So I was working with this horse some time ago. Big, very, very expensive, warm blood. He was having some kind of issue, they weren't sure what it was. They had several vets involved, different therapists, et cetera, et cetera. And then,

then they asked me to come look at the horse. And first thing I did was not to look at the horse, but to listen to the horse. And I mean by, by that, I asked the groom to take the horse somewhere where I could hear his footfalls. And then I noticed right away, oh wow, his left hind is hardly making a sound compared to the other three feet.

And the owner was there, she just couldn't believe it. Like she had, nobody had ever thought to do that, to listen to the horse's sound of the footfalls. And that uncovered a problem that we were able to treat the horse properly, et cetera, et cetera. The horse went on to be great. So, well, the horse was already great,

but went on to be able to be more comfortable and athletic and all that stuff. So here's the thing. This is the way that I usually teach you how to do this. You take your horse again, somewhere where you can hear the footfalls. You just walk next to your horse and listen, don't look. So at this point of the process,

don't look At your horse, okay? Just listen. Just listen. Maybe even have someone else walk your horse, have someone else walk your horse and just listen. So in that, if you have someone else walk your horse, you can close your eyes and just listen and just notice, does it sound even or is there like one foot that's heavier or way lighter than the others?

Or again, it could be two, you know? And then, okay, so you may have noticed something interesting, or you may not, you might think, I don't know, it sounds or sounds even to me. That's fine. Just simply by asking the question of your brain, you're starting to get your r a s, your razz, your reticular activating system,

which is part of your brain to start to notice that. And this is what's so cool about it. If you do this exercise once in a while, and again, you're training your brain that, that RAS that r a s to notice these things. So then one day you might just be walking your horse, not thinking about this at all, and you think something doesn't seem right,

doesn't feel right. And what it is, is your brain has picked up, there's some discrepancy in your horse's footfall. What I love about this is it can help you prevent a problem. So instead of getting to the point where your horse is constantly overusing one limb and then ends up with a tendon or ligament injury or muscle strain or whatever, you can,

you can notice it ahead of time. Okay? So it's really, really nice to do this. And then again, okay, so I had you listening to your horse, not looking. Now you can look, you, you do all the things you notice not only just the sound, you know, that the horse is making, but, but look now look and see are the,

the hooves coming down in the same way. Like sometimes I'll notice something that's so subtle, so subtle, and it's like a little, like, there's like a little extra step, I'll call it like a little movement in the fetlock that's different from one leg to the other. Or sometimes I see it in both, but it's not something you see in all horses.

I'll put it that way. And often that can proceed an issue. So if I can bring it to the person's attention, they can talk to their vet, or I could help the horse with that myself, then we're all good. So again, we're looking to prevent as much as possible any, you know, overuse injuries. Because what happens is,

again, we get into habits, horses get into habits the same way we do. So we start to load one leg or one pair of legs more than the other. And over time, that leads to damage. And you know, all stiffness, even on one side, sometimes horses are, you know, just stiffer. It's very common, right?

That there's like a more flexible side and a stiffer side, and people just take it for granted that that's the way horses are. But a lot of times we can really drill down, we can really notice subtle things and then help the horse so that they can be more flexible on either side. Now you're probably gonna wonder, okay, Mary, what do I do if I do notice it?

Well, then you gotta come back here and talk to me, because seriously, I do teach this in my programs, you know, how to, how to then help the horse load their limbs in a healthier way, a more, you know, where the, the weight, the effort is distributed more appropriately. But I'm gonna tell you this so I can't get into all the details.

Now with that, just start to listen to your horse, look at your horse. Notice things again, you're training your brain then to pick this up even on an unconscious level. But anyway, so, so don't worry about how to, how to solve the, the, the, the issue. What I will say though is please don't think that you're supposed to like force your horse onto the leg.

That's lighter. That will backfire big time. So please don't do it. Also, if your horse currently has an injury that they're dealing with, whether you know it's a soft tissue injury, whether, you know, there's, there's a, an issue with the foot like, you know, laminitis or something like that, of course they're going to be loading that leg,

you know, softer. And we want that. We want them to be able to protect that until they heal. What I'm talking about is when it becomes a habit, and I see this over and over again, becomes a habit that long after the injury has healed, they're still loading one leg, maybe not as obviously, but they're still loading it more than,

than it should be. And then that can lead to damage over time. I see this so much as a matter of fact, what I'm going to do is I'll put a link as well that you can find a blog post I wrote about this, about a horse that had a chronic suspensory ligament injury, which I, again, I see this all the time.

This is, this is one I'm I wrote about, but I see it pretty commonly, and it was due to this uneven limb loading. Okay? And I detail how I helped her get over that. And then the leg could heal where it was not healing prior to that, despite all the wonderful veterinary care she had. Okay? So that's your assignment if you choose to accept it.

Let me review real quick. You're going to simply listen, put, you know, walk your horse on hard enough ground that you could hear the footfalls, and you're going to listen to your horse and you're gonna notice. And don't worry if you don't notice differences, like you might think I just, maybe I'm just not, you know, don't have the sensory acuity to notice just by asking the question,

you're training your brain to pay attention. So then you combine looking with listening and you just notice, notice the sound, notice the contact that the hoof makes. Notice if there's any other, any sometimes very subtle differences between what one leg is doing compared to the other. Okay? Then you notice that again, you're training your brain so that then you can take action.

You can help your horse stay healthy, right? And be the most, the happiest, the healthiest that they can be. Okay? So, and you know why? Because you and your horse deserve to feel great together. Okay? Thank you so much for joining me. I look forward to talking to you again. Bye for now.