Want to know how to assess the level of asymmetry of your horse? Why does asymmetry appear and why is it important to control? What do you do so that the movements of the horse become more symmetrical? And when do you call the veterinarian?
About the Webinar
Perhaps all of these questions are among riders’ most popular questions – along with questions about diagnosing and preventing lameness of the horse. And to find answers to them, we held a webinar together with the author and developer of the Equestic horse movement quality assessment sensor, Leon Rutten, and George Williams, President of the U.S. Dressage Federation (www.usdf.org), a consultant on the development of dressage in the United States, the coach of the US youth dressage team and a member of the FEI Dressage Committee.
In this article, we will give only brief notes from the online webinar that took place on January 27, 2022, but you have the opportunity to watch it in full in English at this link. This will allow you to process and make your own conclusions!
Why is symmetry so important
Everyone who is engaged in horseback riding often talks about the symmetry of movements. But, judging by the questions asked by Equestic users, not everyone understands why this is so important in detail. Leon spoke about what asymmetry is, why it occurs, and the negative consequences it can lead to: distortion in the harmony of muscle development, shifting the position of the joints, and overloading of the ligaments. This can all lead to injuries.
As in the last webinar (see the webinar recording about the capabilities of the Equestic sensor from December 18, 2021), Leon provided a lot of unique statistics about the average level of asymmetry during individual trainings. He also provided details about the increase in symmetry levels coupled with the level of horse. But, the most interesting for the participants was the information about the typical asymmetry patterns. The Equestic application graphs are based on the analysis of real rides with the SaddleClip.
Leon said that even though the movements of each horse are unique, and each training session is unique in its exercises, the “mood”, which is the physical state of the horse and rider – it was possible to identify 5 typical models that are clearly defined by the symmetry graphs of Equestic.
Thanks to the data of the SaddleClip sensor and algorithms for their analysis, each user of Equestic gets its own unique pattern of symmetry for each ride. Understanding the structure of the graph, even a cursory glance at the picture, is enough to understand what the condition of the horse was during the training.
Here are just a few examples – for more details see the webinar recording at the link.
For example, this is a graph of perfect symmetry for all three symmetry parameters: tempo (step duration), landing and push-off forces. The graphs of the left diagonal (light green) and right diagonal (dark green) are almost completely symmetric and overlap one on top of another. Such trainings aren’t found often :).
A young horse
Another typical graph is how a young horse’s symmetry may look like – it can move symmetrically but is not yet very consistent – as you can see the base of the graphs of both diagonals is stretched along the entire vertical axis – in this case, reflecting the repulsive force. That is, this horse in this training was characterized by a high inconsistency of the push-off force of both diagonals: sometimes the horse pushed weakly at the level of 1G (G – this is designation of the force of gravity) – barely lifting the legs from the ground, other time with 2-3 times more power.
Another interesting picture shows the uneven development of muscles or the presence of a limitation in the motion capabilities of a horse. Such an asymmetry of only 7% is practically invisible to the human eye. But an experienced rider can feel some difference while sitting in the saddle. However, it is very difficult to determine what exactly is the reason without the Equestic sensor, even for professional athletes.
According to Equestic statistics, asymmetry of up to 7% appears for many horses from time to time. By itself, it is not a signal of an injury or other problem. For example, it appears when a horse learns new or difficult exercises, but in this case the level of asymmetry decreases over some time and returns to normal for the horse.
It’s interesting to note that for most horses, the normal asymmetry is 3-5%, which can fluctuate from training to training by 2-3% in either direction. This is natural, because horses – like us, are slightly not symmetrical. But if the usual level of asymmetry for a horse begins to increase and crosses the border of 9% and continues to grow, this is definitely a cause for concern. We need to understand the reasons – perhaps this is because of the workload that the trainer gives the horse, its level or not balanced on the left and right side. Other possibilities are that the horse received a hidden injury – which now restricts its movements.
If it is possible to accurately measure the symmetry of movements in different training conditions, you can quickly identify the cause, without waiting until the asymmetry becomes the problem.
The trend is most important
That is why Leon recommends closely monitoring the trend of symmetry charts. Any deviation from normal dynamics will be immediately noticeable. In addition, all users of the Equestic sensor receive regular training analysis. If there are signs of rapid growth of asymmetry, the application itself will send a notification to the horse owner about the appearance of risk and inform which parameters cause concern.
Assessing asymmetry is very important but knowing the data alone will not make your horse more symmetrical. You must implement exercises to help and seek help from your trainer if possible. George Williams is also using the Equestic SaddleClip with students to assess the effect of the exercises and to monitor the progress in preparation for competitions. He shared his experience of the sensor and gave advice on the use of basic exercises to develop the symmetry of movements for dressage horses.
Advice from George
George said that with the help of the Equestic sensor, they were able to solve the problem of asymmetry with one of the horses – which showed a large asymmetry (about 11%). It turned out that it depends on the rhythm the rider moved the horse, and at a certain rhythm the asymmetry increased significantly. Having found out this pattern, it was possible to significantly improve the situation by working with the optimal rhythm.
Separately, George noted the value of the Equestic SaddleClip when used to work with students and carry out what is happening with their training visually. Sometimes it’s very difficult to explain to a rider what exactly needs to be done differently to achieve the result in a way they understand. The use of the Equestic graphs helped to convey this so that the student understood and corrected the situation.
The interview with George Williams was prepared and conducted by one of his students – Francesca Toms, who has an Eventing background of 12-years. She is leading the Equestic Business Development in the United States.
Watch the recording
We recommend you watch the webinar recording and will be happy to answer your questions. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us direct on Instagram.