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Cuckson Report | April 17, 2017
You don’t need to be much of a horseman to know that if you persistently and rigorously work an unsound horse, it will break.
Now, though, we have compelling scientific evidence that the intensive training techniques and high competition speeds typical of Middle East (FEI group 7) endurance have a direct impact on bone fatigue and the Catastrophic Injury (CI) – a term unique to endurance lexicon.
Distinguished veterinarians Tim Parkin (GB) and Chris Whitton (Australia) presented their long-term studies on attrition to the FEI Sports Forum in Lausanne. Whether their findings result in yet more endurance rules or change in group 7 mind-set remains to be seen.
Sadly, the conference chamber was not exactly awash with endurance practitioners – let’s hope more were watching online. Worryingly, Sheikh Khalid of Bahrain – which he flippantly described one of the “naughty” countries – said towards the end of the bone fatigue Q &A that he thought Whitton was recommending longer rest periods between LOOPS during a ride. In fact, Whitton was clearly urging an even longer mandatory rest period between RIDES.
Still the evidence that speed kills was there in print; and also in monochrome. Whitton produced disturbing visuals of “deforming” bones to illustrate that natural bone repair likes to follow its own schedule. A naturally-repairing bone adapts to the horse’s usual type of work; so galloping a horse who is just back from injury when he is more used to trotting causes more damage, and vice versa. With every stride a horse is one step closer to bone fatigue: ergo, the skilful horseman will do only the bare minimum needed to keep the horse competition-fit.
The stresses on bones were a shocker. Whitton said that the load on the fetlock joint walking at 4kph is 0.8 tonnes; trotting at 13 kph is 2.3 tonnes; cantering at 27 kph is 2.6 tonnes and galloping at 48 kph is 4 tonnes. Endurance is getting ever faster in the desert. In an end-of-season CEN in Dubai, one front-runner had a final loop average of nearly 41kph. No wonder legs are snapping right left and centre...
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