Thursday, September 18, 2008

I Watch in 4/4 Time

Any fans of The Weakerthans out there? They are a sweet little Canadian band that you should check out if you like clever folky rocky music. The lyric "I wait in 4/4 time" from their song "Left and Leaving" has been running through my head for the past two days.

Now that I'm convinced Tonka is an ex-pacer I have new insight into the way he moves. Ideally the walk should be a symmetrical four beat gait with equal intervals between hoof strikes. Rear left, front left, rear right, front right -- the equine equivalent of 4/4 time. This is true of Tonka at a slow walk, but when he speeds up his lateral legs begin to strike in near-unison so that the representation above begins to look like this:

I have been trying to put my finger on this fact for the past three months, but it wasn't until I started to watch lateral pair of legs at the walk that I really understood what's going on. Does he do this to minimize pain as his front toes strike? Is it a habit embedded in his muscle memory, or is he still hurting?

6 comments:

Brandy said...

I've noticed it in cats as well, where some are trotters and some are pacers.... I hadn't thought of it as related to how they are feeling so much as a sort of "lefty" or "righty" kind of thing...

With Tonka, it could very well be muscle memory along with breeding... As long as he isn't favoring or rolling his feet or lifting one leg quicker in the rhythm, I would say it's just how he does.... It is intriguing, though!

Funder said...

Oh, that band is pretty good. Thanks!

Gaits, especially at liberty like you're watching Tonka, are almost based on conformation, which is genetic. Sounds like he's just a very pacey horse.

You don't ride him, do you? The pace is a seriously sucky gait to ride. (Silky is very pacey, ugh.)

Anyway, I'm with Brandy. If he's not stabbing the ground with his toes or gimping along, he's almost certainly fine. That's just how he rolls, yo. :)

dp said...

You're right, Brandy -- some dogs also pace at a walk so that they appear to be shuffling along.

And yes, Funder -- Tonka is a pacey horse. I do ride him when I think he's up for it, and he does sometimes pace under saddle when you are asking for a canter. It is not a comfortable gait, but it is fast. If I can get him to canter it is slower than his pace. Some days he still appears to be in pain, and others he seems fine. He is cantering a lot a liberty in the pasture these days, so overall I think he is making progress. It has been 8 months now, and everyone says 18 to 24 for full recovery...

Jess said...

Many times when dogs pace, it's because their conformation is off and it's easier to pace than trot. Pacing eats energy much much faster than trotting, so obviously it's something we try to stay far away from in working breeds. Not sure if that's relevant to horses, but there ya go. :)

dp said...

Interesting. Tilley (my aussie) will pace sometimes if her arthritis is bothering her. Willow (my border collie) never paces, but hardly ever trots either. She either walks, lopes or runs. I used to be concerned about the loping but her hips have been x-rayed twice with no sign of a problems (and she has no other symptoms).

Melanie said...

All I can say is I love that song.