Do Dogs turn like Horses?

Show Jumping with horses and Agility with dogs have obvious similarities – but there are areas of real difference when it comes to capability between dogs and horses, and the ability to turn after jumping is one of them.

Equine vets are used to seeing injuries caused by twisting and turning in horses, because horses, unlike dogs, are not built to tuck into a ball or curl up, or bend nose to tail. The horse cannot bend his back or spine in this manner. Jump horses have to be taught to bend.

  • Horses are more at risk from injury through turning than dogs.
  • The horse’s spine is much less flexible – a horse cannot arch its back to help with propulsion. This is because the dorsal spinous processes of the horse (the bits that stick out of the top of the vertebrae) are closer together than in the dog and are taller, making the back much stiffer.
  • The dog’s transverse processes (the part that sticks out to the side of the spinal column) in the loin area have a greater degree of separation. This allows considerably more side to side flexibility in the dog than in the horse.
  • The dog has 13 ribs and the horse has 18. Generally the loin of the dog is proportionately much longer than that of the horse, allowing much more flexibility.
  • The dog’s front leg has a separate radius and ulna, allowing the leg to rotate along its axis and help the dog make fast turns. In contrast, in the horse the radius and ulna are fused in the foreleg, impeding the horse’s ability to make sharp turns.

From: Zink & Daniels, Jumping from A to Z, 2005: Patricia Gilbert 2005; independently validated by H.John BSc MA VetMB MRCVS)

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