|Somewhere in mankind's continual desire and need to make everything
a bit showier, the idea of parking the horse evolved. Parking correctly
certainly does seem to add an elegance in how we present our horses. Done
incorrectly, in the wrong circumstances it is creating some adverse effects
to our horses.
My goal in this article is to give you a better perspective of how to
identify a park done correctly or incorrectly and what the effects are.
Above are 3 pictures exhibiting different stances of a horse.
1 this horse is being asked to over park. This is a very common
site to see. In most descriptions of the park, (some of which can be found
in rule books) the front legs are to be under the horse (perpendicular
to the ground) with the hinds slightly back.
angle seen in pictures 2 and 3. This is not the only stress presented here. Due to this extension a horse is also stressed through all the tendons and ligaments up the leg.
This is also the case in the hind legs.
In these example drawings I am just using the forelimbs. Please
relate this as well to all the joints, tendons and ligaments in the
front and hind limbs, back,shoulders and hips that are being asked to over
extend, hold and bear weight.
Drawing B shows a forelimb of a horse in over park position. The red dots marked are areas which synovial fluid can be pushed out and friction can be caused with repeated over extension wearing away the protective cartilage and bring bone to bone possibly causing wear and deterioration to the carpal bones, pastern bones and coffin bone.
Continued use of this stance can also cause stress or injury to the;
When and When not to Park
Utilizing the park is standard in many gaited breeds when shown at in-hand classes. This has changed in some breeds and should be found in the applicable rule books. Some are now asking for a horse to stand square or you may be asked to square a horse up from park position for a better evaluation of a horse. The position of park can hide conformational flaws in a horse as well as create the illusion of flaws that don't exist.
It is common to see horses standing in park position with the weight of equipment and rider. Check your rule book again here as well. Many times one is given the option to stand square or park. I recommend square position to eliminate the stress and strain to a horse. In park, and more so when a horse is over stretched, the horse ends up with their support base diminished. The legs that are supposed to support have been moved out of position. The back , shoulders and hips are now going to bear more stress and strain in holding this added weight.
Parking to Mount
Some where along the line people discovered the position of park brings the back of the horse lower to the ground, making it easier to mount. This convenience to us can cause a multitude of problems for a horse. The position of park was not intended for mounting at least not by those that understand what it can do to a horse.
Shows mounting a horse in park. Notice in this picture how the saddle is pulled off center of the back while mounting. In park the back of the horse is dropped so the tree of the saddle does not hold on the off (right) side of the horses spine and the riders weight pulls the saddle to the near (left) side , applying more pressure on the back on the near side. This horse is being mounted correctly holding rein and mane, while the right hand is on the off side of the swell. The horse is being mounted with little pull on the horse yet the saddle still rolls some on the back. Next look at the girth which is now angled back on the horse also allowing for the saddle slip. Where the saddle is held on the horse with out the saddle rolling completely off the side is at the off side wither, when the pressure should be applied evenly along the back . It is not uncommon to find sore or inflamed withers on a horse that is mounted in park position.
After mounting in park look at the horses legs. They have moved. The
right front moved back and the right hind moved forward. The horse had
to move the legs closer to being under himself to hold his balance for
me to mount. My position in the saddle with the horse in park
has thrown my seat back and out of centered with my legs out of line with
the hips and shoulder. The horses back is at this time having to hold my
weight and its own putting more stressed on the shoulders, hips and lumbar
span. When asking this horse to move up out of park it will cause stress
and strain when the horse has to coil at the loins to bring the back up
and the hind legs forward.
Some Final Notes
Don't feel pressured to back incorrectly under that judge that walks the line up at the back, but does not take the time to actually watch each horse back individually. To me as an exhibitor and judge this says they are not putting much emphasis on the back as they should when it is called for as part of a class protocol. This is the same for a judge that asks for mass back (all at one time) . Be kind to your horse and ask for that step up out of park before backing or better yet just square in a line up. At one time the step up was a required procedure published in many rule books but seems to have disappeared due to lack of understanding the importance.
So in closing, the park used correctly can be an added touch to overall appearance to some, though not necessarily a good thing to be done incorrectly for our horses and can certainly effect overall performance of a horse.
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