Tendon-Driven Locomotion and Shock Absorption

The tendons in your horse’s lower legs play an important role in both propulsion and shock absorption during locomotion.

Here’s a closer look at how tendons work in each of these processes


A tendon is a fibrous connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone. During locomotion, your horse’s muscles generate force to move its limbs. Tendons transfer this force from the muscles to the bones to create movement. Tendon-driven locomotion is an efficient form of movement used by horses in trot, canter, gallop and jumping. During tendon-driven locomotion the elastic tendons in the lower leg store energy when your horse is in a weight-bearing phase of the stride and when the limb comes off the ground the energy stored in the tendons is released, propelling your horse forward with minimal muscular effort.

Shock Absorption

Your horse’s tendons also play an important role in absorbing shock during locomotion. As your horse moves, the tendons in its legs act as shock absorbers, helping to dissipate the energy of impact when its foot lands on the ground. Tendons are able to absorb this shock because they are composed of tough, fibrous connective tissue that can withstand high levels of tension and compression. The structure of the tendon also contributes to shock absorption. Tendons have a hierarchical structure, with collagen fibers arranged in parallel bundles. This structure allows the tendon to distribute the forces of the impact evenly throughout its length, reducing the risk of injury.

While tendons are well-adapted for shock absorption, they are still very susceptible to injury, particularly when they are subjected to repeated stress or sudden, excessive forces. This is why it’s important to take steps to prevent tendon injuries, such as implementing appropriate training and conditioning programs, providing proper care, nutrition, footing and farriery to support tendon health, and ensuring that your horse is properly warmed up before more intense exercise.

You can also help to reduce the risk of injury to your horse’s tendons by incorporating regular massage therapy into your horse’s care routine. Tight, tense and fatigued muscles create imbalances in the muscles above and put extra stress and strain on the tendons in the legs. Regular massage can help identify areas of stress, reduce tension, improve strength and function and restore correct balance and biomechanics.

Massage is an important part of keeping your horse fit, healthy, happy and performing at its best.

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