February 13, 2019

Central pattern generators (CPG's) are neural circuits, sort of like little computer apps, that make locomotion, heartbeat, breathing, and other functions, automatic.  For soundness in horses, we are concerned with locomotor CPG’s; the one’s that maintain pattern of motion like walk, trot, and canter. That saying “running around like a chicken with no head,” yeah, it’s gross, but it’s real and it provided real repeatable experiments for scientists to learn about CPG’s. Locomotor CPG’s work without the brain attached. (For more on this, you can read the following review paper:  “Central Pattern Generators and the Control of Rhythmic Movements” by Eve Marder and Dirk Bucher, published in Current Biology Vol. 11, No. 23.) This is important because protective kinematics will create CPG’s. With injury, lameness, muscular imbalance, or discomfort, the compensatory movement creates new CPG’s that create kinematics associated with overloading joints (see my article Overloading).  Working on a standing horse, whether it be releasing tight muscles or injecting joints, does nothing to create new CPG’s. Motion is required. The only fair solution is to create new CPG’s for healthy kinematics. It’s not done by repeating the same work and hoping the horse will figure it out. It’s not done by following a regime of prescribed exercises. Usually, they don’t figure it out. Pasture rest doesn’t create healthy CPG’s, it just continues the repetition of dysfunctional kinematics. The only way to create new CPG’s is by creating precise, correct kinematics. This will create healthy CPG’s that aren’t overloading joints. It will also increase efficiency and athleticism.