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    November 5th, 2013ImogenUncategorized

    Can you imagine what we would do without proprioception? We would have to carry mirrors everywhere we went so we could eat without sticking food up our noses. I was thinking about this as I was riding the other day and the horse was happily picking her way down a track much narrower than her body. This steed is no sylph and although horses have a much wider field of vision than us she still can’t see all her feet at once. How does she stick to the path?
    Look at this great slow-motion footage captured by Centaur Biomechanics of showjumping horses at last year’s Olympics. The first horse lifts his back feet at the last second to clear the pole. This isn’t a fluke- it’s a well-practiced manoeuvre, but clearing the jump requires them to have a clear perception of how far their feet are from the pole that’s now out of their field of view. This is proprioception. Here are some fun facts on proprioception!

    • The word propriception comes from the Latin word “proprius”, which means “one’s own”

      Liffey on the common

      The best view in the world, brought to you by proprioception!

    • Proprioceptive information is gathered from stretch receptors in the muscles and the joint-supporting ligaments, and also the balance and motion receptors in the inner ear.
    • This sense can be impaired by alcohol, which is why touching your fingertips to your nose is a sobriety test. An error of more than 20mm leads to a failure.
    • You can actually develop better proprioception from things like doing exercises on a wobble board, or juggling, or sport in general. Proprioception pros can do a squat standing on a gym ball (check out a proprioception-honing workout here). A common suggested exercise for teaching young horses better proprioception is to walk or trot them over poles which are raised at one end. Horses don’t like knocking their hooves on the poles so they’ll learn to pick their feet up at the right time.
    • There’s an interesting case where a man forgot how to propriocept (is that a word?) because of a viral infection and he replaced proprioceptive with visual feedback. That means he had to walk around looking at his feet all the time. Very inconvenient!
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