Often times we ask a lot from our equine partners that is physically demanding and in many situations, during training, shows, clinics or competitions, they give us their all. In return, it's our responsibility to “listen to the horse” for any sign of pain or discomfort and alleviate the underlying systemic issue(s).
As a Certified Equine Sports Massage Therapist & Movement + Mobility (Biomechanics/Kinesiology) Specialist it is my passion to study equine and human movement and develop exercises, training techniques and therapies that further improve the development of a healthy, sound, strong and happy horses–(humans, too).
Many horses have issues with balance, straightness, and range of motion, especially off-the-track-thoroughbreds. Horses are similar to people, in that they have a preferred laterality. The dominant (strong) and hollow (weak) side of the body-being right side or left side dominant. Because they have a weaker side of the body, the anatomical structure will naturally be "unbalanced." When there is repetitive motion or strain on a part of the body that is compromised due to lack of balance or muscular symmetry, often times injuries can occur––which leads to a restricted range of motion and can present itself as short strides, body soreness, stiffness, lameness and other physical and/or behavioral issues.
Even though a horse’s natural balance is more on the forehand, this can become exaggerated when more weight is placed toward the front of the horse. This is compromised even more when the hind end is weak. Developing strength in the deep core muscles and rear of the horse is essential. The hindquarters are responsible for the propulsion of the horse and aiding in true collection. It is also equally important to strengthen the deep core muscles of the horse’s neck to aid in the elevation at the base of the neck and for flexion at the poll.
Maybe your horse can’t maintain a consistent frame or perhaps they aren’t responsive to your aids the way you’d prefer. Well, these are fairly common issues and they won’t resolve on their own, even with a horse that’s "sound."
In order to achieve true collection, more engagement from the hind end is required. The horse must train to step farther underneath the body from the hindquarters. This propulsion from the hindquarters allows the horse to be “lighter” on the forehand and with strong deep core muscles, also aids in the proper elevation of the neck and flexion at the poll.
How many of these issues is your horse experiencing or exhibiting?
✓not bending well
✓poor or limited flexibility
✓rushing through turns
✓poor maneuverability while circling
✓sloppy or poor transitions
✓not yielding to aids
✓flat or stiff movement
✓ high head carriage
✓ on-the-bit or hard mouth
✓cold-back or girthy
For example: Is Your Horse Having Difficulty With Flexion or Collection?
Check out the Multifidus Cervicus - it's responsible for:
•lateral flexion (bending of the neck)
•rotation (turning head opposite direction)
Many dressage and racehorses have difficulty with lateral flexion and rotation. Releasing the stress point of the Multifidus Cervicus with regular massage therapy and stretching exercises can help alleviate muscle pain and tension-allowing your horse improved range of motion for collection and flexion. The results can be higher dressage scores, improved running times and the most important, A HAPPIER HORSE!
Regardless of Your Riding Discipline, Your Horse Can Achieve:
Strenght. Flexibility. Balance. Symmetry. Suppleness. Overall sense of well being.
This is a great way to work with your horse on a deep physical level using holistic techniques to develop those otherwise difficult to reach core muscles. It takes commitment and persistence, but it's not time-consuming. Do you have an extra 5 minutes before you lunge or tack up? That's all you need to get started. Your horse will experience results over time if you are consistent in doing the exercises and treating them with massage therapy is very useful to further development and injury prevention.
Learn why your horse may be experiencing muscle tension and why it's important to learn some basic techniques you can do for your horse to help release tension and alleviate discomfort.
Take the 5-Day Strong and Stretchy Challenge. Get FREE access to the beginner's guide so you can start simple exercises to improve your horse's strength and mobility TODAY.
This is a great opportunity to implement simple, practical and beneficial exercises you can do frequently with your horse regardless of riding discipline.
OTTB ACADEMY Is a Support Site for Equestrians Interested in Improving Equine Flexibility, Strength & Mobility Utilizing Holistic Training Techniques and Therapies to Increase Range of Motion With a Special Focus Centered on Biomechanics and Reschooling Off-The-Track-Thoroughbreds.
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