Many factors contribute to a horse’s physical, emotional, and mental well-being. These include but are not limited to stress, nutritional imbalances, toxic liver and kidneys, muscle spasms, and imbalanced hooves and teeth. General training and behavior problems are often associated with pain or discomfort. A horse’s level of comfort is related to saddle fit, diet, living conditions, routine, activity, and inactivity.
Perhaps your horse has some training issues–both on the ground and in the saddle. Unfortunately, training aids don’t fix body parts. If a horse can’t physically bend and yield to the rider’s aids, that indicates misalignment and imbalance. This is caused by muscle spasms that shorten the muscle and pull the bone. Additionally, tight muscles inhibit the scapula from moving freely.
The scapula is not attached to the bone in the horse. Humans have a collarbone, but horses do not. Horses carry 70% of their body weight on the front end by muscle alone. When we observe a horse being resistant to picking up their front feet or short striding, this indicates tight muscles. Every time a horse pulls back, the atlas and axis take all of the torque and the poll loses its flexion. As a result, the horse develops a short neck and gets heavy on the forehand.
Sometimes, the horse may have a past head trauma. Years later, it affects the whole body, which shows up as a mysterious lameness. A pulled tendon or suspensory tells us that one leg is working harder than the other leg. If the horse is having trouble picking up the correct canter lead or has sore and turned-in hocks, these are all reasons to have bodywork done on your horse.
Other reasons to consider bodywork on your horse are muscle atrophy or a dropped topline. Short striding or resistance to the farrier picking up the hooves tells us something isn’t quite right. When the rear hooves interfere with the front hooves, this tells us something is off balance. Has your horse ever pulled back while standing tied? Or pulled a front shoe with a hind hoof? Or stepped in a hole while running across the pasture? Any of these instances create an imbalance in the horse. Bodywork rebalances the horses.
What is Equine Bodywork?
Equine bodywork can be one specific modality (such as massage) or a combination of bodywork approaches that provide non-invasive assessment and techniques that promote overall health, healing, and balance. Bodywork releases tension, energy blockages, and stress. These approaches include energy work, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, craniosacral therapy, acupressure, Reiki, and more.
Equine bodywork results in improved posture and an elongated neck. It opens the scapula while releasing muscle tension and spasms. Bodywork creates an increased range of motion and overall balance. It helps lift the withers and ribs while creating an independently moving pelvis and a lighter front end. For example, the psoas muscle lifts the stifle. When the psoas is tight, the hocks have to work harder and this leads to a horse with sore hocks. Turned-in hocks also indicate a tight groin. When left unmanaged, many horses end up blowing their hocks out, which results in recommended hock injections. Bodywork isn’t about fixing the hock–it’s about fixing why the hock is sore. Do you get the picture?
What is Your Ultimate Goal?
The bottom line is: Do you want your horses to be rideable well into their twenties? Do you want to prevent any unnecessary injuries? Do you want your horses to perform at their best every time you show? Do you want to avoid any unnecessary vet bills? Do you want to achieve balanced health and wellness? Do you want to prevent overloading that can lead to arthritis? Do you want a happy, healthy, and sound horse? If you answered “YES!” to any of these questions, bodywork can help your horse!
Sway-backed older horses do not have to be “normal.” Bodywork can be the difference between riding a sound horse well into their 20s or retiring a horse before they reach their teen years. If the whole body isn’t working correctly and together, that is when we see issues. Horses are going to have health issues, but being prepared for one is a choice. If you go into a health crisis with a healthy horse, chances are the horse will come out of it faster, better, and alive!
As you can see, everyday horse behavior from over striding to running around in the turn-out are all reasons why a horse can benefit from equine bodywork modalities. Tight muscles pull the hips forward, put a strain on the cannon bones, and can contribute to overdeveloped forearms. By releasing muscle spasms and balancing the horse, muscles get an appropriate blood supply and gain elasticity. Do you want to create intrinsic self-healing and overall health and wellness for your horse? Then it is imperative to bring him or her back to proper form and function by scheduling an Equine Musculoskeletal Unwinding session today!
Equine Musculoskeletal Unwinding is an integrative equine bodywork therapy that releases tension from the musculoskeletal body, the fascial body, the emotional body, and the osteopathic body of the horse. Through a combination of several bodywork modalities, the horse’s musculoskeletal body is realigned, rebalanced, and restored. I challenge you to give bodywork a try-your horse will thank you for it!
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