This week I am talking about some of the common movement 'issues' in the horse...they are present in all horses to one degree or another, they are issues within exercise and might actually feel like something different to what's actually happening in the horses body.
It's good to be clear about what the main movement issues are, so that we can assess our horse and understand where we need to improve their movement or strength, to improve what we are feeling or seeing. And this ultimately helps with injury prevention too.
To give an example, a horse that is heavy in the contact can actually be weak in the core and struggling to carry himself and the rider and therefore needs to lean on the reins, so it's one thing masquerading as another! And it's why I like to explain this kind of thing here on the blog!
So here are some of the common movement issues that I see, and a brief explanation...
Horse ‘on the forehand’…
This is a common issue and is actually NATURAL for the horse as around 60% of their weight is already over the forehand.
And it can be difficult to unravel and improve through ‘normal’ exercise.
The thoracic sling structures need mobilising and then strengthening, in that order, to ALLOW the horse to lift the forehand within exercise. It takes time, and needs monitoring along the way. This is incorporated into my Strength & Straightness Programme as one of the foundational aims as it's so important.
This is such an important piece of the jigsaw with horses. If the horse has ‘hollow posture’, so the back is weak / dipped, the bones along the spine (dorsal spinous processes) come closer to each other and can touch, which is painful for the horse…this is ‘kissing spine’ and you want to AVOID this happening to your horse.
So if your horse has poor/hollow posture…don’t ride them!! Adjust your plan, strengthen your horse in that area first. When the horse has a more hollow posture, they can be in pain, and will also be compensating in other areas of the body, so it can be a downward spiral for the horse.
Unfortunately there are many factors affecting the horses posture…lack of movement, lack of core strength, their weight, pain in other areas of the body, saddle fit, rider weight, AND gravity!! The large heavy organs in the horses body are sitting in the middle section of the body, pulling downwards!!
Strengthening your horses core is one of the most useful and effective ways to help your horses body and movement.
Another important piece of the jigsaw to learn about and address with our horses to improve their movement.
If your horse is ALWAYS crooked, the exercise that you’re doing isn’t specific enough to improve the naturally occurring pattern in the body…it takes some work, first to identify the pattern and then to work through specific flexibility type work to retrain how the horse uses his/limbs.
It’s an amazing process to go through, it does take time as we are working at the foundational levels in the body, but you can train your horse in such a way that they can move more symmetrically, and develop muscle more symmetrically. Uneven shoulders in the horse anyone?? This can be resolved through specific in hand work which I cover in depth in my Strength & Straightness programme.
All horses are left or right handed, and if left unaddressed within exercise, we end up with uneven wear and tear in the body, and I have theories about this potentially over the longer term creating kissing spine due to compensation and bracing in the back. So it’s crucially important to work on!
Stiff in the body…
This might be a bit more difficult to pick up…the horse is ‘sound’ in limbs and movement, but is stiff through the body / back.
Horses with ‘kissing spine’ struggle with bending through the ribcage, they are usually in a long term bracing pattern in the back, avoiding pain.
So horses that are not bending and feel stiff and tight through the body, need closer investigation.
There are many issues that can be going on in the horses back and spine directly, in addition to the back bracing as a compensation for pain elsewhere in the body. So it’s quite complex.
But if your horse is stiff through the body, he is not able to use his body effectively, therefore something has to give at some point. It’s another movement dysfunction.
NATURALLY OCCURRING ISSUES...
These are all naturally occurring issues, so they are natural for the horses body, and only really become an issue within exercise.
So lack of bend, problems with the contact, not working over the back, heavy in the contact, horse stiff on one rein, horse not moving straight...all of these issues that we see and feel in the horse are actually coming from their naturally occurring anatomy...they are not being difficult etc, it's a movement dysfunction in the body.
And it can all be resolved - this is the good news part!
So being aware of these issues, being able to see them in our horse and change our exercise plans to improve these issues at source is important so that our horses can be moving fully through the body, in balance, carrying themselves, moving symmetrically, and this is how we prevent injury...by training our horses to be the very best version of themselves, by working slowly and systematically on core strength and straightness!
If you would like help with all of this, have a look at my Strength & Straightness online training programme and group, where you can learn all of the exercises that I use, recommend and teach!
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