Occasionally you’ll come across a horse whose pain just seems unexplainable. I’ve had caring owners come to me in frustration because their horses remain “off” even after they’ve tried every traditional and holistic health option they could think of. Often this pain stems from your horse’s muscles… and you can help.
Muscles in motion
There is always a reason a horse is sore. Often, it has to do with how his muscles support his skeletal system. Muscles contract and release – when they tighten and cannot achieve a full release, they remain tense and will shorten over time. This puts strain on the surrounding areas. Because muscle tightening and spasms are an extension of the normal contraction process, these problems do not show up on x-rays or with standard testing procedures. The problem can be a muscle misalignment, something that is often overlooked.
Every move the horse makes produces stress upon a specific point. All muscles pull, so all skeletal motion is performed in this manner too. Tight muscles can lead to spasms, knots, misalignment and blocked energy. When this happens you may start to see:
- Choppy strides
- Loss of impulsion
- Jump refusals
- Back soreness and hollowing
- Resistance to lateral flexion and bending
- Girthing problems
- Biting and other “bad” behaviors
- The horse being off and on “for no reason”
- Improper tracking forward, back or laterally
Covering up minor problems most often ends up creating major ones. Did you know that 60% of your horse’s body weight is skeletal muscle? His muscles need oxygen and glucose from ingested foodstuffs. Oxygen is carried to the muscles by the circulation of blood. Any excess degree of muscle contraction or spasms will interfere with the free flow of oxygen into the muscle tissue, and with the outflow of toxins, and will have an effect on the horse’s performance.
Understanding and checking pain points
Muscles are arranged in pairs of opposites and have two functions – to contract and release. In order for a muscle to release, it must not have opposition and be able to pain points are released, the muscles stop pulling on the bones, and the horse’s natural balance can return. The pain ceases, and the muscle fibers can return to normal.
You may find that releasing your horse’s pain points achieves the following:
- Increase athletic performance and stamina
- Improve muscle tone
- Improve suppleness and responsiveness
- Enhance mental and emotional well-being
You can check your horse’s pain points before you ride him, or when you are grooming him. When working on your horse, make sure it’s not feeding time, and that he is not agitated or stressed. By checking your own horse, you can prevent many problems before they develop. As sports therapist Jack Meagher said: “Remember, any injury you can prevent is money in the bank!”
There are books that will show you stretches and body exercises to help keep your horse balanced and prevent excessive contraction and pain. Whatever method you choose, allow yourself time to practice, and be patient. It’s more than worth the effort.