Three important muscles can let you know instantly if your horse is suffering pain
due to his saddle even if there is no pathology visible on the back. The horse that
is hurting responds to the pain by tensing the muscles that are overworked or damgaged. This contraction works
it's way to related
muscles that work with and against each other from one end of the horse to the other. The Result is "COMPENSATORY
the Longissimus muscles of the back are tight from pain in the wither- shoulder area, the loins or center of the back, the
back is dorsiflexed (contracted) This places extra work on the rest of his body which one might
never believe could be sore from the saddle.
We'll start with the Levator Humeri (latin for elevate humerus) or Brachiosephalicus in your modern anatomy books.
To lighten the forehand the uses his hamstrings, gluteals, and Longissimuss Dorsi. When the later 2 aren't doing their
job, the others have to work extra hard.
The Gluetals quickly
fatigue from a rider heavy on the forehand or when the Longissimuss is contracted. At that time, the Levator Humeri have to overwork
to start extension of the forelegs. The head and neck go up to giving more leverage to the neck muscles to
quicken extension of the forelegs. Other muscles are over worked at the same time. The Latisimuss Dorsi helps move
the shoudler & often is damaged directly by the saddle & or girth. the Trapesius gets directly damaged from
the tree bars squeezing in on them from one or both sides. The Romboidius works to lift the shoulder up & forward
and is directly opposite the Trapesius. All of these muscles are overworked & often go into contraction along
with the 4 Triceps on each shoulder. It goes from there to the Deep Digital Flexor muscle that wraps around the Ulna (elbow)
where it works with and against the lower Tricep connected to that ulna from above.
That's when intermittant lower leg
(suspensory) lameness starts from saddle pain. The Deep Digital flexor muscle gives most of the travel to the Tendon
attached to it; which is the support cable for the foreleg of the horse. The muscle & tendon working with the Pastern
& Fetlock is also the "shock absorption system" for the front
leg. Does your horse have a rough and choppy Trot? Are
you starting to get the picture? A tendon is not a rubber band but gets 90% of it's travel from the Muscle that it's attached
with. When you lose shock absorption from the Fetlock dropping, you overload bone Periostium & Tendon sheath surfaces
in the lower leg.
The next most critical overload
is at the Navicular bone where the Deep Digital Tendon continues it's journey to it's attachment at the Coffin bone of the
hoof. Without a loose shoulder and Fetlock dropping with a loose pastern for shock absorption the Navicular bone is overloaded
as well as the tendon. Slowly damaged and deteriorating, hence a condition called "Navicular".
NOT a disease but a Condition. Shoeing too long at the toe and low at the heel are contributing
factors as is allowing the frog to hit the ground as Barefoot or flat close shoeing can do in many horses.
The first of 4 muscles to palpate
for soreness is the semimembranosis (on either side of the tail
in the hindquarters.) 1.5" out from the base or the tail, push hard and move your thumb back & forth to
find what feels like a cable. There you will get the natural reaction of tuckin of the hindquarters.
A sore reaction is to bounce the hindquarter & show obvious discomfort. This is most often "Compensatory
Muscle soreness" from a overworked hindquarter and a soreback. A really sore horse will kick out so
be careful here. The only way you can get the necessary pressure to check this muscle is from behind using your weight.
palpated a young stallion at the University of Florida's Vet school, so sore if touched here he would Kick out with both
hind legs at once. I was flown there to do a full days clinic with students and staff. After I did deep pressure
therapy down this horse's near side I was holding one hindquarter and pushing with my hand doing a finishing
massage on the Semimembranosis with much pressure. I was curious as to why students and the public started laughing.
I stopped and asked them what's so funny. They pointed, I stepped back and looked to see this formerly violent American
Show horse stallion had dropped and had been slapping his stomach side to side. As
I told them when I first palpated this horse: "Inside this horse is a sweet pasture pet, just
waiting to get out" After doing that deep pressure therapy, the head Veterinary professor
never challanged my evaluation of any of the other horses.
muscle that tells the most is the brachiosephalicus (following
the lower half of the neck from poll to humerus,). To start massage on any horse you start here at the back of the poll. A
sore reaction here is to toss the head or jerk it away. The stallion mentioned above would bite or rear a little.
This muscle at this point: is where you make your one on one connection to the animal's mind. Once established you
can go to the lower attachment under the point of the shoulder, at the base of the neck. A more dramatic flinching
from pain takes place here. This attachment gets sore in most performance horses even with good
saddling. The stallion above would rear & strike out when palpated at this point.
I overcame this scared and defensive
horse with a gentle touch and starting with his mind at the poll. When finished with really effective deep pressure massage
on most horses, you'll find they will follow you around for awhile with the lead rope tossed up over their back
acting like they've found a new pasture mate. PS> I'm not talking about the
"Touch of Love" here. It takes muscle and is as much physical work as shoeing a horse. The massage schools take money to teach
the touch of love, (as I call it.) Nothing wrong with it but don't expect dramatic long lasting results!
to check the TRICEP at the elbow. This one is quick & easy. No natural
reaction here to palpating here. If the horse flinches at all here he has had a pressure problem at the
withers for some time. The more severe the hores's reaction the more likely this horse will have intermittant suspensory lameness after
working. When you check the trapesius on one of these horses, it will have been sore & damaged long term.
place I will take you is to the shoulders themselves & the attachment of muscles to the Cartilage of Prolongation.
This is the place of damage Most Chiropractors & vets totally miss when trying to diagnose saddling
problems. A Vet that barrel races & her staff of Chiropractor & equine body worker couln't find
any soreness in her horse. After working on this horse for over a year & a layoff from racing of 9 months, for
the Vet to have a baby, no soreness. The horse continually dropped when going around a barrel to the right. So bad
the rider had a hard time staying in the saddle.
She came to me at The BBR world championships in
OK City, Okla. getting ready to compete. She told me the story and asked if I would check her horse. I
did and after going around the horse palpating as described above & seeing little discomfort, I did the
I picked up the right foreleg and held it
up at the knee. I then reached back and palpated the shoulder with 3 fingers quite deeply. Kneading the
muscle I found a horse with reasonable soreness from the tree bar. (There always is discomfort here in a horse if
it's been ridden much.) I told the vet her horse would be very sore on the right side. This was
a left lead horse.
When doing the same to the right shoulder, the horse flinched
muscles throughout the shoulder. She tried to pull her leg away from me and there was no doubt how sore this horse was
on the side she dropped her weight on when in that left lead.
You see, the saddle was dropping
to that side & the front of the bar drives deeply into the Trapesius muscle attaching to the Cartilage of Prolongation.
The Lady Vet was amazed that this horse was still sore there with little riding for 9 months and her staff taking
care of the horse. THERE IS NO NATURAL REACTION TO PALPATING HERE WHEN THE LEG IS EXTENDED. Massage will
help a little but the horse's own stretching of the damaged muscle attachments, without the pressure in this spot,
will do more than any therapy. Now do you see the need for
a Corrector under every saddle?
I did for this horse was to put on the Corrector with a Pro E pad using 2 balance shims on the right front only. The
saddle was made Custom for this horse by Stanley Allen of Allen Ranch. (It was old style saddlemaking with
straighter bars and I told her it was as good as she could get.) The Vet went to the practice ring & couldn't
believe her horse didn't drop but a little on the first right barrel. Next run she never dropped at all.
That's one owner you can contact in Bixby, if you're a barrel racer in OK. Muscles under the saddle can also
be palpated, but above are the main ones to find the longterm effects of saddling & or riding to
For under saddle you
need to probe these muscles firmly with the ends of three fingers or your thumb held stiff from your fist.
Remember that the force of the bite or kick your horse is likely to recieve in the herd environment is far greater than any
force you could possibly exert by using your fingers. You will not injure your horse in any way by this probing, but
you may discover that your horse's withers flinch as to remove a fly. Count to 3, it should have stopped at 2. To continue
holding that pressure tells the story. If your horse steps away showing discomfort, he's obviously sore.
Most novices probe too softly to illicit a reaction from their horse and
are left with the impression their horse is not sore.
TTEAM therapy instructor, Linda Tellington Jones, once told me that
one must probe as firm as necessary to get a reaction to see if the horse is sore. I had asked because of people thinking
I was palpating too hard and every horse would respond the same. They did back then because they were very sore endurance
horses. I will explain the effects of saddling to the rest of the horse and the vetebral column next. Regards,
Len > 816 625 0333