Work on the development of horse musculature
Work on the development of horse musculature
The goal of changing the horse’s postural reflexes is to help her move better. However, it is often forgotten from the first minutes of training. Why? Different muscles of the horse’s body serve different purposes, but riders, unfortunately, often cannot activate the muscles that need to be activated at one time or another. However, activation of abnormal muscles can cause other problems, such as stiffness or limited flexion of the joints, which is counterproductive for dressage purposes.
During training, many riders activate the “gymnastic” muscles of the horse (large external muscles that serve to move). They are responsible for ensuring that the horse moves from one place to another, but is not effective for communication with the horse’s nervous system in terms of connecting new muscle structures or strengthening muscle memory. Excessive gymnastics of the horse can quickly lead to its enslavement, and if this happens, the reflex system of the horse will change, and obstacles will appear for adequate flexion of the joints. For example, a horse can have very strong back muscles, but they do not allow it to move freely. According to veterinarian Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, tension resulting from excessive tonus of the back muscles actually slows down the horse’s hind legs and creates a habit of abutting, rather than improving dexterity and balance. Similarly, gluteal muscles, when they are disproportionately strong in relation to neighboring smaller muscles, can limit the free movement of the hind legs. According to Heuschmann, many modern riders misunderstand the concept of power. They spend too much time trying to accumulate bright, wide gaits, which, in their opinion, are needed for dressage. But the accompanying endless repetition creates enslavement and asymmetry.
“You must make your horse an athlete. A horse that only works on the development of gait becomes boring, ”he says, referring to horses who trained with emphasis on strengthening their topline and hind limbs, or worked daily on“ wide ”gait, while development their postural muscles, such as multiple muscles or stabilizer muscles of the spine or pelvis, were neglected.
When a rider needs to change the horse’s muscle structure or muscle memory, he should focus on stimulating its smaller muscles, located deep in the body, near the spine and around the joints, often called internal muscles. Think of them as guardians of the language of your horse’s movements. By activating these muscles, in addition to the larger muscles, new nerve pathways are established and / or existing ones become more refined.
Heuschmann says that for most riders this can be achieved by riding at slower speeds. He refers to the slow warm-up jog that Alois Podhai from the Spanish Riding School particularly appreciated. This slow gait allows the horse to move easily, bending joints and working his back, before we add more momentum. Podhaysky also noted the usefulness of one of the most advantageous rehabilitation protocols used by the cavalry. He included riding on a long occasion down the slopes until the horse lowered its neck and relaxed, which would allow it to reorganize its nervous system. Sometimes this required months of work, but until the corresponding effect was achieved, nothing changed. “Any horse that is tense in the back of the head or back will lose its natural rhythm,” said Heuschmann.
According to Sarah le Jouin, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine DVM, Equine Integrative Sports Medicine Center, U.C. Davis, in general, is easier to train motor muscles than postural muscles, which requires a series of special exercises. However, this aspect of training requires further research, Le Jouin admits, since a significant part of the available data on the applicability of physical therapy to horses is taken from studies conducted on humans, and therefore is not always applicable to a four-legged animal.
“We know that pain inhibits normal muscle activation and can actually lead to deactivation of normal muscle pathways,” says Le Jouin. Pain can be the result of trauma, excessive tension, or an imbalance in muscle development. The most effective daily strategy for changing a horse’s muscle structure seems to be to first get rid of this pain or enslavement using physical methods such as working with trigger points, working on joint movements and dynamic stretching. Only then can we begin to carry out corrective exercises, and then proceed to the usual training.
The following exercises are useful for the first 10 minutes of the warm-up phase before starting your normal workout. Try them for six weeks, paying attention to any changes. Most likely, you will see progress.