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    « Accelerated Conditioning For Equine Wellness and Performance | Main | EquiPulse, The Star of the Show »

    Dressage, The 3 Main Concerns

    Dressage riders are after perfection of motion in their horse. They must perform a series of predetermined movements, the execution of which requires not only rider-horse cooperation, but optimum biomechanical function of all components of the horse's body that contribute to these movements.

    The three main concerns of Dressage as experienced by the rider, and the source of diminishment of this perfection have been described as the following:

    1. The horse's back cannot lift and the horse is therefore unable to drop the rear end and get underneath himself (collection).
    2. Achieving suppleness in the neck and back.
    3. Achieving evenness of gait to both right and left.

    These are all issues that may have obvious causation to a professional that has studied the spine, nervous system, musculoskeletal biomechanics, and kinesiology, and the relationship of each to proper structure and function. However, the traditional medical veterinary approach has in many cases not supplied satisfactory answers or treatment, and these issues continue to be problematic for riders relying solely upon this approach.

    In reference to #1, ability of a horse to properly collect requires proper mobility of all of the lumbar spinal joints, sacroiliac joints, and to some extent the spinal joints of the thoracic (withers to back of the saddle) and cervical (neck) spine.

    I presented this question to Dr. Renee Tucker, DVM, author of the excellent book “Where Does My Horse Hurt”, and who is also trained in equine chiropractic and acupuncture. Dr. Tucker states the following:

    “Most horses can't do #1 and the hocks are blamed (and injected). What's really happening is the lumbar spine can't flex due to chiropractic issues. This results in the hocks getting overused and sore.”

    So essentially, stop blaming the hocks, inject the hocks only as a last resort, have the horse's spinal issues addressed via Accelerated Sports Conditioning and the horse will be able to collect comfortably, effortlessly, and without invasive (and expensive) procedures.

    Now let's take a look at concern #2, which is actually closely related to concern #3, essentially having the same causation and solutions.

    Suppleness means looseness. Not laxity, which implies a state of instability that is usually caused by damage to joint and tendon structures from injury and/or overuse. Scar tissue and adhesions tend to be the body's way of repairing such damage and ultimately results in a loss of proper motion in these structures. Looseness as desired by the Dressage rider is freedom of motion with proper muscle tone and neurological control.

    Overall suppleness and evenness of a horse depends on muscles functioning properly and in tandem with opposing muscle groups, and balance of muscular contraction on both sides of the body. Major muscles that attach to the legs, shoulders and hips start at the back, specifically the spine, and not the other way around. If spinal joints are not moving properly and evenly to both sides, say goodbye to suppleness and evenness.  

    The muscles do not think for themselves and the nervous system must tell them what to do. The horse's nervous system must be functioning as close to 100% as possible with no interference or distraction, which can be caused by stress or imbalances in the spinal joints. The nerve branches from the spinal cord pass through openings between the spinal joints (for protection) and are highly dependent upon proper function and movement of the spinal joints. This is important, as the horse's brain must process rider input so the proper signals can be sent to the muscles and have them respond appropriately. If there is stress and therefore potential tissue damage detected in any of the neurological channels anywhere from the brain to the legs, this creates interference in the “brain to hoof” connection. This in turn results in loss of muscular balance and therefore loss of evenness of gait and loss of overall suppleness.   

    So there you have it Dressage riders, or any of you horseback riders for that matter. Take care of your horse's back and you will have the evenness, suppleness, and horse you desire.

    Equine Sport Performance is dedicated to provide the finest in state of the art procedures to keep your horse's back and neuro-musculoskeletal systems functioning at maximum efficiency, providing maximum benefits to your horse at minimal cost to you.


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