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Leah
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I have a 9yo TB with a history of back troubles.

He is slightly long in the back, hocks fused at 4yo, and has lower back pain, sacrum, etc.

Interestingly his sister had the same problems beginning at 4yo. Thank goodness no other horse on my farm has...leaving me to believe this is genetic.

Anyway, last week the vet was able to get films of several parts of him.

He has close space between several spiny processes though none are touching.

His hocks are exactly as they were as a 4yo...no additional changes (which is sorta good news in light of things).

His front limbs are all clean.

When seen by a chiropractor he also has his sacrum or hips "out" and does not hold adjustments more than a couple of days at best.

Is there any kind of careful safe exercise program that would help him?

I am not interested in making him the next Olympic champion but would like to help strengthen him without hurting him.

Or is it best to leave well enough alone?

 

thank you.

 

DrDeb
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Dear Leah: You need to evaluate whether this horse does or does not have a "low" back. Another term for this is "saddle back" or "sway back". All of these terms mean that the horse's back looks like a shallow "U" when seen from the side. How deep the "U" is can vary from a slight amount to a considerable amount.

Of course, when someone who doesn't have much experience with horses looks at a horse's back, objectively, all horses' backs are to some extent "lower in the middle than at the ends". So the question here is how much experience you have, to be able to differentiate between the normal appearance of a horse's back vs. a low back. You have to be careful of what you are really seeing, especially when the horse is either rump-high, as many Quarter Horses are, or when the withers are high, as they normally are in TB's and American Saddlebreds.

If your vet has X-rayed the animal's back and found kissing, or near-kissing spines, this is precisely because the back is low. Note that what makes the dorsal spines of the vertebrae approach one another or kiss is not that the horse has a deformity of any of the vertebrae, but rather because he is not holding his back up, i.e., his posture is poor. This is fortunate for you, because structural deformities are generally not fixable, but poor posture is.

Now, in terms of your learning what you need to know about horse anatomy and function, I want you to come back in your reply to this message and be able to tell me what holds a horse's back up. When you get a clear idea of how this system works, you will be able to participate actively in designing an appropriate program of therapeutic exercise for your own horse.

The place for you to start on this is in "Knowledge Base" in this website. Click on the "home" button at the top of this page, and then click on the KB button. The papers there that you want to read are (1) Lessons from Woody and (2) the sequel or "part two" to this, which is entitled True Collection.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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Thank you for your reply Dr Deb. I have just finished reading the two articles and feel better prepared for our discussion! :-)

One sidenote-I am very excited to have found this forum and your articles. I recently purchased Michael Shaffer's book when I learned of the kissing spine (as well as a book by Mark Russell-are you familiar with him). The information in the book combined with your articles has given me a wealth of information. I was literally sighing with relief when the concepts started making sense!

SO your question...what holds up a horse's back. When I was reading the articles I kept looking for a one sentence or one word answer but realize now there isn't one, is there!

A horse's back is held up by more of a process...the relaxing of the jaw, neck, all the way down to his toes and tail, if you will (no brace zone)...a total release and relaxation of his topline...this allows the horse to be straight (absolutely essential)...once he is straight he can elevate the base of his neck and coil his loins, allowing his back to round up.

It is far more difficult for a horse to achieve this with a rider so achieving each step in order is the key (and only key) to allow a horse to not travel crooked and inverted while mounted.

In a nutshell, the answer to my question is right there...get him brace free, released topline, traveling straight, helping him understand to lift the base of his neck, coil his loins (from mild to strong depending on his level of devlopment)....this will give him the suppleness combined with CORRECT muscle so he can improve his posture, change his back from inverted to round and ease his discomfort and open those tight spaces.

The next question is the how...can I take a guess here?

In hand exercises at first...for one it will allow him to learn proper carriage without the added burden of me...and I can observe that his movements are correct and without brace.

I am guessing developing shoulder-in in hand is going to be part of this...starting with the exercise of stepping under his navel.

Am I doing ok so far?

DrDeb
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Leah, very good. You have clearly read the material suggested and understood quite a bit of it.

However, you have not actually answered the question. EXACTLY WHAT holds up a horse's back? And perhaps I need to clarify the question a little bit, so what I am trying to get you to tell me is:

(1) is it bones, muscles, ligaments, or tendons that are the ACTIVE agents in holding up the back?

(2) once you figure out which of the above four types of tissue it is, then I need you to tell me WHERE the active agent (or group of active agents, all of one tissue type) are located.

(3) When you know what the active agents are, as well as in what body zone they are located, then you will be able to design the appropriate training and riding program for your own horse.

It's OK if you don't get the answers to this on the first try -- this is not necessarily easy material to master. And also, you will probably find it harder because you've already been fuddled up: 99% of all the world's literature on this subject, whether it be from European schools that give certifications, or the Pony Club, or books, or magazines, give wrong information on this subject, sometimes grossly wrong. In other words, you'll be quite a bit ahead when you succeed at getting this clear.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

 

Leah
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Thank you again...

Wow...now we are to the core of all of this. I will be honest, I am scratching my head on this one. BUT I like the idea of having to sort through this like a puzzle. It makes the learning experience all the more solid when I get to the other side.

Let me return to the materials, give this some common sense thought and I will give it my best shot in my next response.

At least I know i shouldn't "guess" the obvious answer first. :-)

I will get back to you as soon as I do my research!

Liz Sugar
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Hi Dr Deb,

I have recently read a book by a German  who has set up a training centre for horses which have been written off by trainers, vets, riders, judges etc as having problems which could not be overcome - some so bad that veterinary advice is to put the horse out permanantly or destroy it - even though definitive diagnoses could not be made as to the reasons for the horses' inabilty to  perform. His work ( and his wife's ), is devoted to straightening crooked horses.  Having read the Woody Article many times and attending your clinics in Australia I have been able to see the effects of crookedness everywhere. It was great to see  some people dedicated to bringing back some animals which had been so compromised by their lack of straightness and educating their owners to continue the work after leaving the centre.

 It may be of interest to this thread.  Am I allowed to reccomennd the book and Author here.

Regards

Liz Sugar

 

DrDeb
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Yes, Liz, thanks very much -- let us hear who these folks are.

And Leah, I am looking forward to your next post too. -- Dr. Deb

Last edited on Tue Sep 25th, 2007 08:36 am by DrDeb

Leah
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OK Dr Deb...I have pondered your questions and while I am not terribly proud of my answer * unsure grin* I am interested in the progress of the thread and not want to delay the discussion!

I actually talked with two friends (husband and wife team, small animal vet and vet tech) to try and cheat and see what vets are taught so I could pick another answer!

The initial answer from the vet was the 3 sets of muscles that run high, medium low along the spine.

His wife chose the ribs and adjoining muscles.

My initial answer was based on advice to humans...when you have a weak back, do sit ups to strengthen your abs...so my first answer was the ab muscles...

BUT my gut kept thinking about the muscles at the base of the neck.

So my first try is actually muscle AND bone.

The muscles at the base of the neck but only if developed on a straight spine...

Though I still feel I am missing something else that would take an active role...something in the loins. I just can't decide if it is muscle...again my gut feels it might be something different...perhaps ligament and tendon that relates to to hock apparatus.

In other words, that hock apparatus would have an active place in holding the back up.

Then again I could still give 6 other guesses and have pretty good reasoning for why I chose those 6.

So there are several first attempts with an attempt of reasoning behind them.

DrDeb
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Leah, you know, I never ask trick questions. So don't get all of a flutter here and make it harder than it needs to be. However, I am glad you went and talked to veterinarians -- that's always good.

The ACTIVE component in any biomechanical system is always muscle. It is the only tissue in the body that can actively create movement. So the answer to question 1 is : the type of tissue that is active in holding up the back is muscle.

OK, now that part is cleared up, so I'll give you another pointer on the other questions, which I still am hoping you can figure out yourself. Question 2 is: WHERE are the 'active agents' located (which you now know are muscles). Specifially, I offer you two choices:

(1) The muscles which act to hold up the back are located above (dorsal to) the spinal chain; or

(2) The muscles which act to hold up the back are located below (ventral to) the spinal chain.

Which is it? This is the main point on which most of the industry worldwide is confused.

In deciding, it will help you to look at a picture, such as what you might find in any common 'coffee table book' about horses, that shows the general layout of the musculature in the horse. Also, I will tell you that your idea about strengthening the 'abs' is correct. So, with that big a hint, all you have to do is figure out where the 'abs' are relative to the spinal chain.

For 'extra credit' you can then go back to the "True Collection" article and look at the pictures shown in it, so that you can then give the actual names of the three muscles that are key to holding up or raising the horse's back.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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Alrighty!

You know, I am an attorney by education so I fear it is in my nature to think, rethink, argue and debate one side, the consider all sides, the prepare appropriate support for each side I create :-)

Works well for law...can make life quite complicated with horses *grin*

With abs as the big hint, the 3 obvious muscles would be

Transvers Abdominal

Internal Abdominal Oblique

External Abdominal Oblique

Last edited on Tue Sep 25th, 2007 06:29 pm by Leah

IrishPony
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Leah, sometimes obvious is not always correct however.

I've been struggling with this for my horse also, and from my reading, I think the muscles which hold up the horse's back are below (ventral) to the spine.

I've learned that to 'round upwards', the longissimus dorsi must relax or stretch. To do this look to the Rectus Abdominus on the underline must engage (seen when a gelding urinates...ah, such rounding!), the Scalenus Muscle in the underside of the base of the neck (where it joins the chest) and the protractor muscle (anatomical name?) in the thigh.

Dr. Deb refers to this as the 'ring of muscles' that's so important to a rounded back.  Since just one of these muscles in the the abs, does it qualify as a <ahem> trick question?   ;-)

Kathy

P.S. If this is correct as I think it is, where do we start to loosen up the rigid back?  Not in the back, methinks, but in the suspension bridge model holding up the back.

Leah
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Kathy-

I am with you on the LD having the relax or stretch for sure! That one was not on my list of 'active' muscles.

Ok then!  Scalenus muscle in the base of the neck...and the Rectus Abdominus makes perfect sense with the vision of the gelding urination (will never look at that the same again!) and the thigh area ( I am still looking at my book to see the formal name)...

That makes perfect sense...when I was speaking with my friends we actually had the bridge discussion-I said I thought it might have to be the muscles on each pillar somewhere (front and back pillars) and something under for suspension.

So...now I have the muscles (thank you Kathy)...I guess the big job is creating a proper development program.

As far as releasing the back, wouldn't that go back to the idea of releasing the jaw and poll, then allowing release of the back, etc etc?

DrDeb
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Two out of three ain't bad, people....

Where did the thigh muscle get in there, though?

We are talking here about axial body function. The axial body does not include the legs. This is not to say that a horse doesn't use his legs when he moves, but no muscle of the legs is key to collection. This is one of the major points I am making in "Woody" and "True Collection" -- it is the axial body that is key, not the limbs.

So you've gotten the Rectus Abdominis and the Scalenus/Longus Colli complex, but you've left out the most important of the three. Let's pursue this by giving you another hint:

Rectus abdominis is the major muscle responsible for supporting the freespan of the back as a whole.

Scalenus/Longus colli complex supports the base of the neck.

What muscle then supports/coils the loins?

Collection is properly described thus:

"Collection starts from, and is always primarily the product of, coiling of the loins. Coiling of the loins promotes arching of the freespan of the back and aids in the raising of the base of the neck."

What I am telling you is that these are the three 'parts' or 'phases' in the act of collection, and that each one has a primary (and large) mass of muscle to power it.

It is indeed necessary for the muscles that are above the spinal chain (dorsal to it) to release or relax before effort of any muscle which underspans it can be effective. If the ventral musculature contracts while the dorsal musculature is also still contracting, you have a "war between the belly and the back", which results in strain and dysfunction.

To summarize, you have gotten this much correct:

(1) You know that the only tissue in the body that can actively create movement or effort is muscle tissue.

(2) You know that the back is supported or held up by the effort of muscles which UNDERSPAN the spinal chain.

(3) You know that for the ventral musculature to be effective, there must already be relaxation or release in the dorsal musculature.

(4) You know the name of the muscle group which underspans, supports, and can lift the base of the neck: Scalenus/Longus colli.

(5) You know the name of the 'governor' muscle which underspans, supports, and can lift the freespan of the back as a whole: Rectus abdominis.

Now you need to learn the name of the muscle that coils the loins. (If you want good pictures that show this muscle, look in my "Principles of Conformation" books, Volume I, or any of the zillion articles on this I have done since 1984 for Equus Magazine, or in several of our "Inner Horseman" back issues).

I am also going to add one other question that I'd like you to answer. Remember there are no trick questions, so this is very straightforward:

When we say that a muscle "contracts", that means that the muscle:

(a) Gets longer from end to end; or

(b) Gets shorter from end to end.

This point, though it may seem ridiculously simple, is CRUCIAL to your being able to understand this lesson and make practical use of it.

When you report the correct answers back to me, then we'll go on to the next part, which is designing a program of riding and training which will be good for a horse with a perceptibly "low" back.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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Iliopsoas.

 

When a muscle contracts it shortens from end to end.

 

Are we doing better? :-)

Last edited on Tue Sep 25th, 2007 11:06 pm by Leah

IrishPony
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Dr Deb wrote: "Where did the thigh muscle get in there though?"

I was reading _Principles of Conformation Analysis_ Volume 1, page 55-57, as well as in Volume II, page 17. 

I made a mistake when, in my previous post, said in the thigh. I didn't read thoroughly and carefully. If I had, I'd have seen that this isn't part of the ring, but just assists by bringing the limb forward. 

My mistake; sorry. Kind of like the kid in class who says, Oh oh...me! Call on me.  Maybe that kid just better be sure she knows the correct answer before raising her hand!

I know from my Anatomy/Physiology class, a muscle that is contracting is getting shorter from end to end.  Kathy

Last edited on Wed Sep 26th, 2007 01:46 am by IrishPony

Liz Sugar
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Hi Again

The book is called "Straightening the Crooked Horse", by Gabriele Rachen-Schoneich and Klaus Schoneich. Published in 2007 by Trafalgar Square Books. Available through Amazon..The  back cover lists many problems which straightening the horse solves - tension,imbalance,joint problems, stumbling or falling,ligament strain, hard mouth, disobedience, rhythm problems, downhill going, kissing spines, bad attitude, high headedness, stiffness, navicular issues, leaning, reluctance to go forward, diffuculty bending.  At the end of the book are some personal stories of horses that recovered to full work after attendance at the training centre run by the authors.

Enjoy

Liz Sugar

Leah
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I just ordered it (well that and the new NRC book so it cost quite a penny!).

Thank you for the book suggestion!

DrDeb
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Great, everybody, and especially Leah -- you quit dithering, guessing, and "trying to be right at any cost", and just looked up the facts and reasoned out the answer. You lost your fear of being caught in the wrong. This is what I always want students to do.

Now we're ready for the next thing, which is to build an understanding of how the biomechanics works. The word "biomechanics" is a compound composed of "bio", meaning "life", and "mechanics", which refers to physics principles such as levers, pulleys, forces, momentum, etc.

With this in mind, then, let's take what you now know and put it together to create a new insight. So here's the question to answer:

If it is true that when a muscle "contracts" that means it gets SHORTER from end to end, then where do the ends of the rectus abdominis muscle have to be attached to create upward arching of the freespan of the back?

Your answer should relate the position of the muscle attachments to the spinal chain.

 A hint is that you can look up the actual attachments (which are called the "origin" and the "insertion") in any standard horse anatomy book, such as Way and Lee's, Sisson and Grossmann's, Pasquini's, or Goody's.

Every horse owner should have at least one of these books in their personal library anyway, but you can also find them at the public library or obtain them on interlibrary loan.

Come back when you've got the answer to this. For "extra credit" you can look up the origin and insertion of the iliopsoas (a compound muscle made up of the iliacus, psoas minor, and psoas major) and the same for the scalenus and longus colli muscles. Where are ALL of the attachments for ALL of these muscles located, relative to the spinal chain?

Best wishes, have fun -- Dr. Deb

 

Leah
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OK the points of origin and insertion are as follows:

rectus abdonimus: origin-pubis bone(floor of pelvic girdle). insertion-all ribs except first 3 and 4 posterior bones of sternum...and hence the answer to your question-it allows the upside down U of a round back by 'squeezing' the sternum to pelvic area.

scalenus: origin-anterior and lateral side of 1st rib. insertion-transverse processes of C4-C7

longus colli: origin-cervical vertebrae and insertion-first 5-6 thoracic vertebrae.

Iliopsoas group

iliacus: origin-ventral side of the ilium(triangular wings of pelvic girdle). insertion-tronchater minor of the femur (thigh bone) with a tendon that intersects the psoas minor(see below). It allows the hip to flex, rotates femur out.

psoas minor: origin-first 4-5 lumbar vertebrae and last 3 thoracic vertebrae. insertion-ilium. flexes the pelvis

psoas major: origin-lumbar vertebrae and last 2 ribs. insertion-tronchanter minor of the femur with a tendon that intersect the psoas minor. Allows hip to flex and femur to rotate out.

Last edited on Thu Sep 27th, 2007 12:11 am by Leah

DrDeb
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Excellent, Leah: you have all the origins and insertions correct.

And, by implication, you have answered the main question: where are ALL these attachments located relative to the spinal chain?

Answer: they are all located BELOW the spinal chain.

Now, we need to put this fact together with another fact which you have now learned:

The only thing any muscle can ever actively do is contract.

Contraction means that a muscle gets shorter from end to end.

This means that when the rectus abdominis muscle contracts, it shortens the distance between the sternum (breastbone) and the pubis (the bone lying above the sheath or udder).

To visualize this a little less "anatomically", it would be correct to say that when the rectus abdominis contracts, it shortens the front-to-back length of the "underline".

Likewise, when the iliopsoas group of muscles contracts, this shortens the distance between the underside of the pelvis and the top of the thighbones, and the middle of the underside of the spine. This is what "coils the loins" (your anatomy books call this "flexion" but that's a lot less clear than "coiling").

And when the scalenus/longus colli contract bilaterally and in unison, they shorten the distance between the front end of the ribcage and the underside of the vertebrae that are at the front of the ribcage, and the underside of the middle of the neck. This has the interesting effect of lifting or raising the base of the neck, as a hammock would lift the sleeper if it were to be "cranked" from both ends.

All three of these muscle groups act, in general, to shorten the horse's underline.

Shortening of the underline both implies and demands lengthening or stretching of the topline.

For lengthening/stretching of the topline to occur, the muscles that pertain to the topline must first release or relax -- or else, once again, you get the "war between the belly and the back".

Now, Leah, we are getting close to answering your original query, which had to do with developing a program of training and riding that would be good for a horse with a low back.

We're not quite there yet, though, because I want you to understand with equal clarity about the muscles that invest, or pertain to, the topline (just as you now have learned the key muscles of the underline).

So, here's the next set of questions:

(1) What is the main muscle that forms the "topline", the muscle that directly underlies the cantle of the saddle?

(2) Describe the origins and insertions of this muscle (they are numerous, so you don't have to name them all individually).

When you come back demonstrating that you know this, then I'll fill it out for you a little more with a description of this muscle based on experience with actual carcasses -- it's difficult to truly appreciate this muscle until you've seen it exposed in three dimensions in the lab.

Best wishes -- Dr. Deb

Leah
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OK then! I am grinning a little bit!

The main topline muscle is the Longissimus Dorsi.

Point of origin: Ilium

Point of insertion: Vertebrae along the spine and the last 4 cervical vertebrae

Last edited on Thu Sep 27th, 2007 11:19 pm by Leah

DrDeb
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OK, good, correct.

So here's the next insight, which you will gain for yourself and permanently, when you respond to the following:

If we have a horse with a low back, which set of muscles do we want to encourage contraction (effort) in, for the purpose of causing the horse to carry his back level? The choices are:

(a) The longissimus dorsi and other muscles that attach above the spinal chain; or

(b) The rectus abdominis, iliopsoas, and longus colli/scalenus that attach below the spinal chain.

In other words: which of these two sets of muscles, when it contracts, acts to raise or arch the spinal chain?

Extra credit: When the longissimus dorsi contracts, which way does it move the spinal chain ("up", i.e. causes the horse to arch its back, or "down", i.e. causes the horse to hollow its back).

You are rapidly catching up on this, and, of course, helping all the other people who are reading along on this thread too. -- Dr. Deb

 

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If I may... we want the rectus abdominis, iliopsoas, and longus colli/scalenus to contract, which would raise the back or as you say, coil the loins.

When the longissimus dorsi contracts, it moves the spinal chain "down", causing the horse to hollow its back...the exact opposite of what we're trying to fix with a low-backed horse. 

You set me straight on this in my question about Doune flicking his front hooves. I think several of these threads are tied together with the same problem? 

Leah
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Irishpony-glad you joined in!

I agree with you as well :-)

we want group (b) to contract. If we contract (a) then the back will hollow for sure!

 

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So the horse physically cannot contract both groups at the same time, correct? We want the horse to completely let go along the topline and support itself underneath.

DrDeb
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Everybody participating here gets an "A".... you're showing that you understand the important points.

Helen, to your statement about the horse "not being physically able to contract both sets of muscles at one time" -- unfortunately, the horse can certainly contract both sets at one time. This is what creates the war between the back and the belly that I have previously mentioned several times.

The deal is, we want him, especially when he is carrying us on his back, to learn to contract only the ventral set, the set that attaches below the spinal chain, for the obvious reason that this is the ONLY set that can act to raise his back and thus support our weight upon it.

While the horse contracts or makes effort with the ventral set of muscles, we want him, as much as possible, to relax or release the dorsal set -- or else, again, we get the horse working against himself, as well as against the goals of the rider.

Now, this is where we see so much confusion in the books, magazines, and the teachings of the world's various certifying organizations: what you generally hear from these sources is that the horse is to "develop his back", that what we want is for him to do that. And, someone higher up in this thread I think it was, said that they particularly admired and valued a full, "double" back.

You might have noticed, if you were reading closely, that I did not come back at that time with a correction to this poster. I have absolutely no problem with making this as one of our training goals: to get that full, "double" back is a good thing, not a bad thing.

Now here's your new question: based on what you have learned to this point, how can this be? How can it STILL be our goal to create thick musculature along the topline, if what we know we have to have is relaxation/release in the muscles of the topline, while we encourage effort of the muscles of the underline?

In thinking about this, I want you to study and consider not only the muscles, but what feeds the body's muscles; for if a muscle is starved rather than fed, it will not grow or thicken up. Indeed, if a muscle is called upon for continuous or near-continuous effort, it will actually have the effect of choking off the supply of the thing that could actually feed the muscle. What is this substance that feeds muscle growth, and what is the system that delivers the substance?

Your reading on this subject will now have to swing into some orbits larger than merely books of anatomy; you will have to read something about physiology and body systems. Good place to start will be Encyclopedia Britannica or World Book Encyclopedia, or Google some topics that may occur to you. Have fun. -- Dr. Deb

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Ah, I didn't totally waste my time in college!

Blood feeds the muscles.  IF the muscles are contracted the blood cannot circulate through the way it can circulate through a relaxed muscle.  This is why a pinching saddle can cause such tramatic muscle damage.

 

But the muscle still needs to work some, right?  I"m totally guessing here, but the back probably does dampen some of the concussion when the horse's feet hit the ground.  Also the back swings, which I'm sure the muscles underneathe the back are mostly responsible for the swinging motion, but maybe the upper muscles do have a split second moment of activation here?

 

May I add another question to this discussion?  Is it possible to have a rounded back without rotating the pelvis under- for instance during long and low where a horse may be on his forehand?

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Hi, I think I understand that the horses set of dorsal muscles need to be relaxed and the ventral muscles need to be turned on the give the horse good posture and enable them to coil the loins.  What about when we start with a horse that has been tense in the back. There will be some soreness there to start with wont there from using incorrect muscles. They already tense how to start with them on ground and twirling their head.  I can get a head twirl on the ground but not relaxed and softened.

Many thanks Cathie Julie

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danee, I would guess that a horse with relaxed topline who is on the forehand, such as in the 'long and low' method, would also be relaxed in its abdominal muscles - so its loins would not be curled. That is why both sets of muscles are equally important in collection - is that right?

Also a slightly off-topic, but related question... I have read through the Birdie Book and the Knowlege Base... is there anywhere I can find more specific excersises in head- and loin-twirling from the ground and the saddle, and where to go from there?

Last edited on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 09:10 am by Helen

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I thought I submitted a second post, but I'm not seeing it.  Anyway..

 

I just re-read more of the knowledge base and some other threads here.  I can now see too that the horses with boney ugly backs are the ones where the muscle is tone and lean from over use- the "muscle" we want on the back is not lean tone muscle but flabby fat muscle.... thus the point of this whole thread!

 

"danee, I would guess that a horse with relaxed topline who is on the forehand, such as in the 'long and low' method, would also be relaxed in its abdominal muscles - so its loins would not be curled. That is why both sets of muscles are equally important in collection - is that right?"


Wow, that is so obvious now!   So long and low may relax the topline but not neccessarily round it?

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Dr. Deb: "Now here's your new question: based on what you have learned to this point, how can this be? How can it STILL be our goal to create thick musculature along the topline, if what we know we have to have is relaxation/release in the muscles of the topline, while we encourage effort of the muscles of the underline?"

Darn, another reason to wish for the umpteenth time I'd not sold my An/Phys book back to the bookstore. 

At any rate, muscle can become developed (bulked)  through reps without becoming tense.  (I'm looking at my husband's biceps.)  Are you asking what pathology causes a well-used muscle to become so tense it can't let go and relax?  Muscle spasm hurts and causes the inability to relax. What therapy is needed to relax that muscle?

Just throwing out ideas here and hoping to be able not only discuss didactics in the classroom, but also get out and help rectify the problem.  Yes... can you tell I'm anxious to do so!?   :-D   ~ Kathy

P.S. I just found a good website on hypertonic muscle spasm...am I in the correct direction?   ~K

Last edited on Sun Sep 30th, 2007 05:55 pm by IrishPony

Leah
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DrDeb wrote:

Now here's your new question: based on what you have learned to this point, how can this be? How can it STILL be our goal to create thick musculature along the topline, if what we know we have to have is relaxation/release in the muscles of the topline, while we encourage effort of the muscles of the underline?


 -- Dr. Deb
Well I go away for a weekend and missed quite a little party on the thread! :-)So glad others have joined in. Since we  have an answer to what feeds muscles, I will try to address the muscling question. The ideas that come to my mind is structural balance...it won't be healthy to have extreme muscle on the underside and 'flabby' muscle on the topside. Again, using my human example, with a weak back we are encouraged to develop our abs; however, we don't just ignore the back-it is still has to be strong and functional as well.A gymnast comes to mind, or even a ballerina (even better a contortionist for those that have ever seen Cirque du Soleil)...these sportsman are super top athletes with balanced muscling in the entire body. They are EXTREMELY strong but EXTREMELY flexible. I envision this kind of muscle development as opposed to say a body builder type of muscle. So is that how/why we can/should have both as a goal? I am guessing the topline muscling would come second to the underside muscling...kind of like the icing on the cake?OK...so that wasn't very medical in language but I want to make sure I am on the right track!

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We learned in physiology class that muscles move the skeleton by acting as levers on joints in opposing pairs: agonists and antagonists.  One set of muscles contracts, while the other relaxes (though Dr. Deb has said both abdominal and back muscles both work at the same time in the horse's torso).

My research thus far: A muscle which is chronically semi-contracted can actaully squeeze blood vessels and nerves running through the muscle, which interferes with blood supply and even proper nerve signals.  If left untreated, this can cause metabolic malfunction within the muscle tissue.    Kathy


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Straightening The Crooked Horse.

Ok I got my book today and finished it...today. (157 pages so not too long).

I simply could NOT put it down...it compliments (complements?) what we are discussing so nicely.

Thank you again Liz, for sharing this book.

Dr Deb...if you have a chance to read this book or learn about the rehab center (as I am certain you have so much free time! LOL)...I would be so interested to hear your comments on it.

I was very impressed.

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Leah or Liz,

Could you describe just  briefly the approach or methods addressed in the book?  It's been published so recently that I don't yet see any customer reviews on the internet book site.  I'm not looking for a long or detailed description, just a general idea of the main concepts or perspective.

Thanks!

Annie  

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Hello Annie-

I will do my best but don't feel I will do the book justice. Of course the ENTIRE focus is STRAIGHTNESS...straightness to my understanding like Dr Deb explains...straightness on the circle...the shoulders and ribcage and hind end follow the arc of the circle.

A horse must be level through shoulders and hips-lots of pictures showing a horse that would appear "straight" to most eyes, but in fact leans or bulges.

He separates horses into right or left handed and most of the book is from a right hand horse perspective (so just reverse it for a left handed horse)-he shows you how to identify which horse you have.

A right hand horse will bulge to the left (make the circle bigger) and lean in the the right...he will have a harder stabbier RF landinging to the right because of the shoulder leaning in.

He also discusses what the rear end does-it can wing out going one direction.

The 'program' in general is a 30 day program of in hand work to get the horse straight without  rider. He emphasizes loosening of the longissimus dorsi.

The in hand work is mostly at the trot-in a lunge cavesson, no sidereins, rope attached to the ring on the center of this nose. The idea is to lift the right shoudler, shifting weight to the LR. This allows the RF to come through. He shows were body position on the person should be and explains why everything is important.

He then has some exercises for under saddle work that also work to lift the right shoulder (again reverse for a left handed horse).

The level hips allow the legs to come through properly rather than winging around.

Again this is a very simple explanation that I almost hesitate to post...hopefully others that have read the book can chime in!

The book is only 157 pages with LOTS of good photos and drawings. Again to my mind it fits in very nicely with Dr Deb's writings but I hate to jump to conclusions without finishing our 'discussion' from her perspective.

I have tried some of the in hand work on two of mine and can see very beginnings of changes.

He says over 4000 horses have come through his program with a 90-95% success rate.

The funny thing is, after having this thread and reading his book, it is so OBVIOUS but very important information that has helped me a great deal.

Please feel free to ask anything else and I can try to clarify my answer!

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Leah,

Thanks so much for your informative review of the book--it was kind of you to take the time to provide so much detail.  I will be traveling on business this week, and plan to take several of the knowledge base articles with me to read and reflect on; I wondered where this book fit in with the information and perspectives in those articles, and with the very informative discussions on this forum about the muscles used to lift the back.  For me, it is so helpful to have this concrete information, including identifying specific muscles and their action. I realize that when I ride, this technical information cannot substitute for "feel," but for me, it is easier to develop that feel if I at least know what I am searching for! 

Thanks for the time you and others have taken to advance this discussion!

Annie

 

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Last edited on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 01:55 am by danee

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danee-it doesn't address rider crookedness in the same way as say...Centered Riding does...but there is a section on transferring straightening from the ground work to ridden work and placement-like our sternum facing where the horse's chest should faced is addressed.

I have found this book invaluable. I have been doing the groundwork on 2 and using the riding principles on the two that I ride and the results come very quickly-in terms of seeing progress.

I have tried the exercises on Julian and he IS 'tracking' better-that plus the information that Dr Deb has provided on the muscles is making our sessions productice.

Sadly though he has a terrible stiffness still in his body and especially in his hind end that I still can't get a grasp on.

Hopefully Dr Deb will return soon and can keep our education progressing! :-)

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Last edited on Wed Nov 21st, 2007 09:00 pm by Leah

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Yes, a few of us feel rather abandoned on this topic. It includes Low Back in Young Horses as well as Whip-Like Hoof Movement.  Tight backs need attending to.

Dr. Deb?    Kathy et al

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Hi Folks,

Have been watching this thread with much interest!  Thanks to Dr Deb I have discovered this year what my horses 'problems' were, ME and BAD POSTURE.  Had to start by sorting myself out first...am now working on horses bad posture,  he has previously been high headed, braced, tight in the back with some mucsle wastage of the back.  All this shows hugely in his feet, and again thanks to Dr Deb I find I can trim those hooves till I am blue in the face, doesn't change a thing till I address the posture.

I don't know it this will help but I can share what my horse has taught me, and the answers I have found through this good work. 

My horse had no idea how to let those tight muscles on the top line go, so to start I have taught him to first lower the head below the withers and then  twirl the head, standing still then progressing to walk. Then next we twirled the loins, get the inside hind to step under the body shadow.  I have also done a bit of 'body work' I have learnt to help him become aware of his body.  Deb's mannering has gone a huge way too.  This is pretty much all I have done and this horses posture has previously been so bad he has lost the trot, we only ever walked and cantered, I thought he was some flash gaited horse....nope, I believe bad posture!!!  Anyway my horse is starting to show trot steps when free in his paddock, up to three strides in a row!  And I saw him do two strides of canter with the base of his neck raised and his loins coiled, this is a first!  All so exciting.

I do however have a weeny question.  I have sent my horse out onto the circle, put a little knot in my rope up near the horse so I am always sending the knot to the horse and pushing on his girth area with my 'bubble',  if the horse is not quite stepping under the tummy far enough, does this show in a 'not quite' a head twirl.  There seems to be a little sideways tilt to the head and no crinkles in the neck, I haven't quite got the release with me further out on the rope.  Hope that makes sense. 

TTFN

Sam

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Hi Sam,

 I'm not quite sure I understand your question (foggy head day...) but I think your asking if your not getting a full twirling of the loins if that means your head twirl isn't there?  Can you make sense of that? :-)

 The head twirl is about release as you've learned and worked out. The horse must release over the topline to twirl the hindquarters. Best way to release the top line is the head twirl.

 So what I'm trying to say is if your not getting the response you want you need to get the release you need.

 Your doing very well and you should trust what your seeing!  Your not describing a head twirl.

 Remember helping horses move straight is hard work for them and they need all your support and help. If your not succeeding move back a step of two in your training and get that better or change what your doing. Maybe you need to make your circle smaller or larger or maybe you need to walk right up with the horse around the circle to be able to actually touch him and help him out, etc., etc. Experiment with your position on the ground and your energy, sometimes we aren't in quite the right position relative to the horse.

 Also do you see in your minds eye what you want him to do? Not just for a moment but holding it there, changing as he does moment to moment?

Are you sending him that "straight, soft, released feeling"? Feel the straightness, the softness and the release in your self and send him that support.

 Enjoy your day!
          Adrienne

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Adrienne,

Is "Doubling" the horse the same as head twirling? 

Thanks,

Pam

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Hi Pam,

 I'm not familiar with the term "doubling"?  Is it bringing the nose around to the horse's side or the rider's knee??

 If it's an exercise that is for control, "flexibility" or "suppling" than I'd say no. From what I've seen of these exercises.

Head twirling isn't about getting bend in the neck, it's about asking the horse to relax is tight topline muscles and "let go" so he can rotate his skull on the end of his neck. The neck isn't where the bend starts and may not even bend at all depending on the degree of twirl your asking, the height of the neck and how much he releases. Head twirling is small, and is a release and not an exercise.

 All good movement starts with this release. Your horse can't collect without releasing first. He can't coil his loins if he doesn't let go of his topline muscles first.

 When we want our horse to carry us, move straight and in collection with free forward movement and sail through different movements like jumping, shoulder-in, canter depart, halting, transitions, roll backs, haunches-in, passage, etc. etc.all the while getting straighter, sounder and better for it,  we first need release of the topline that makes way for collection by coiling the loins, then we get it all working together and get collection. Collection is maintained by keeping the release, softness and balance. When we lose one we lose it all and get brace.

 So head twirling isn't just something we teach our horse or something we use as part of our exercise program it's how we help our horses release so they can collect and carry us and do exercises or movements. Does that make sense?

  Have a great day!
             Adrienne

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Adrienne,

You are correct about Doubling.  Thanks for your explanation.  I think I'm little closer to understanding head twirling.  Maybe I'm able to do this without realizing I am. 

You mention rollbacks in your reply - I just want to mention how much I enjoy that maneuver and how loose and attentive it makes my horse!

Thank You,

Pam 

 

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Last edited on Thu Nov 22nd, 2007 01:55 am by danee

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For those members who do head twirling on their horse(s), I have a question: Just before putting hay in his rack tonight, I stood in front of my gelding, placed my hands on either side of his face and slowly tried to twirl his head along the long axis of his head.  After a few attempts, I got an ever-so-slight "give" in both directions, quit, gave him his hay stood there and watched him. He took a few bites and came back to face me, as if inviting me to "do that thing you just did".   This is a horse who never walks away from a full hay rack.

Does head twirling feel good to a horse? Is manual twirling on the ground a good way to introduce it to a horse for the first time, as opposed to getting the movement with the aid of bit and reins? Lastly, am I doing it right (along the long axis) rather than in a different plane?

It was astounding that he seemed to come back for more, knowing his proclivity to eat above all else.  Kathy

Last edited on Fri Nov 2nd, 2007 02:14 am by IrishPony

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Doubling is the same as one rein stop. Its a term Buck uses I believe. Bill I 

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Thanks Adreinne, I was asking a bit of a 'chicken and the egg' question as to which comes first, the head twirl or the loin twirl. And if one is not perfect can one help the other.  As I now understand it if the head is not twirled and releasing the muscles well how can the horse twirl the loins with ease?!  And I have gone back a few steps as this horse needs me closer to him so he understands and I have to go really slow one step at a time.  Thanks for the helpful hints.

I hadn't heard the term 'doubling' before, Buck B is coming to NZ next year so I will keep an ear out for his use of this term.

Kind Regards

Sam

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Goodness sometimes I can be thick as a brick.

Last night I read every post on this forum, then I re-read woody and True Collection...slowly...focusing on each sentence and point.

I took several breaks during the reading to really focus on the material.

 

Then the piano dropped...the thud was loud. The information I needed is already here...in your writings, inr your response on this thread AND in your responses on other threads.

Thank you Dr Deb for an educational thread, knowing when to assist me and more importantly, knowing when to stay back and make me dig a little...or in this case dig a lot.

I really really enjoyed the articles. Though I have read them before it was like reading them for the first time and the room was bright from all of the lightbulb moments.

 

Last edited on Tue Nov 20th, 2007 11:44 am by Leah




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