3. Probe For Telltale Soreness
In The Checkpoint Muscles.
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
When 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
Now 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 following.
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.
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 ProTecTOR PAD under every saddle?
What I did for this horse
was to put on the Protector 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 long term effects of saddling & or riding to your horse.
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 receive 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
Enter main content here