Signs of Muscular Problems
- Head tossing
- Coordination difficulties
- Saddle slipping to one side
- Short, choppy strides
- Improper tracking forward, back, or laterally
- Resistance when bending and/or backing
- Hind leg scuffing
- Girthing problems
- Refusing or resisting leads
- Unwilling or unable to walk up or down inclines
- Poor disposition, eating, or sleeping habits
- "Off" for no apparent reason
- New resistances
- Diminished performance on the flat and over fences
- Asymmetry on the flat or with lateral work
- Slight unevenness
Muscles contract and release. Whereas contraction is a generated process, release is not. When muscles tighten and cannot achieve full release, they remain tight and shortened, or contracted. This puts strain on the surrounding areas.
Tight shoulders pass their inability to release to the digital flexors and tendons of the fore leg. This creates a dangerous scenario for the lower limbs. Tight muscles lead to spasm (knots) which leads to tears in the fibres.
Here’s where you start to see short choppy strides, refusals, and resistance in the horse, because it hurts!
The tendons become irritated. Most often, one pain killer or another is prescribed and administered to alleviate soreness. But this just addresses the symptom (pain), not the real issue (muscle fibre adherence that results in spasm), not to mention the inevitable side effects and loss of efficacy over time.
If the underlying issue, the spasm, is not treated and eliminated, the horse will compensate by passing the problem to other muscle groups.
By covering up minor problems, we end up creating major ones. It’s only a matter of time before you’re headed for a full blown muscle tear or a permanent problem!