Simple Explanation of the Horse's Muscular System by Melodye Sweetin

Simple Explanation of the Horse's Muscular System by Melodye Sweetin

Submitted by: Melodye Sweetin
Phone: 434-286-3824
Email Address: MelodyeSweetin(at)
Date Added: 7/6/2012

Understanding how the horse uses his muscle when working helps you to easily understand what appear to be complex training concepts. The horse has extensor muscles, & flexor muscles, which work in opposition, in other words, when the extensors are working the flexors cannot be working. The extensor muscles allow the horse to push himself through space, while the flexors allow the horse to pull himself through space. All of my training is aimed at developing the extensors because a horse who pushes himself through space is the ONLY horse that will ever be able to develop self carriage, which is what allows the rider to have contact that is feather light. Conversely, a horse whose flexors are developed will pull on his rider's reins if he attempts to take up contact.

To begin the process of developing the extensors the rider must take the time to allow the horse to learn to open his topline, stretching his nuchal ligament which is attached from the poll to the dock of the tail. When the horse can open his topline like a telescope easily the rider can begin to train the horse's hind legs to push, creating the inertia to create contact.The length of time this process takes varies from horse to horse, but it's not unusual for this process to take 6-9 months, which cannot be accelerated or eliminated without producing holes in the horse's training which will reappear later in training.

When the extensor muscles are working the muscle in the middle of the horse's neck will look like a sausage from the saddle. (see photo) As long as the horse is pushing you should be able to see this muscle. As soon as it disappears it's likely the horse has stopped pushing & has begun pulling, which will serve to develop the muscles on the bottom of the neck.The more over developed the neck flexor muscles become the more difficult it becomes for the extensors to work properly.If a horse already has over-developed flexors it will take time for them to atrophy with proper work.I use peppermints when I bridle my horses to encourage them to start chewing which uses the extensor muscles!!!!

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