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Equine, Horse & Rider, Human, News

Changes Ahead!

The last year has been an interesting year in regards to the pandemic and the affect it has had on work. As many of you will know I haven’t been able to be hands on for that much of the year. However I have been using the time to develop a few things.

Firstly I have been increasing my social media presence as well as being part of the Expert Academy run by NKC. This has really helped develop my way of thinking as well as offer support in the direction I would like to go. This was the first step in making some changes. NKC offer a number of online courses for owners such as equine first aid that you might find useful.

The second step was to start an MSc in McTimoney Animal Manipulation to help develop my skill set and offer more to the animals I treat. So in less than two years time I should be qualified and be able to work on your horse (or other animals) through joint manipulations and soft tissue making treatments more effective.

Thirdly I have decided to separate my equine part of my work from Lightspeed Sports Recovery. In the not to distant future there will be a separate website, facebook and instagram account for all horse related information. Those of you that are not horse people will be able to enjoy more information related to your needs through the Lightspeed Sports Recovery platform. Those that are horse fans will need to like the new pages when they are all complete. Updates on where to find these will follow soon.

I want to also say a huge thank you to everyone who has supported Lightspeed Sports Recovery especially through this last year. I am hoping that if the governments targets are met that I will be hands on again from April 12th. I look forward to seeing you all and helping relieve all your aches and pains very soon.

Equine, Horse & Rider, Injury and Rehab, Injury Management

Know you Therapist!

As an owner it can often be confusing as to what the difference between some professions are and who might be the right professional to come and treat your horse.

Quite often I see people ask for a recommendation for a particular type of therapist e.g. a chiropractor and they get a large number of recommendations that are not chiropractors but massage therapist, for instance. This can make things even more confusing and sometimes you don’t realise you are not actually getting what you asked for. Below are some defining features of each profession to allow you the owner to make an informed decision on who is best suited to treat your horse.


  • May be know as a back specialists
  • Manipulates joints with gentle and quick movements
  • May do some soft tissue work if qualified to do so
  • Can only be called Animal Chiropractor if qualified as a human chiropractor, otherwise they should be called Practitioner of Animal Manipulation. They are generally qualified through McTimoney Chiropractic College
  • Degree level qualification
  • RAMP and MAA registered
  • You may use one when your horse is suffering pelvic and back issues. Or if soft tissue work alone is not working. Soft tissue and manipulations combined make a very effective treatment combination.

Vet Physiotherapist

  • In the last couple of years an vet physiotherapist does not need to be qualified in human physiotherapy as they did in the past
  • Uses soft tissue techniques, equipment such as electo therapy and exercises to treat musculoskeletal issues
  • Degree level qualification
  • RAMP, ACPAT, IRVAP, CSP are some of the possible associations for a Vet physio to be registered with
  • You tend to use a physio when your horse is injured and needs rehabbing, however they do also do maintenance work

Equine Sport Massage/Bodyworker

  • Works on soft tissue through massage
  • May have additional qualifications such as acupressure, k-taping, myofascial release
  • There are several different courses available some more robust than others and it is worth looking into the number of hours, case studies and examinations they had to undergo to qualify
  • Possibly registered with ICAT, IAAT, ESMA, or IEBWA
  • Generally used when your horse is stiff and sore. Can be used before or after competition, to help during rehab or general maintenance to reduce the occurrence of overuse injuries.

There are other types of equine therapist that I have not mentioned but the above are the most commonly used by owners. It must be noted that none of the above professions should be diagnosing. This can only be performed by a vet. Also if your horse is lame then it needs to be seen by a vet before any of the above professions commence treatment, with the vets permission. Recently the need for vet permission to treat maintenance cases is no longer required.


Ways to get through lockdown 3

So we are well into lockdown 3, without really knowing when it will be eased or lifted. It is the tail end of winter, which can sometimes be the worst weather. We have all had enough of lockdown, and the weather. So how can we make ourselves feel better and get through this? In a previous blog I discussed ways to help your muscles but in this we are going to discuss ways to just get you through and make you feel better.


Some of you maybe working from home, some on furlough or some who are self employed and not able to work. If you are still working then you have structure to your day. While it may seem tedious and mundane planning your week even if you are not working really helps to give you a reason to get up in the morning and get things done. One of the worst feelings is wasting time away with nothing to do. This leads onto the next step. A project


Set yourself a project or several projects. These may include some DIY in the house, social media posts, future work project or learning something new. By having a project you have something to put into your structure, a focus and something to achieve that once done will make you feel good. Make sure you have a realistic timescale to complete your project in so you have the motivation to get it done once started.

New hobby

Take up a new hobby or perhaps an old one which you haven’t had time to do. This could be any number of things such as learning the drums. A large percentage of people have taken things online so it can be done through video chat. Some of you may not want to spend more time at the computer on zoom chats so take up something like painting, knitting or photography.


This doesn’t have to be running. Yoga, Pilates or a walk are all ways to exercise. Try and get outside once a day even if the weather is rubbish. The fresh air will help. There are plenty of videos that you can use to follow along and help with motivation online. Timetable exercise into your day. It gives you more structure and again a sense of achievement. It also burns calories which allows you to have cake, chocolate and wine without feeling guilty.


This is something I have learnt over the latter part of last year and not something I thought would help, but it really did. At this time of year and especially as it is lockdown we can have a lot of negative thoughts. So by realising this we can start to change the way we think. If you do have a negative thought you need to change this into a positive and continue to reinforce this thought. For example, say you feel like you can’t do 10 push ups. Instead of saying you can’t. Change it to you can do 10 push ups. It doesn’t matter if you can’t do them right now, but you are allowing yourself to be able to do it in the future. While you might be thinking this is a load of rubbish, have a try. You need to do it for sometime for it to have an effect, a week or more. Also listing what you are grateful for helps change your thinking as well. Try it and see whether you feel more positive.

The above are just a few things you can do to help you through this lockdown. Think positive above anything else, remind yourself of what you are grateful for such as family, wine and being able to walk with a friend. These little things go a long way to helping you deal with the current situation better.

Biomechanics, Equine, Horse & Rider, Injury and Rehab, Injury Management

Part 2: Core Exercises for your horse

Carrot stretches

Most of you will have heard of carrot stretches but if not then they are a sequence of movements that dynamically mobilese and strengthen your horses core muscles. Narelle Stubbs and Hilary Clayton outline them in a book called ‘Activate your horse’s core’. This is a really good resource to have, and will show you how to get your horse to do the moves. It also shows you how to do other moves like belly lifts, tail pulls and weight shifts.

Belly Lifts

Belly lifts are a really good way to get your horse activating its core. It specifically works on the abdominal muscles but also brings the thoracic sling into play. To perform a belly lift you need to stand facing your horse’s side behind the elbow. Taking your hands apply pressure between the pectoral muscles on the sternum and gradually run your hands down towards the hind limb. Maintain the pressure as you do this. You should see that your horse lifts through its back. If not play around with the pressure until you find what works.

Backing up

Backing up causes the hind legs to get right underneath your horse this in turn engages the core muscles and helps strengthen them. It will also highlight whether one side is stronger than the other. You want your horse to move back in a straight line. To perform this move get your horse to stand square and then apply some pressure to their chest asking them to step back. Start with a few steps trying to keep as straight as possible and gradually increase the number of steps. This is also a really good way to get the hind limbs to loosen of before ridden work. This can also be performed when ridden.

Dock Rocks

These are similar to tail pulls but I prefer giving these to clients as they are not applying any unwanted pressure to the tail. Again dock rocks help strengthen the core muscles. They also help activate the quadricep muscles and the tensor fasciae latae which help to stabilise the hind legs. To perform this stand facing your horses side in line with the hindquarters. Hook your hand over the dock of your horses tail. Gently pull towards you in an arch so that your horses hindquarters gently come towards you. Relax and let your hand return back to the start. Perform this both sides. Start with 5 each side and then gradually increase the repetitions.

Pole work

Pole work is a great way to get your horse to activate its core and engage its hindquarters. It can be done in hand, ridden or on the lunge. Start off easy with one or two poles in a straight line. Gradually add poles over a number of weeks. Start in walk and then build to trot work. As your horse progresses you can start to raise the poles. Bring it back to one or two poles in walk and build the number of poles up gradually. Alter the distances between poles, create different patterns such as a circle or riding them over a triangle and getting them to bend. If you do this regularly to you start to notice a difference in your horses athleticism.

Long and low work

It is really important to give your horse a session where you have minimal collection. Allow your horse to stretch their necks down while working. A whole session be it schooling or out on a hack (if save to do so) would be beneficial. You can use it as a gentle active recovery session in their training plan. It will allow your horse to stretch and lift through its topline, activating its core muscles

Above are a number of exercises that will help any horse develop their core muscles even top competition horses. It will help develop suppleness, strength and resilience reducing the occurrence of injuries and allowing your horse to train and compete more efficiently and effectively.

If you have any queries please do contact Pollyanna

Human, Injury Management

4 Things you can do to help your muscles during lockdown 3

Lockdown 3 is definitely proving to be one of the harder lockdowns to deal with for a number of reasons. Many of you will still be working from home. Below are a number of things you can do to help your muscles and also a certain extent your mental health. Take time for yourself and get outside even if the weather is rubbish it will make you feel better.


During lockdown we are allowed to go out and exercise so grasp this opportunity especially if you have someone to exercise with. It doesn’t need to be a run. A walk will be just as beneficial to your muscles.

By getting out and exercising you are allowing an increase in blood flow which will help rejuvenate you muscles, allowing them to loosen up. I know the weather is not at its best but get those layers on and a waterproof and get some fresh air, it will be worth it. This will help clear your head. If however you don’t have enough time to get out then exercising at home is another good alternative even if it is just 20 min of activity such as yoga or pilates.

Move regularly

Those of you that have desk jobs probably suffer from a few aches and pains when you have been sat in countless zoom meetings. Try and get up and move regularly. Go get yourself a drink, take a walk around the room, stretch and change positions regularly. In the past posture has been drummed into people that it needs to be good, well the actual issue is staying in the same position for too long. So even if you have good posture at some point you will start to ache. Those that have the luxury of a desk that alters height can sit or stand which is a great way to change positions. Those that do not try different positions in your chair. Sit back in it, sit forward, stretch your arms up, hunk your back and then straighten it. All these movements will give relief to your muscles and keep them moving.

Hot and Cold

Having a hot shower or bath can go a long way to helping your muscles relax. Its also a great way for you mind to unwind and have some me time. If you are having a bath adding epsom salts will also help relieve any muscle aches and pains. Make sure you put some time aside so that you can relax while doing this. Hot water bottles are also good when sitting at your desk. They can help relieve tension and reduce pain.

Cold can also help relieve tension and any inflammation present. So if you have a particularly painful muscle or area of your body use a bag of peas wrapped in a cloth to help reduce any discomfort. Hot and cold can be used together. Do 5 min cycles of each and this will help draw blood into the affected areas as well as act as pain relief.

Spikey/hockey ball

Spikey balls are the one thing I recommend to everyone. I prefer them to foam rollers because they are more versatile and actually get deeper into the problem areas. They are particularly good at getting into the muscles on the back and shoulders. You can either lean against one on the wall or do it lying down. A hockey ball or hard ball can also be used as an alternative. Below is a video on how to use spikey balls to release off various muscle groups.

Anatomy, Biomechanics, Equine, Horse & Rider, Injury and Rehab, Injury Management

Part one: Core Muscles of the Horse

The core muscles is a term banded about quite a lot but what makes up the core muscles of a horse? Well quite a few in fact. The core muscles are the muscles that stabilise the back and pelvis. They include the abdominal muscle group, sub lumbar muscle group and the epaxial muscle group.

A strong core is important for horses as it is in humans. By developing a strong core a stable foundation can be developed to allow the horse to be balanced while moving. This reduces the chances of injuries as your horse will be able to cope physically with changes around them such as uneven surfaces or slipping. It also helps with posture and allows your horse to manage the weight of a rider by being able to lift through their back.

Below is a brief summary of the muscles that make up your horses core in part two core exercises will be described so that you can help strengthen your horses core.

Abdominal muscles

Rectus Abdominis

Origin: Sternum, xiphoid process, costal cartilage 4-9

Insertion: Prepubic tendon

Function: Aids in defacation, giving birth, and expiration. Supports the abdomen and flexes the back

Transversus Abdominis

Origin: Medial surface of asternal ribs thoracolumbar fascia, transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae

Insertion: Aponeurosis to linea alba, xiphoid cartilage

Function: Aids in defacation, giving birth and expiration. Supports the abdomen

Internal Obliques

Origin: Tuber coax and inguinal ligament

Insertion: Aponeurosis to linea alba, ribs 18, costal cartilage 14-18 and prepubic tendon

Function: Aids in defacation, giving birth and expiration. Supports the abdomen

External Obliques

Origin: Costal part lateral surface of ribs 4-18. Lumbar part thoracolumbar fascia

Insertion: Costal part linea alba and pubic tendon. Lumbar part inguinal ligament and tuber coxae

Function: Aids in defacation, giving birth and expiration. Supports the abdomen

The abdominal muscle group as you can see mainly supports the abdomen and are involved in bodily functions as in breathing and going to the toilet. The abdominals also help support the trunk when exercising. When engaged they help lift through the back giving the horse a top line that can deal with carrying a rider and complex movement patterns like jumping or dressage moves.

Sub lumbar muscles


Origin: Sacropelvic surface of ilium, pelvic surface of sacrum and tendon of psoas minor

Insertion: Lesser trochanter of the femur

Function: Flexes and rotates hip joint laterally, moves limb forward

Psoas Major

Origin: Ribs 17-18, ventral surface of bodies and transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae

Insertion: Lesser trochanter of femur

Function: Flexes hip joint, moves limb forward and laterally rotates limb

Fuses with iliacus to form iliopsoas complex

Psoas Minor

Origin: Bodies of Thoracic vertebrae 17-18 and lumbar vertebrae 1-5

Insertion: Ilium and tubercle of psoas minor

Function: With the vertebral column fixed it draws the pelvis forward. With the pelvis fixed it flexed the vertebral column

The sub lumbar muscle group connects the back and pelvis. It helps stabilise these two components allowing them to function at a higher capacity without sustaining an injury. There are other muscles like the gluteals that also help but these will be discussed another time. The sub lumbar muscle group are the deeper muscles that function as part of the core.

Epaxial muscles

Multifidus (thoracic and lumbar part)

Origin: Artucilar and maxillary processes of sacrum, lumbar and thoracic vertebra

Insertion: Spinous processes of thoracic and lumbar vertebrae, spinous process of cervical vertebrae 7

Function: Bilaterally extends back, unilaterally bends vertebral column laterally and rotetes

Longissimus (cervics and dorsi)

Origin: Cervics portion transverse processes of thoracic vertebrae 1-7 and thoracic part of longissumus dorsi. Longissumus dorsi wing of iliac bone, spinous processes of sacrum, lumbar and thoracic vertebrae

Insertion: Cervicis portion transverse processes of cervical vertebra 4-7. Longissimus dorsi transverse and maxillary processes of cervical vertebrae 4-7 and tubercles of ribs

Function: Extends back and neck, stabilises vertebral column


Origin: Transverse processes of lumbar vertebrae 1-5, cranial margins of ribs

Insertion: Cuadal margins of ribs 1-15, transverse process of cervical vertebrae 7

Function: Bilaterally extends and stabilises vertebral column. Unilaterally bends back

The epaxial muscle group are located along the back unlike the abdominal muscle group. They solely focus on stabilising and moving the back.

So this is a brief summary of the muscles that make up the deep core of the horse. Hopefully it will allow you to have a better understanding of their role and location to help you work with your horse. To further this understanding the second part will discuss exercises that will strengthen all the above muscles.

Anatomy, Biomechanics, Human, Injury and Rehab

The Importance of Sporting Footwear: Are you wearing the right fitting shoes?

Footwear is something in the sporting world that can often be over looked. We buy a pair of trainers for multiple uses and use them for a prolonged period of time until they are falling apart and wonder why we sustain injuries.

Overuse injuries can be sustained from not wearing well fitting footwear or the wrong type of footwear for the activity these include;

  • Shin splints
  • Corns
  • Stress fractures
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Heel pain
  • Patella femoral pain

Other traumatic injuries that can occur from poor footwear include;

  • Sprained ankles
  • Bruised toes and nails

How to choose the right footwear

  • Buy for your specific sport don’t get walking trainers for running and vice versa. Sports like tennis require more ankle support than running shoes and will have different grips that are suited to the surfaces you are exercising on
  • Buy for your foot type. If you have low arches then a shoe that has more arch support would be beneficial. Shoe brands have many different models for different foot types. If you are unsure about your foot type then it is a really good idea to see a specialist that can help. www.bootsure.co.uk is one of these specialists who has a wealth of knowledge in this area.
  • When trying a pair on you want wiggle room for your toes
  • Footwear should be comfortable from the moment you try them on
  • You want a snug fit around the heel and midfoot and a thumbs width between your longest toe and end of your shoe.

Replacing Footwear

I often get clients suffering from injuries and when we discuss their trainers it comes apparent that they probably need to be replaced.

Footwear only has a certain amount of mileage before it starts to offer less support and could cause injuries to develop. Roughly a running shoe should be replaced between 300-400 miles.

Some of us however don’t actually know the mileage we run especially if playing a team sport. So the other way to ascertain whether your shoes need replacing is whether the soles are worn especially the heel and if they become less comfortable. It is best to be cautious and buy a new pair so you can gradually break them in while the old pair still have some life in them. This again will reduce the occurrence of injuries.

Footwear as a injury treatment

So poor footwear can cause injury but they can also be used to help treat injuries. If you have a lower limb injury it is always a good idea to take your footwear to your physio or sport therapist. This will allow them to see any wear on your shoes that might indicate poor biomechanics. They can then advise you if a different type of shoe would suit your foot type.

Also sport shoes can be fitted with orthotics to help support your foot in the right areas generating better foot biomechanics and relieving over stressed structures. Cushioning from footwear can also help support feet by reducing unwanted foot motion e.g. pronation. Lacing of shoes can also make a difference it can reduce heel slippage and allow for a snugger fit.

By having properly fitting sporting footwear you can reduce the occurrence of injuries. Your feet are something that need to be looked after as they take a huge amount of stress. When injured they affect your mobility and quality of life. Feet deserve a well fitting pair of sport shoes to allow them to do their job.

Biomechanics, Equine, Horse & Rider, Injury and Rehab, Injury Management

Overuse injuries in horses

Injuries are always a worry for horse owners, they can be expensive, time consuming and painful for your horses. Overuse injuries are something that owners can help reduce. Read on if you would like to know more about overuse injuries and how you as an owner can reduce them.

What is an overuse injury?

As in humans overuse injuries in horses occur due to a build up of micro trauma to tissues and the tissue is unable to repair quickly enough. When training to gain fitness and strength you want to overload your body but you need to give your body time to remodel and repair to be stronger. This is the same in horses. If they are not given the opportunity to recover after training then these micro traumas build up and can cause overuse injuries.

While humans can verbalise discomfort and pain horses often hide this making it really difficult for owners to know when there is something wrong. It is therefore important to know the potential causes of overuse injuries so that you can reduce there impact on your horse.

Causes of Overuse Injuries

Training & Fitness

Horses like humans can be unfit so it is imperative that training is planned to take the horses fitness level into consideration. The training load and frequency want to be increased gradually to allow the body to adjust. If the training load and frequency are increased suddenly and quickly then the horse is unable to make this adjustment and overuse injuries can occur.

Another important aspect of training is giving the horse enough rest time between training sessions. Giving your horse two or more days off a week is a good thing. It allows there bodies to repair and gives them some down time, however if stabled then an in hand walk would be of benefit to allow them to stretch muscles and joints out.

Training should also have different intensities, duration and activities (schooling, hacking, jumping) to create more physiological adaptation in your horse (increase their fitness). If you always keep everything the same then staleness and boredom can set in. By mixing it up you will get better fitness gains and a reduced risk of overuse injuries

Confirmation and Biomechanics

Horses come in so many different shapes and sizes. Some have been breed for specific traits that predispose them to be better suited to a job. As an owner we do need to look at our horses to see if their confirmation suits what we want to do with them. By doing this we can give the horse the best possible chance of not sustaining injuries due to their confirmation. Their confirmation will dictate how they biomechanically move and also show up as tightness in certain areas. For instance I have an ISH who has medial rotation on his lower front limb. This means that he gets tightness in his shoulder. To add to that he has a long neck so quite often he is tight through that shoulder and the base of neck. Regular bodywork in the form of massage, and mobilising stretches (carrot stretches) help reduce tightness and overuse injuries.


Ill fitting tack can cause overuse injuries by placing undue stress on certain structures such as the shoulder and back. The pressure created can cause atrophy of muscle, a change in biomechanics, stress on other areas, and inflammation. Checking tack regularly by a good saddler will help reduce any overuse injuries from poorly fitting tack.

Foot balance

Foot balance is really important in horses. Having a long toes for example puts unwanted strain on structures above and will result in overuse injuries. A farrier should be able to maintain a balance that is suited to your horse. Regular visits should also occur (4-6weeks). Horses hoofs do grow at different rates through the year and so you may even need to change your trimming or shoeing schedule to fit in with this. It is also imperative to be feeding your horse a balanced diet that encourages good hoof growth.


The fuel you put into your horse is important on many levels. Firstly it helps a horse recover after exercise and gives them the energy requirements to perform that exercise without having to use alternative sources like muscle. Secondly a well balanced diet gives all the nutrients to develop strong hooves. If your horse has not got good hoof structure then this will create issues for the rest of the body.

It is also very important for young horses to be getting a good balanced diet so that they don’t develop any growth issues. It is particularly important to look at copper, zinc and magnesium levels as these are all involved with bone development.

Overuse injuries can be caused by many different factors but as owners if we make sure diet, training load, tack, trimming/shoeing and conformational issues are acknowledged and monitored than the prevalence of overuse injuries can be reduced.

Anatomy, Biomechanics, Human, Injury and Rehab, Injury Management

Happy Hamstrings

Do you ever experience hamstring pain during or after exercise? While you might experience hamstring pain or discomfort it may not be the primary source of your problem read on to find out what might be the cause and how to remedy it.

Hamstring Anatomy

The hamstrings are made up of three muscles, the bicep femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. The adductor magnus can sometimes be referred to as a fourth hamstring as it shares one of its origins with the other hamstrings on the ischial tuberosity (seat bones).

Semitendinosus and semimembranosus only have one orgin but the bicep femoris has two heads. The long head originates from the ischial tuberosity and the short head from the lateral lip of the linea aspera of the femur. The two heads merge and insert onto the head of the fibula in the lower leg. The semimembranosus inserts onto the posterior aspect of the medial condyle of the tibia while the semitendinosus merges with gracilis and sartorius to form the pes anserinus tendon. This then inserts into the proximal, medial shaft of the tibia in the lower leg.

All the hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hip. The semimembranosus and semitendinosus medially rotate the knee and hip while the bicep femoris laterally rotates the knee and hip.

Potential Hamstring Issues

Hamstrings can become grumpy due to a number of reasons. Firstly they may actually experience a strain, tear or feel permanently tight. While the hamstring could be the primary cause it is often other soft tissue structures that are the instigator. So the 3 key things to look at if you experience hamstring issues are

  • Quadriceps to hamstring strength
  • Gluteal activation
  • Anterior tilt of the pelvis

Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Anterior pelvic tilt can come about due to tightness in the hip flexors (iliopsoas: psoas and iliacus) as well as tightness in the quadriceps. The pelvic tilt can stretch the hamstrings as a result you ask the hamstrings to take load in this position. The hamstrings feel tight so you try and stretch them further which probably doesn’t do a lot. If the hamstrings are loaded while being stretched then they have less elasticity are are more likely to injure. So by releasing or stretching the hip flexors and quadriceps you can reduce anterior tilt of the pelvis and allow the hamstrings to relax more. This should reduce the chances of straining them.

Gluteal Activation

Another consequence of anterior pelvic tilt can be the gluteal muscles not activating properly. Gluteal activation is not always dependant on anterior pelvic tilt being present. Sports than involve sitting on bending over and not full hip extension can also cause the glutes to not activate. As a result the hamstrings activate before the gluteal muscles do. This again puts extra strain on the hamstrings making them more vulnerable to injury. So to combat this getting the gluteals activating, strong and doing their job will take the load off the hamstrings.

Quadriceps to hamstring strength

Athletes often focus on strengthening the quadriceps and forget about their hamstring. Quadriceps should be stronger because of their job but one of the hamstrings job is to control and stabilise extension of the knee. If this didn’t happen then the strength of the quadriceps would cause the knee to over extend, and cause hamstring injuries. As a result it is really important to do specific hamstring exercises such as Nordic hamstring curls.

Below is a video on how to keep your hamstrings happy and reduce the possibility of sustaining and injury to them

Anatomy, Biomechanics, Equine, Horse & Rider, Injury and Rehab, Injury Management

Musculoskeletal pain: Potential causes in horses

Pain is something that most horse owners are aware off and as owners we do worry whether are equine friend is in pain. Horses are very stoic creatures, in that I mean they don’t always show us when they are in pain. As a result we need to get good at reading the signs which were discussed in a previous post (Equine Pain: Are we missing the signs)

Can we as owners help reduce the chance of our horses feeling pain? Well yes to a certain extent. Below is a dicussion on potential causes of musculoskeletal pain in horses, which in turn may help owners to reduce the likely hood of horses experiencing pain or at least chronic pain.


Tack is a big area that most owners know can cause discomfort and there is a lot of research being conducted into the amounts of pressure tack can produce. Centaur Biomechanics have been doing a lot of research into saddle , girth and bridle pressure. The results are fascinating and illuminating.

Noseband pressure can be immense and quite a bit greater than saddle pressure. So it is really important to make sure all your tack fits. It doesn’t need to be expensive tack as this isn’t a guarantee it will fit your horse. If in doubt then make sure you get a properly qualified saddle fitter to check. Make sure your tack is checked regularly especially if your horse loses or gains weight.

Soreness from Exercise

As humans you have all felt what we call delayed onset muscle soreness. Where we exercise and then 24-72 hours later our muscles feel sore and stiff. Well horses potentially experience the same thing from hard bouts of exercise. This is not long lasting and with time will go, but it is something to be aware of.

This is something that can easily be solved by introducing massage post competition or after heavy training sessions. It will promote recovery and well being in your horse allowing you to train harder with your horse and reduce the chances of injuries occurring.

Another point to consider is incorporating recovery time into your horses training. This can be full rest or a light ride on a lose rein (where it is safe to) or a combination of both. Recovery time is when your horses body heals itself from exercise by doing this your horse becomes fitter. If we work our horses hard all the time without rest then overuse injuries and illness can be more prevalent and affect their ability to train and get fitter.


A fall or impact can cause contusions to muscles. This causes bleeding within the muscle resulting in bruising, however due to horses having fur it is not always possible to see if swelling is not present. If you know your horse has sustained an impact injury then massage is to be avoided in the first few days. Instead hose or ice the area. This reduces swelling and the cold helps relieve some pain. In some cases an impact can lead to myosotis ossificans, which is where bone forms inside the muscle.

Trauma can occur to joints, this can be from an impact which can cause joint disruption. As a result ligaments, tendons, bone fractures and cartilage damage can all occur. Joints can also become inflamed from less minor injuries and osteoarthritis can also occur in joints.

Bones can fractures or crack from impact or overuse. If the horse doesn’t get enough recovery time then micro cracks (stress fractures) can form. Bones heel much better than tendons and ligaments but this is dependant on where the fracture is.

Tendon and Muscle Strains

Tendons are less elastic than muscles so often when the muscle is tight the tendon takes up the load and as result is more likely to get injured. Unfortunately tendons also don’t have as good blood supply as muscle, so do take longer to heal. By allowing your horse recovery time and having regular body work sessions muscle and tendon strains can be reduced considerably.

Bone Disease

Bone disease can be due to nutrition or genetics. If it is genetics then this is harder to deal with but as an owner nutrition is something we can influence. Making sure your horse has a good balanced diet will help reduce bone disease. Making sure your horse is getting copper, zinc, magnesium and vitamin A and D. It can be difficult getting the right balance so if in doubt then seek advice from a nutritionalist. If bone disease is genetic then your horse needs veterinary guidance to develop a plan that will help reduce their pain and impact on their everyday life.

Past Injuries

Past injuries can leave scar tissue, which can create stiffness and be sore. Having regular body work can help reduce this. Joints that have previously been injured can develop osteoarthritis. Again veterinary advice may need to be taken to help develop a management plan.


Ulcers can be quite prevalent and often a result of stress. Removing the stress, altering diet and treating the ulcers will help to get rid of them. Quite often ulcers can form due to chronic pain. So it is worth looking at your whole horse when combating ulcers.

Myopathies (muscle disease)

Myopathies are often put under the umbrella term tying up. They are either genetic or acquired later in life. I am not going to go into much detail of what they are but this can cause horses muscle stiffness and soreness. If managed correctly with exercise, diet and body work then this can be hugely reduced.

As you can see there are a number of things that can affect musculoskeletal pain and the above is no way all of them. If your horse is in pain then do consult your vet as soon as you notice any change in behaviour. This will help reduce vet bills and your horses suffering. From there a plan can be put in place to manage your horses pain.