Updated: Nov 30, 2022
Myofascial lines – sometimes referred to as the therapist’s map are chains of interconnected anatomical structures that direct the basic motion pattern in your horse. In this blog we’re going to look beyond your horse’s conformation and movement and delve beneath the skin and discover all about myofascial kinetic lines in your horse’s body.
Myofascial kinetic lines provide an anatomical framework that provides you with an improved understanding of movement. It allows you to see the whole body in a holistic way rather than the usual way of describing the action of single muscles. Having better knowledge of these lines gives you a clearer understanding of the complex interactions that exist throughout the whole of the horse’s body.
The aim of a study (Elbrønd et Schultz, 2015) was to reveal the inter-connective functionality of the locomotory system of the horse. The study identified seven lines that can be used to explain how a biomechanical problem in one region can impact on other parts of the body.
“The fascial system is a continuous, web-like structure of connective tissue that enrobes your horse’s entire body – a bit like a flexible net. It provides support and shock absorption”
What is Fascia?
As owners, riders and trainers muscle development and topline in your horse is often used as an indicator of how well your horse’s training is going – but what about the fascial system that holds all the muscles together?
Fascia refers to all connective tissue. Myofascia (myo meaning muscle) relates to all the fascia surrounding, connecting to and contained with the muscular tissue. It protects and surrounds everything within your horse’s body. Every nerve, bone, organ, muscles, blood vessel and cell lies within the fascia.
This connective tissue joins and separates every part of the body at the same time. This creates a vital framework that allows all bodily systems and structures to work in harmony together. Collagen fibres are tough and provide shape, strength and shock absorption and support; elastin allows for stretch and minor shock absorption; and everything is bathed in a gel-like, sticky fluid that creates space around the cells and supplies oxygen and nutrients.
If you'd like to learn more about fascia check out Gillian's recorded webinar on Understanding Muscles and Fascia (3 hours) in the Horses Inside Out Academy. This is one of our the most popular webinars and as well as clearly explaining the anatomy and function of fascia Gillian explains and demonstrates massage, myofascial release and myofascial unwinding techniques that you can do with your horse to help keep his fascia healthy.
"The fascial system envelops the entire body in a 3D network, which extends from the skin to deep into the body and into every single cell and cell nucleus; it completely surrounds and links the entire skeleton and soft tissue structures. The functions of the fascia are numerous and range from the purely mechanical to a close collaboration and communication with the nervous system." Guimberteau and Armstrong
The Impact of Damage
The myofascial system is by nature well adapted and tough; however, it is easy to break or damage certain fibres, this can result in a loss of flexibility, changes in movement and pain. For example, imagine a small piece of gravel inside your shoe – to begin with this only causes you some minor discomfort, but if it isn’t sorted it isn’t long before it can affect how you walk which then impacts on other parts of your body too.
It's the same for your horse, fascial restrictions alter your horse’s structural alignment leading to uneven paces, loss of power, lameness, pain and behavioural changes. Normally, when you see these changes you will look to your training programme to try and help as well as assessing his muscle development and conformation. Although this is a positive step most of the clues to the cause of the problem lies way beneath the skin’s surface.
Without treatment these damaged fibres continue to tighten along this constant web, pulling throughout the body and impacting on other structures. Hollow backs, tense necks, crooked halts and uneven paces are just a few of the physical impacts that can affect the horse.
For Professional Therapists
If you’re a professional equine therapist and would like to learn more about this subject our two-part online course Equine Kinetic Myofascial Connections with Dr Vibeke Elbrønd is a must.
Vibeke, is a fabulous speaker and with her boundless enthusiasm and curiosity for this subject you’ll want to learn more.
In this course, the theory of kinetic myofascial lines in the horse (Elbrønd et Schultz, 2015) will be explained. Understanding the myofascial kinetic lines are a powerful tool that will help you understand the mechanisms of compensation, motion, posture and the treatment of the locomotive system in a whole new light.
Also take a look at the CPD courses that are held at Horses Inside Out headquarters