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The Pelvis and Iliopsoas

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

This blog gives information about the horse's iliopsoas muscle group. These muscles are deep underneath the horse's pelvis and very important when it comes to hip and lumbosacral junction movement and stability. Since this blog was written I have now published a multimedia book (a book with a video course) which contains more information and the video course as well as anatomy and biomechanics, illustrates anatomical location on the horse, function, dysfunction and exercises for strengthening and rehabilitation. Find out more about it here: www.horsesinsideout.com/sacroiliac


What and where is the Iliopsoas muscle group?


The Iliopsoas Muscle Group lies deep within each side of the body. The group is made up of 3 muscles, the Psoas Major, Psoas Minor and Iliacus. They attach onto the ventral, (underside) of the lumbar spine and pelvis as well as the top of the thigh bone at the minor trochantor of the femur. These muscles can only be palpated through rectal examination by a veterinary surgeon. Because of their position they are difficult to visualise in 2 dimension. The model is constructed from real pony bones together with modelling material. The video clearly illustrates the exact attachment points of all 3 muscles and how they relate to each other.

The model will be used at my courses for coaches, courses for professional therapists and will be part of the anatomy exhibition at the conference.





What does the Iliopsoas do?


The iliopsoas group plays a key role in stabilising the thoracolumbar junction, the lumbar vertebrae, the lumbosacral junction, the sacroiliac and the hip joints. It is one of the main contributors to hip and lumbar sacral flexion. These muscles also help to create flexion and rotation in the hip, initiate protraction of the hindlimb and contribute to bringing the leg further underneath the body.



Why is learning about the iliopsoas muscle group important?


Understanding the form, function and location of the iliopsoas muscle group can explain why it is important to train our horses for a stronger and more stable pelvis in the hindquarter region. Strength and stability is particularly important in movements which require the horse to ‘sit’ and carry more weight behind. For example; during collection movements in dressage, when making tight turns particularly at speed , in show jumping and barrel racing.



What relevance does this muscle group have to therapy and rehabilitation?


The iliopsoas group is of particular interest to therapists and owners who have horses with sacroiliac, or hind-end problems. Asymmetry, lack of strength or power, difference in the bulk if the muscles (as confirmed by a vet), uneven stride length, is lame behind, has hock, stifle, or back discomfort could be attributable to the iliopsoas muscle group and needs to be investigated and ruled out as a cause of the problem.



Training, Prehabilitation and Rehabilitation Exercises for the Iliopsoas


Understanding the anatomy and biomechanics of the iliopsoas region can help us to devise an appropriate exercise regime to strengthen the pelvic area, allow horses to perform the movements required of them, help reduce the risk of injury and promote career longevity.


In hand and Pilates

exercises strengthen the iliopsoas muscle group by active shortening (concentric contraction), static stabilisation (isometric contraction) and dynamic stabilisation (eccentric contraction) of the iliopsoas muscle group include:-

  • Back Lift Exercise

  • Backing up

  • Backwards Shift Exercise

  • Tail Pull – Whole spine extension stretch

  • Walking over raised obstacles.

These exercises and others can be found in my book, Pilates and Stretching for Horses and the webinar Pilates for Horses and are often demonstrated on my courses, Pilates for Horses, amongst others.


Ridden exercises

that involve active shortening (concentric contraction), static stabilisation (isometric contraction) and dynamic stabilisation (eccentric contraction) of the iliopsoas muscle group include:-

  • Correctly performed transitions

  • Half halts

  • Collection exercises

  • Backing up

  • Canter poles, raised canter poles and small bounces.

More about these exercises can be found in Posture and Performance.





If you have enjoyed this article please leave a comment below.


Since this blog was written I have now published a multimedia book (a book with a video course) which contains more information and the video course as well as anatomy and biomechanics, illustrates anatomical location on the horse, function, dysfunction and exercises for strengthening and rehabilitation. Find out more about it here: www.horsesinsideout.com/sacroiliac

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Petra Christensen
Petra Christensen
Jun 19, 2019

Thank you for sharing! This is an awesome way to spread knowledge about our equine's anatomy. I shared on Facebook. Looking forward to studying with you in the future! <3

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