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How Your Horse Moves

Updated: Nov 30, 2022

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to be asked to help out for the day with the preparation and filming of Gillian’s first ever online lecture demonstration, The Principles of Movement.

(That’s me helping with painting of Gillian’s horse Arty’s leg)

It seems like an age ago now as this was in April of this year, and I feel like it has been a long wait to finally get to see the completed film of the demo.

I have been really excited to see how it would all come together and to be able to watch it live with lots of other Horses Inside Out fans.

What’s great about watching live as part of Webinar Wednesdays is participants have the opportunity to ask Gillian questions so I was also looking forward to seeing what questions people would ask Gillian during the live demo on Zoom.

I actually handled Arty for quite a bit of this demo too, so I was also a bit nervous to see what I would look like on screen and if I had done a good job?

You can find out more about what happened on the filming day in my previous blog.

Gillian starts this demo by talking about the anatomy of the spine, beginning with the neck, and explaining the range of motion at each of the parts of the neck and back.

She demonstrates this using both Arty, her own horse, that is painted with a mixture of some of the skeleton and some of the muscles of the horse’s body. And also some of her vast collection of real horse bones.

It’s fascinating to learn which parts of the body have the most flexion, extension, lateral flexion and rotation and then combinations thereof. It can be quite surprising to learn where there is more and less movement.

Kind of unsurprisingly during the part of the demo where Gillian was discussing flexion and extension of the spine someone watching live asked about Kissing Spine.

Lots of horse owners/riders/trainers will have heard of Kissing Spine or even known or owned a horse with this condition. But how many of us really understand what it is, what causes it or how we can prevent it?

As a very brief overview, Kissing Spine is a result of the Dorsal Spinous Processes (the finger like projections that stick up from the top of the spine) coming together and touching. When this happens repetitively over a period of time this results in bony changes to the projections where they touch and can be very painful for the horse.

There are many causes of Kissing Spine. Some of those include poor posture, a weak horse that is not prepared well to carry a rider, ill fitting saddles and there are also other causes.

If you are interested in learning more about the anatomy of the spine, what a strong healthy back should look like and also a Kissing Spine I would highly recommend watching this lecture demonstration as well as the second in the series which is also now available – Riding From An Anatomical Perspective as Gillian demonstrates so well how to support good healthy back posture in both of these demos.

And it’s actually really clear to see when looking at the painted horse and seeing the actual bones, making this easy to understand even if you have no previous knowledge of horse anatomy.

And the handouts that Gillian provides as part of the demo, for you to look at online or print out, really help with this too.

The handout includes not just the spine but also the muscle chains.

gillian higgins horses inside out cover photograph episode 1 principles movement

As an Equine Massage Therapist myself, one of the exercises I often recommend to clients to help them support their own horse’s back posture is walking over raised poles.

Gillian includes a demonstration of this in this lecture demonstration too. Here you can see me walking Arty over some raised poles.

gillian higgins horses inside out painted horses skeleton walking over poles raised

With him being painted you can see how when he lowers his head to look at the poles and lifts his back as he raises his legs to walk over them. As his back lifts the Dorsal Spinous Processes I mentioned earlier get further apart.

Then when you watch as he walks over them in the other direction, as he is painted with 2 chains of muscles, the Flexor Chain and the Extensor Chain, you can also see how this simple exercise works these muscle chains and helps to strengthen and balance them.

gillian higgins horses inside out walking over raised poles painted horse muscles

Gillian explains these muscle chains in the demo.

So, walking over raised poles does more than just lift the back, it also assists with:

· Proprioception (hoof-brain co-ordination

· Balancing and strengthening the muscle chains

· Improving posture

· Recruiting the core muscles

· Increasing rotation through the back

· Improving musculoskeletal health and performance

Gillian talks about and demonstrates many more exercises in this demo in walk, trot and canter but I don’t want to give everything away, plus is would make for a very long blog as there is so much to learn!

I would highly recommend taking advantage of the current offer from Horses Inside Out to get all four of the online lecture demonstrations in the series as they are jam packed with information.

You can do that by visiting the Horse Inside Academy here.

gillian higgins horses inside out link academny online

Whatever your current knowledge of equine anatomy and biomechanics I guarantee you will learn something.

I always do and I have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time with Gillian this year…….more about that in a future blog coming soon.


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