In recent posts we have discussed the different effects a saddle can have on a horses back. I have mentioned my mares withers getting rubbed raw in one spot from the saddle pad, but there are a few other things that come into play when considering your horses back.
For everything to be right in your horses world, optimally there should be no pain involved. If there is any level of pain, the horse will compensate and it will show. If their hooves are not trimmed or shod in a way that provides a balanced way of standing or traveling, it could affect a lot of things. That is another discussion in and of itself, that will be later addressed on it's own.
When a horse feels pain though, what happens then? The muscles will tend to contract in that area and tighten. There may be some inflammation, tension, resistance to move, flex or give in that direction, the 'symptoms' may be slightly noticeable or blatantly obvious. Muscles that have contracted can inadvertently 'hold' things out of place. Horses, like us humans, can benefit from chiropractic care and having an adjustment and things realigned.
In looking for pictures I came across this one from Bits & Bytes Farm, which shows Dr. Lance Cleveland doing crossing over exercises with a horse. In reading further, on this page of the B&B website, I feel there are a lot of good things to say!
If you scroll down to just above the picture I featured here, there is a link to a pdf file that you can print, that lists and explains a few stretches you can do with your horse, to help keep them limber, flexible, supple and their muscles relaxed. They also help strengthen the muscles and 'hold' the adjustment, essentially keeping things in place. One that I missed seeing on there was where you lift the front leg and bring it forward, allowing the horse to reach out and down, maybe leaning forward into it or back a bit and stretching along their top line.
This photo is from an article on Natural Matters.net in the UK, from Pat Ki Therapy where equine massage is another way of helping out the horse. Massage feels good because it helps to relax the muscles in the area, improve circulation and can often allow the horse to move more freely. Sometimes they move in a way that they may 'adjust' and realign themselves. This can happen while rolling, bucking and also sometimes while being massaged and stretching.
Weakened muscles can let things 'slip' out of place. The muscles contract from the pain and hold them there. Stretching and massage helps to relax those muscles and allow things to 'pop' back into place where they belong. Strengthening work helps the muscles keep things there. It all works in a lot of the same ways on us too. I feel better when things are where they belong, everything is stretched and relaxed, tension released... and I have yet to see a comfortable horse complain.