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Amy Roberts IERFC blog

Updated: Jun 12



Superficial Muscles

Amy Roberts

I am currently studying an Introductory Diploma in Equine Therapy and Rehabilitation at The Open College of Equine Studies. As part of my learning and for a bit of fun, I decided to have a go at painting the superficial muscles onto a real horse. It made me think about not only the locations of each muscle, but the areas that are atrophied/hypertrophied on the real horse in comparison to a ‘textbook’ muscle chart.


The superficial skeletal muscles are those located closest to the skin and are involved locomotor activities.


On the painted horse in the photographs we can see how interconnected all the muscles are and we can begin to understand how a weaker/ atrophied muscle will have a knock-on affect on the other muscles of the body- i.e. if one part isn’t working efficiently, another part will compensate to achieve the desired action.






For example, if we take a closer look at the photographs, it can be noted that the horse displays weaker hind end muscles in comparison to the muscles of the shoulder. This may indicate that the hind end is not being utilised to its full potential, so the horse ‘pulls itself along’ with the forehand while in motion. Of course, we would need to watch the horse in motion to confirm this, but it demonstrates how assessing at the bigger picture may help determine areas for improvement in the performance horse.

Ideally, the horse in the photographs would be placed on a strength and conditioning programme using the water treadmill combined with specific ridden/ground work to target engagement of the hind end and most importantly the core and thoracic sling, in order to teach the horse to lift weight up through the forehand and work harmoniously over the back.

Some signs that may indicate a weak or disengaged hind end/ core:

· Hind foot toe dragging

· Not tracking up

· Struggling with transitions

· Riding ‘downhill’ or ‘on the forehand’

· Struggling to stay balanced, particularly during turns/circles

· Lack of impulsion

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