In this segment of “A Prescription For Parelli“ we continue our discussion on rib and pelvic exercises for horses which will improve thoracic spinal mobility. As we’ve discussed in previous segments, horses can pick up habits of movement and posture such as holding their ribs bent to a particular direction, like being right or left-handed.
This can cause them to have difficulty with things like lead changes, picking up a particular lead, lateral movements and being straight on the circle. At the same time, they can also have imbalances in their pelvis in conjunction with being one-sided in the rib-cage.
A pelvic imbalance can sometimes be the cause of this one-sidedness in the rib-cage and you will have to address both issues in order to correct the problem.
How Do You Know If Your Horse Is Holding Its Ribs To One Side?
There are several clues that can tell you if your horse is holding their ribs habitually to one side. The next time you play with your horse, look for these signs showing up consistently:
- Saddle slips over to the same side all the time
- Difficulty with lateral flexion on one side
- Braciness on one side while riding
- Dropping the shoulder
- Difficulty picking up a particular canter lead
- Difficulty with lateral movements in one direction
- Backing crooked
When your horse habitually holds its ribs to one side, as you can see from the list above, it can affect many things. By helping mobilize the rib-cage in both directions, we aide the horse in freeing up these “locked” areas of their bodies and re-learn a more balanced posture that will allow them to become more athletic and comfortable without having to use fancy (and often cruel) training aides.
How Do You Know If Your Horse Has An Uneven Pelvis?
The best way to tell if your horse has an uneven pelvis is to look for symmetry in both posture and movement. In looking at your horse’s posture, stand behind your horse and look to see if one hip is higher than the other.
Next, find an elevated vantage point and standing above your horse’s pelvis, look down and notice if one hip is further forward than the other. Make sure your horse is standing fairly square with the back legs, as this can effect the way the pelvis sets. Another thing you can look for is unevenness in the bony prominence at the point of the croup, right at the top of the pelvis.
You can often run your hands over these points and feel if one is higher or more prominent than the other. Horses with an uneven pelvis can also have stifle problems due to the uneven loading on the ligaments controlling the patella.
While analyzing the movement of your horse’s pelvis, look for things like short-striding on one of the hind legs as well as symptoms similar to those above for the ribs. Having difficulty picking up a canter lead on one side is a very common symptom because the first stride of the canter is initiated in the hind limb. If the horse has limited extension forward on one hind limb, it will often have problems picking up the opposite canter lead.
Our Horses Are Our Mirrors!
Remember to check yourself! Our horses will often mirror our own bodies. This can be a very good thing when our own bodies are in a balanced state. However, conversely, our imbalances can be translated to our horses.
Backing The Weave Pattern
To gain the most benefit from this exercise and to make teaching this to your horse easier, make sure your horse understands backing up on-line well first (refer to my previous article “A Prescription For Parelli – Improving Vertical Flexion On-Line With Backing“).
In addition to increasing thoracic mobility, this exercise will also aide with pelvic mobilization and flexibility in the hind limbs. When we ask our horses to step back and over with their hind legs, we help to stretch numerous muscle groups in the hindquarters and legs, such as the hamstrings and ilio-psoas muscles.
In the video segment below, 4-Star Parelli Natural Horsemanship Senior Instructor Christi Rains demonstrates how to teach your to back the weave pattern on-line with her young National Show Horse “Melody”. Christi has been a Parelli Natural Horsemanship Instructor since 1997 and offers natural horsemanship clinics at her ranch on the Brazos River near Glen Rose, Texas.
Lisa Carter is a Certified Equine Massage Therapist (CEMT), with multiple certifications from several different equine bodywork schools. She incorporates her knowledge and experience with Parelli Natural Horsemanship, equine bodywork and as a veterinary technician to provide her clients with the resources they need to make informed decisions for their horses. She encourages and facilitates network building between equine health care professionals, working together to find the best combination of therapies to meet the needs of the “whole horse”.
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