Another fantastic Demo from 2008!
Venue: Witham Villa, Broughton Astley
Arranged by: Hinckley Dressage Group
Ran by Gillian Higgins it was a talk about the arrangement of bones and attachment of muscles in horses and how exercise affect them - it was FASCINATING! They paint the bones onto a REAL horse on one side and then paint the muscles on the other. The first part of the demo is a lecture using a slide show presentation and was just so interesting Particularly about the effects of exercise on the muscles.There are two ways a muscle can work, Dynamic and Static. Dynamic is like rising trot where you are using 'pairs' of muscles for movement. The second type 'static' is more a 'holding' of position like the 2 point seat or jumping position. Gillian got some volunteers to simulate rising trot and the 2 point seat - the rising trot was far easier to maintain over a long period - the static muscles had to work far harder!Within a muscle there are groups of muscle fibres and they all take turns to work - like on a shift system - so the muscles can work over long periods of time without getting tired. When a muscle works there is 'micro-trauma / damage caused to some of the fibres - fibres around the damage will contract around the damage to support it- this is quite normal in hard work, but in prolonged hard work without time to relax and stretch, this can cause a build up and then you get problems like tight contracted muscles and muscle spasms.Static muscular contraction is harder work and therefore creates more damage inthe muscle fibres.Muscular chains:Muscles work together in 'chains' The Dorsal Chain are the muscles above the spine and these extend the muscles.The Ventral Chain or the muscles under the spine and these create flexion of the spine and hip.Without the Abdominal muscles there is no back!!! as muscles work in pairs, the abdominals MUST contract (or shorten) for the back muscles to relax (or lengthen) and therefore allow the spine to flex and arch upwards like a bridge.The thoracis muscles (serrated ventralis) are like a sling and when they contract they 'lift' the thorax UP between the scapula (or shoulders) and lift the withers. This helps the horse 'grow' The more work that muscles get, they will start to become shorter and firmer and therefore begin to hold themselves together - for example if you did your sit ups everyday, the tummy muscles would start to contract and shorten and hold everything 'in' even when resting.LONG AND LOW. The reson this is a good exercie for young horses and as a warm up / warm down for more established horses is it is a good way of stretching the muscles. The swinging hips in trot generates energy in th egluteal muscle which in turn moves the energy through the longissimus dorsi (the back muscle) and helps lengthen and stretch the back muscle, the lowered neck 'out and down' will stretch the nuchal ligament which will help to bring the back 'up' This will recruit the abdominal muscles and will support and encourage best posture of the back The under neck muscles work to lengthen adn extend the neck, the 'topline' muscles work statically to hold the neck vertebrae up. We know this is hard work, so frequent breaks and stretching is good practice.Gillian was asked about her thoughts on Rolkur - she explained the theory behind it - it stretches and brings the back UP. But she did observe that when in the exagerated position of hyperflexion the muscles were in 'overstretch' which wasnt best practise. She thought that bringing the back up could be done in other ways with better results.The horse was then lunged in various gaits on both reins so we could watch the effect of the muscles in motion. The horse at first was encouraged to work in a free long and low stretch, then after he was warmed up, side reins were used to encourage the horse to work in more of an outline. It finished with the horse popping over some jumps!It was a BRILLIANT demonstration and one I found fascinating from start to finish. One thing stuck in my mind - the muscles that were in constant use began to shorten - GREAT if you are working correctly, not so good if the horse is working hollow and developing all the wrong muscles! It has certainly made me think carefully what I am doing, and also made me very aware of rest periods with plenty of stretching between work in an outline.