Dressage requires a lot of strength and gymnastic ability from the horse. The musculoskeletal system works extremely hard to produce the common dressage movements we ask from them. The hindquarters provide the propulsive forces to push the horse forward into the contact, the back provides a ‘bridge’ for which these forces are smoothly transmitted through to the forehand and the neck is then able to elevate and effectively maintain the correct frame. This collection of muscles working together to create this bridge, and what is commonly referred to as the topline, is known as the dorsal extensor chain. For the horse to work efficiently, the ventral flexor chain, commonly known as the core muscles, must also be strengthened to provide stability and flexion of the vertebral column and hip. These two chains must work in harmony to establish self-carriage and if one muscle is not working efficiently, the horse will fail to carry themselves correctly and this can lead to poor posture, poor performance and discomfort.
Here are some common areas of musculoskeletal pain which can affect the dressage horse that every dressage rider should be aware of:
My next blog post will look into these areas in more detail and factors which can affect the functionality of these areas, so keep your eye peeled.