Useful Information


"When soft tissue is healing, the new tissue needs to be educated on its job.  The overall process of getting a soft-tissue injury successfully back to competition involves 25% treatment and 75% rehabilitation process."

-Jec Aristotle Ballou


How muscle spasm and pain develops

Muscle stress associated with vigorous exercise is necessary and beneficial to help muscle grow and maintain healthy function.  However, when a muscle is pushed beyond its capability, a spasm causing the muscle to get stuck in partial contraction will occur and the pain cycle begins.

  1. The pain/spasm cycle starts with tension.
  2. Pain is created when the muscle becomes overloaded beyond capability.
  3. Other muscles in the area are recruited to compensate for the workload the overloaded muscle can no longer handle.
  4. Eventually, all these muscles involved become restricted and less mobilized causing weakness and loss of normal function.


Relationship between the horse's hoof and pain in the body

The horse carries approximately 65% of its weight on the front feet. When the body muscles become tense and rigid, they not only provide less power, but provide less suspension and cushion for the lower limbs and feet. This can put more stress on the feet and legs, which causes tense and rigid muscles, which cause more pain in the body, and so on down the line. The same applies to the hind feet.


Fascia and Emotional Retention

Excerpt from Equine Massage: A Practical Guide by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaight

It is theorized the energy created by life stress, trauma, or anxiety converts into fascial restriction.  At both a conscious and subconscious level, the body records the episode as a physical sensation (pain!), an emotional sensation (I don't like it!), and an intellectual awareness (stay away!).

Even after the experience has passed and the body heals, the fascia tissue retains the emotional and intellectual connection.  This coding of traumatic experience is termed "emotional memory" or tissue memory."  While the horse might never forget a particular incident, over the course of several myofascial release sessions, he will be able to let go of the associated fear and reactive anxiety.


Recommended books regarding massage, anatomy, and biomechanics

Equine Massage

  • Equine Massage: A Practical Guide, 2nd Edition by Jean-Pierre Hourdebaight
  • Beating Muscle Injuries for Horses by Jack Meagher
  • Beyond Horse Massage, by Jim Masterson with Stefanie Reinhold
  • The Dressage Horse Optimized, by Jim Masterson and Coralie Hughes
  • The Basic Principles of Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy, Revised Edition by Mike Scott

Equine Anatomy

  • The Horse's Muscles in Motion by Sara Wyche
  • Horse Anatomy for Performance by Gillian Higgins with Stephanie Martin
  • Atlas of the Equine Musculoskeletal System, 2nd Edition by Ivana Ruddock-Lange
  • Horse Structure and Movement, 3rd Edition by R.H. Smythe, Revised by Peter Gray
  • The Horse Anatomy Workbook by Maggie Raynor

Equine Biomechanics

  • 55 Corrective Exercises for Horses by Jec Aristotle Ballou
  • How your Horse Moves by Gillian Higgins with Stephanie Martin
  • Biomechanics and Physical Training of the Horse by Jean-Marie Denoix