DESERT HORSE RECOMMENDS
The Equine Psoas Manual
Isn’t it interesting when the universe seems to unfold in cycles or themes? This spring my 28-year-old sound school horse suffered a bodywork-related injury – a strained iliopsoas complex. That’s more than a little bit ironic because over the past few years I have focused on teaching riders to access and connect to their horses through their core muscles and the psoas figures quite prominently in this work.
By coincidence, an equine journalist I know had been telling me about a British bodyworker who has written an interesting take on the importance of the equine psoas. The Equine Psoas Manual: Reacquainting his body and soul … by Joanne A. Greenfield is a dense little book that offers up myriad fascinating nuggets of wisdom in just 82 pages.
I have been studying and working with the psoas pretty consistently for the past six years, and I know a number of interesting things about this unusual muscle complex that originates from the lower ribs and transverse processes (sides) of the lower thoracic and all the lumbar vertebrae, spans the ventral side of the pelvis and inserts into the medial side (inside) of the femur. That’s right, the psoas connects the human body from top to bottom and back to front. In your horse, the psoas is important in drawing the hind legs forward under the barrel and in movements that require the horse to engage his hindquarters or “sit.”
This muscle group is maybe the most interesting in the entire body because of the seemingly contradictory functions it performs. Writes Greenfield, “This muscle group is hidden deep in the horse’s body and is not very often mentioned, yet it serves great purpose in the horse’s athletic ability as well as his ability to rest.”
FORM WITHOUT FUNCTION:
THE PREVALENCE OF RIDICULOUS RIDING
When did stupid-bad riding take over the equestrian world? There has always been bad riding, but honest bad riders can get better with help and practice. I want to know why experienced professionals seem more and more to choose to ask horses to use their bodies in ways their structure can’t support? When did “frames” and “headsets” and replace competent riders on soft, light, willing athletes?
Is there to be
no riding discipline
sane, sound, happy horses?
Is there soon to be no riding discipline that routinely produces sane, sound, happy horses working into their teens and twenties, getting passed along like cherished heirlooms to ensure successive generations of riders master the skills that will make them real horsemen and -women?
Will we have no type of competitive event where hard-working, ethical, caring riders can take their good, balanced, sound horses to compete? No well-known, financially successful trainers whose methods you’d want your impressionable 4-H kid or pony-clubber to emulate?
I get that the horse business is a business. And that there are many, many temptations to cut corners, most of them rooted in money. But you choose to sell you soul; it’s not inevitable. And you choose to ride and train humanely and compete ethically. Or not.
NEW WEB FEATURE: DESERT HORSE Q&A
A new feature on the Desert Horse Equestrian Services website is a Q & A page. My students, past and present, and the people who find my articles online sometimes ask excellent questions about why and how I work with horses the way I do. It's great to have the chance to expand on the subtleties of biomechanics, anatomy and complementary health issues, exploring what works for individual horses and their people.
On this page, you'll find an assortment of these question-and-answer sessions. I hope you find information here that relates to your horsekeeping, riding and relationship-building challenges.