Circle of Muscles
and Relaxation/Straightness Troubleshooting
by Charlotte Cannon
the most efficient body position/frame for the horse is paramount to
understanding how and why these new concepts and techniques are not only
effective, but life changing for the horse. The concept of
the Circle of Muscles teaches us the scientifically correct way to flow
energy through our horses. Red Light therapist, masseuse and student of
the horse Stephanie Mills provided me with this detailed explanation of
the 'Circle of Muscles'. It is based on the fact that despite how it
looks at times, all movements start in the hindquarters. The efficiency
and the proper connection to each segment of the Circle will determine
how well the horse moves. If any part of the connection is 'broken'
it will result in a brace somewhere and/or hollow back, heavy forehand, elevated neck,
restricted forward movement. Eventually this break in the circle will
compromise the horse and in most cases cause lameness in the future. If the Circle of Muscles is working properly and the horse is traveling straight, he can relax, breathe and access his greatest athletic and movement potential.
Circle of Muscles
1. The lumbo-sacral joint flexes (the loins coil). During this step, the pelvic bone rotates downward, the croup is lowered.
2. The center of the back (bascule) raises. Remember, in order for this to be effective, the muscles UNDER the vertebral chain need to be strengthened so they can be used effectively. Note I said strengthened and NOT stiffened.
3. The base of the neck is pulled upward and backward by the muscles of the passive dorsal ligament system. The underlying muscles of the base of the neck contract, lifting it, and causing the neck as a whole to arch.
4. The abdominal and psoas muscles are contracting, deepening the coil of the loins and at the same time, the forequarters are beginning to elevate and lighten.
5. The front feet begin to come off the ground, bearing less and less weight. The neck at this point balances over its own base.
The cycle continues throughout the ride. Now you can see that if any part of this cycle is interrupted or if the cycle is mechanically changed by the rider (i.e. bad seat, driving seat, trying to obtain headset using the reins, etc.) or equipment (poorly fitted saddle, draw reins, incorrect bit, etc.) forward movement will be affected.
“When you think of this whole cycle as you prepare the horse and ride, it changes the way you approach getting efficient movement. Very cool stuff!! And it's what I keep in mind when massaging a horse.” Says Stephanie.
that we know the Circle of Muscles, let’s look at the horse and see if
we can see the keys to know that it is working properly. First picture
the proper 'frame'. For a horse to be most efficient, most powerful and
most long-lasting, he must carry his body with:
* Majority of his weight on his hindquarters, shifted back off his front end (forehand)
* Wither must be higher than the hip, and depending upon your goals, either the poll or the wither should be the highest point of the body
* Spine should be straight with a faint turn of the head in the direction of travel
* Once wither is up, the hind end should lower and the hind legs slip deeply up underneath to hold the body up
* Front shoulders and legs should move freely, reaching forward effortlessly bc the weight is on the hindquarter
* The neck should be slightly (or significantly, depending upon your goals) round with the horse's face at or slightly in front of the vertical
* The entire appearance should be one of roundness with the energy coming from the hindquarter, up and over the back, over the wither and top of the neck, down the face and out the nose. The energy should feel like it is softly going round and round, starting in the hindquarter and smoothly moving forward until it circulates back again out of the nose.
* The hind legs should swing deeply under the horse and his hocks should not trail out behind his buttocks. They should feel bent and engaged.