Anatomy Of An Equine Massage: Part Three

Anatomy Of An Equine Massage: Part Three

If you have been following this 3 part massage series, I have a confession to make. You may have already figured it out on your own; but here it is; I am an anatomy geek.

I can't avoid this "obsession" since my intent regarding the massage strokes and stretching relies on a comprehension of muscular form and function. Where most people sit down to have a snack and a quiet read in their favorite novel, I tend to have my nose in one of my favorite anatomy books. I thought I would share my four top favorites with those of you who tend to share this same mania. Most are available on many of the online bookstores. All four books have an entirely different approach and format offering varying insights.

Anatomy of the Horse: An Illustrated Text by K.Budras, W. Sock and S. Rock.
Color Atlas of Veterinary Anatomy Volume 2 by Ashdown and Done. Mosbey Publishing.
Sisson and Grossman's: The Anatomy of the Domestic Animals by Robert Getty, D.V.M
Clinical Anatomy of the Horse by Dr. Peter Flood and Dr. Hilary Clayton

Move #3: The Forearm Press
Following with the theme of letting the horse do the work for you with less wear and tear on your joints; let's continue to the forearm press. This move covers a large general area, but can become very specific by concentrating the pressure to your elbow. Again, if you did not have a chance to look at Part One, take the time to review it, especially the guidelines for massage.

Areas For The Forearm Press And Technique:
Area 1: Muscles along the cervical (neck) region: The forearm is in full contact with the muscles lying above the brachiocephalicus. The brachiocephalicus is the large purple strap (A) in figure 5A. There are many muscles attaching to the vertebral (spine) area. You are addressing some deeper layers such as the multifidus cervicis (the ropey pink narrow strip labeled D in Fig. 5B, longissimus capitis et atlantis (a purple portion is visible in fig. 5B and labeled E), and the semispinalis capitis (the yellow straps labeled F in Fig. 5B) You will also be accessing more superficial muscles like the serratus ventralis cervicis (B in both pictures), and the splenius (the pink C in Fig 5A).


When you might use this stroke in this area:
- Any horse with a distal (lower) limb issue. Horses tend to brace these neck muscles upon impact when they are protecting themselves.
- If he is resisting or fighting the bit.
- When he is resisting lateral flexion of the neck. If these muscles are sensitive or restricted on one side, bending to the opposite side is difficult.
- If there is a malalignment of the cervical (neck) bones. This is a great way to prepare the area.
- Disciplines that require horses to maintain longer periods of collection.



Step by step
- Position 1: As shown in Figure 5H, rest your entire arm at the red line just above the brachiocephalicus (A in Fig 5A). Please note that your arm is just above the horse's vertebral column (spine). Things will feel hard and lumpy if you are too low and the horse will not like you pressing directly on bone in this manner. If the horse seems to object, try raising your arm higher to avoid the cervical (neck) bones. On larger horses it may take up to two lengths of your arm to cover the area.
- Once the horse offers some pressure on your arm, meet his lean and lift upwards towards the mane, still keeping contact with entire forearm as in Figure 5I. Try to avoid slipping across the skin. You will notice he will lower his neck for more pressure. When he does, hold for 90 seconds.
- Position 2: As the tissue softens, you may notice there are certain areas of tension remaining. Tip the pressure to your elbow by resting your hand on your shoulder. Hold till he relaxes again as in Figure 5J.
- Position 3: Continue with the elbow pressure and if necessary, you can follow the space between the shoulder and the neck upwards moving very slowly as in Figure 5K. Wait until he lowers his head.



Area 2: Rhomboids: The forearm press is easy to transfer to the rhomboid, which is the pink muscle G shown above in Figure 5B. It lies below the mane (and crest if your horse happens to have one). It is shown again here with an arrow as a reminder in figure 6A.and figure 6B diagrams the muscle for you in relationship to the skeleton. One of the many components of self carriage is the ability to raise base of the neck and to do so, the rhomboid muscles has to actually lengthen.


When you might use this stroke in this area:
-If the horse bulges his neck and holds his head high with his nose leading, he is working with this muscle shortened. This is an "upside-down" or inverted horse.
- If this muscle is restricted (shortened), he will resist coming on to the aids or into the bridle.
- When tight and sore on one side, he may hold his head and neck towards that side.
- Disciplines that require horses to maintain longer periods of collection.

{sidebar id=3}Step by step
- Position 1: Repeat with the same application that you used on the brachiocephalicus, only this time place your arm on the ventral (lower) aspect of the rhomboideus.
- Once the horse offers some pressure on your arm, lean in and lift upwards still keeping contact with entire forearm like you did before and allow him to lean into you as he lowers his neck. Hold for 90 seconds. As in the first region, it may take two lengths of your arm to cover the area
- Position 2: Use your elbow as before for any areas of tension.

By Debranne Pattillo, MEBW, CEO Equinology INC

About the Author: Debranne Pattillo is the CEO of Equinology INC, an educational company with sister affiliates around the globe offering over 50 courses taught by leading veterinarians and specialists. Debranne is the chief instructor for the Equine Foundation Massage Certification Massage, Equine Massage Advanced Techniques Level One, the Progressive Equine Anatomy and Equine Stretching courses. She has been featured in various major media publications in the USA, UK, New Zealand and Australia and her work was showcased on BBC's Country Files. More information can be found at: Debranne lives in Gualala, CA and holds a long time practice as a Master Equine Body Worker in the neighboring 5 counties. She spends over 300 days a year on the road tending to horses and teaching.