Un Toque de Spain
Well, we've recently gained massive inspiration from our Sponsored Team at Allen Performance Horses <3. They are a pleasure to work with in every sense of the word. Steve is riding the fabulous PRE Adalusian Stallion, Comico in his quest to qualify for the MCI Dressage Masters in October. They had a run through the Sevilla (Medium) test at their first qualifier at Addington on April 5th following a less than ideal prep, and they came 2nd with a PB of 68.5%.
We thought we'd put together a little piece about what we look at when working on The Iberian Breeds. There are the obvious tendencies we know to be true of these types of horses. They avoid the contact coming behind the vertical, allowing the poll to sink down while often having an extravagant action in the forelimbs and lacking engagement through the hindquarter.
We're firm believers in treating the horse holistically, and that all the parts are in fact connected. Like pulling a thread in a jersey, one small break followed by day to day tension in the area eventually causes a complex system to unravel.
So what is it we normally find?
Some key areas we normally find palpable tightness are the muscles around the poll and lumbar spine as well as the powerful hip extensors. That being said, let's not forget the forelimb protractors (muscles that bring the forelimbs forward) with that oh so expressive forelimb action. The poll can be a site of tension because oftentimes, riders will take a hold without pushing the horse into the contact leading to the head coming behind the vertical and straining the muscles of the poll. Added to that, when the riders pulls on the reins, the horse will brace through the poll, creating tension and discomfort.
The lumbar area is often a little immobile possibly, in part due to the tendency for these breeds to be short coupled, but also because the head and neck carriage creates postural adaptations where the horse is actually extended through the back and not engaging behind. This means that the base of the neck is not flexing adequately, that the thoracic sling is not engaged which limits the horse's ability to lift through the whither area. As a result, the back will be extended and the hamstrings will tighten up. Once the muscles adapt to that way of going, it's a self perpetuating cycle.
Soft tissue therapy is also one of those things that can just ensure you are moving in the right direction. We aim to ensure your horse is mobile through the back and neck, focusing on the muscles that exhibit tightness, and prescribing exercises to assist with flexibility and mobility. We would also ensure there is adequate mobility through the thoracic and lumbar spine and that the hip extensors have adequate length to enable the hindlimbs to move under the body...
As we mentioned earlier, we focus on our clients holistically, because our goal is to work on their weaknesses and develop their strengths. In order to make the most of The Spanish horse's ability to collect and power through the more advanced movements, we need to ensure the horse is working in the most advantageous frame to ensure wellness and performance are correlated. On top of all that, we love working with the Spanish Breeds because of their exceptional temperament and trainability!
Photo credit: Our very talented Sponsor - Sophie Lefevre Photography