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Four Phases of Musculature

Understanding the horse’s anatomy is crucial in training. A horse’s body is extremely complex, and a rider must have an understanding of the horse’s musculature in order to know how to supple, stretch, and strengthen each muscle group properly. By training a horse incorrectly, one muscle might unknowingly be developed to inhibit the use and movement of another muscle.

The four phases of the musculature that will be discussed are anterior, posterior, medial, and lateral. In understanding these four different areas, a rider can understand how to develop a horse correctly and how the four phases interact with one another to create the whole horse.

Anterior/Posterior Musculature
The anterior and posterior phases of the musculature refer respectively to the muscles in front and back. These muscles include those along the top and bottom lines of the horse, muscles in the front and back of the legs, and any muscles that work in a swinging motion.

While many riders may have heard or used the expression ‘riding from front to back’ when referring to a rider that is not allowing the horse to move forward from the hind end, few understand how this type of riding relates to the horse’s musculature. If a rider does not encourage a horse to work forward from the hind legs or refuses to stretch the anterior and posterior muscles correctly, the horse’s movement and performance will be inhibited. Without proper management of the anterior and posterior muscles, the horse’s performance and ability to flex will be limited. This will result in lack of adjustability and possible injury.

Medial/Lateral Musculature

The medial and lateral phases of the musculature refer respectively to the middle and outside muscles of the horse. These muscles are located on the sides of the horse and are used when the horse is asked to bend or move laterally.

In order to optimize the medial and lateral muscles, a rider must supple them. This can be done through lateral and bending exercises where the horse is asked to open up and breathe. Once the horse’s muscles are supple and relaxed, the horse will be able to more easily complete the rider’s requests. If a rider does not properly supple the medial and lateral muscles and begins strengthening prematurely, the horse’s range of motion will be severely restricted. This will result in stiffness, resistance to the rider’s commands, and inability to perform.