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Jan 272013
The splenius muscles connect the horse's neck and upper back vertebra to the skull.

If a horse keeps his head carriage low and pulled to the side it could be a tight painful splenius muscle.

What signs and symptoms does a horse exhibit when experiencing splenius cervicis muscle dysfunction?

  • The horse will turn or pull its head and neck to the painful side
  • The horse will resist turning head and neck to the opposite side
  • During rest the horse will keep its head lowered and will stretch the head and neck to try to relieve pain
  • In motion the horse will clearly show head and neck discomfort, often resisting turning the head and neck to the side.

Where are the splenius muscles located?

The splenius muscle is a superficial (top layer) muscle found on each side of the neck. It attaches the cervical (neck) and thoracic (upper back) vertebrae to the skull (mastoid process of temporal bone).

What movements are attributed to the splenius muscle?

  • It  straightens the neck (extension)
  • Raises the neck (elevation)
  • Bends the neck to the side (lateral flexion)

Activities that cause splenius muscle pain and symptoms in the horse:

  • A rider who constantly pulls or balances on the reins (lesson horse, rental horse)
  • A horse whose discipline requires collection and flexion of the head/neck (dressage, race horses)
  • Horses who pull against the bit (jumpers, eventers, race horses)
  • Sudden change in direction, quick starts, sudden stops (race horse, polo horse, reining horse, cutting horse, work cow horse, barrel horse, gymkhana horse)
  • Carriage horses that carry their heads high. Pressure from the collar will also cause pain and symptoms.
  • Pulling back when tied

How Can Equine Massage Therapy Help With Splenius Symptoms?

Massage therapy can help with splenius muscle pain and symptoms by releasing a stress point  toward the top of the neck. The muscle is then worked to relieve additional tension. Gentle stretching of the head and neck muscles will encourage the splenius to return to its normal state.

Recommended Books About Horse Anatomy

Learn Equine Anatomy

Clinical Anatomy of the Horse will guide you in learning about the anatomy of the horseIf you are someone who wants to understand your horse inside out, this book is for you! Clinical Anatomy Of The Horse  is the most comprehensive visual equine anatomy book on the market. Images are not diagrams, they are pictures taken while examining live horses and photos of autopsies performed immediately after death. The photos are very graphic so viewer be warned. But if the site of a dissected body does not bother you, I highly recommend this book. It will give you a visual map of the anatomy and physiology of your horse

Discover How The Skeleton and Muscles Move When Your Horse Is In Motion

How Your Horse Moves helps you understand how groups of muscles work together for movement.
How Your Horse Moves: A visual guide to improving performance, should be in the library of everyone who rides and takes care of horses. Author Gillian Higgins paints the skeleton and muscles on live horses with amazing precision. The photos allow you to not only see exactly how your horse’s bone structure is put together but also shows how the muscles move as the horse is in motion. Ms. Higgins also provides information about the skeletal bones, easy to understand information about muscle and soft tissue bio-mechanics explanations of movement, a trouble shooting guide and simple but effective stretches for not only your horse but you too! If you are an equine massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor, this book is a must have.

Learn Basic Equine Massage Techniques To Help Your Horse

Learn basic equine massage techniques and the theory behind equine massage
The Basic Principles of Equine Massage/Muscle Therapy is book for those who want to learn to help their horse with basic massage techniques. The first part of the book explains massage theory and equine anatomy in an easy to understand format. The next section of the book is a pictorial of Mike Scott working on a horse. Mike shows which technique to use, placement of hands and gives an idea of how much pressure to apply. The book ends with sections on stretching your horse and proper saddle fitting. Though the book is geared to beginners, professional equine massage therapist will glean knowledge and tips. This is a good book for beginners and a great reference book for the experienced equine bodyworker.

Anatomy Study: Origin, Insertion, Action and Innervation of the Splenius Muscle of the Horse:

Origin: Spinous processes of  T3–T5 by means of thoracolumbar fascia; nuchal ligament
Insertion:  Nuchal crest and mastoid process of temporal bone; transverse processes of C2–C5
Action:  neck extension,  elevation of the neck, lateral flexion of the neck
Innervation:  Dorsal branches of cervical nerves 2-8

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