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Jan 262013
The equine masseter muscle covers the jaw of the horse.

Pain and dysfunction in the masseter muscle can cause a horse to lose weight and become head shy.

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

  • Difficulty chewing, grain or hay will ball up in the mouth
  • Grain has a tendency to fall out of the mouth
  • May yawn excessively or move the bottom jaw side to side
  • Weight loss
  • May be heavy on the bit, or refuse to engage with the bit
  • Tendency to toss the head
  • May be difficult to bridle

Where is the masseter muscle?

The masseter attaches a bone under the eye (zygomatic) to the bottom jaw (mandible).

What movements are attributed to the masseter muscle?

  • Its brings the jaws together
  • It moves the bottom jaw to the side
  • The masseter is the primary muscle for chewing

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

  • Biting into something hard
  • Cribbing
  • Teeth grinding
  • A rider who constantly pulls or balances on the reins (horses used for riding lessons)
  • Pulling back when tied

If the horse is showing signs of pain in the masseter (cheek) area, my recommendation is to first have the teeth checked. If there are problems with the teeth a follow up with a massage session will be beneficial to relieve stress points in and around the masseter.

How Can Equine Massage Therapy Help With Masseter Symptoms?

Massage therapy can help with masseter muscle pain and symptoms by releasing stress points that lay in the belly of the muscle. The muscle is then worked to relieve additional tension. Gentle stretching of the mouth and jaw encourages the muscle to return to their 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 Masseter Muscle of the Horse

  • Origin: the zygomatic arch and the facial crest
  • Insertion: the ramus of the mandible
  • Action: Its action is to bring the jaws together. Acting singly, it also carries
    the lower jaw toward the side of the contracting muscle
  • Innervation: Masticatory Nerve