Strengthening the Hindquarters

Last week I was thrown into crisis mode. It may have been a slight over reaction, but I was very concerned. On Thursday I decided that Otis could do with a visit from his McTimoney chiropractor as I felt he was slightly underperforming and I wanted to ensure there was no underlying reason. So I booked a visit for the middle of this week.

Unfortunately on Friday morning I rode Otis up the road to have a dressage lesson. On giving him a quick trot up the lane to see how he felt I was alerted to the fact his trot felt uneven. Not lame, but the left diagonal felt better than the right. I came back to walk and continued walking to see if he needed a bit more loosening up. With my trainer I said that he felt a bit strange and that we`d been struggling with canter work (which was one of the reasons I thought he needed an MOT) she noticed that in walk he kept having a slight mis-step. He didn`t lose his hindquarters, but the right hind didn`t step through as much. It was every fifth or so step so all in all a bit weird. I trotted for her to see, and he was reluctant to go forwards and not using his right hind so much.

Obviously we abandoned the lesson, and my trainer comforted me that it wasn`t a lameness as such, and you only notice if you know him, so the best thing was to get his back looked at. On my way home I rang the chiropractor to see if she could fit him any earlier than Wednesday. I didn`t want to prolong any pain.

Thankfully, she had a space at Saturday lunchtime, so I organised myself to be free. As she used to be a vet, she planned to watch him on the lunge and do a flexion test in order to make sure there wasn`t a root problem which had caused a back problem. On the lunge the left rein was slightly off, but again not enough to be classified as a lameness. And you had to look closely to see it. The right rein was marginally better but the chiropractor could see a smaller action of his right hind. The left flexion test was brilliant, he trotted up sound, but the right flexion test had a slight influence on his action for the first two strides. She also checked his suspensory ligaments, which were fine.

Back in the stable Otis was stood up square, and you could see his left hip was dropped and rotated back slightly, which was in accordance to the swing of his quarters in walk. The right side was swinging nicely, but the left side looked like it was hitting something as it went up. Otis was straightened up and then the chiropractor looked at his overall muscle tone. Last time she visited his loins were a bit sore, just at the back of the saddle, but these were fine now. However, his gluteals over his croup were very tense. Pressing near his sacroiliac caused a flickering of muscles over his hips. So we checked out his sacroiliac, which was even and flexible, with no adverse reaction from him. The chiropractor massaged the knots out of the gluteals until they ceased flickering. By the end he seemed very relaxed and happy, which was great.

I was instructed to give him a couple of days rest and then an easy week of hacking and light work. With baited breath I mounted on Tuesday to take Otis for a walking hack. We stuck to the roads and went for about half an hour. We met a car on one lane and I had to trot to meet them at the meeting place. Otis felt fantastic! Springy and really pushing from his hindquarters, lifting over his back and ears pricked. I was so pleased!

We repeated the walking hack on Wednesday and afterwards I went into the school to trot on both reins and feel how he was on a curve. It was negligible, but as I changed the rein onto the right rein he felt slightly different, and my friend who was watching thought it seemed like his right hind was fractionally weaker than the left. I could barely feel it on the change of diagonal.

Thursday was another hack with a friend, in which we walked up a nice hill to get the horses using their quarters. We had a steady canter in a straight line and again Otis felt great.

Today however, I went straight into the school and after a bit of walking and stretching I asked for trot, and noticed that he felt different on the right diagonal than the left. It wasn`t as noticeable as last week, but still there. I brought him back to walk and did some more stretching and circling, before trying trot again. It was better, so I trotted on both reins for a few minutes, riding the odd half circle and then after about five minutes he felt much more even and back to his usual self. He was still using his hindquarters, and lifting his back, which was very nice to feel. I did a little bit of shoulder in and leg yielding in walk to try and get his hindquarters a bit more engaged.

I think the dropped pelvis was a longer term issue that I just need to monitor, but the muscles spasms were more concerning. I can`t have the vet yet as they won`t see a lameness, so I think I`m going to take the approach of trying to strengthen his right hind, as suggested by the chiropractor to see if he gets better or worse. I`ve been researching exercises to try, and the obvious ones are shoulder in and leg yield as the inside hind has to step under and across to take more weight. Otis is already established in them, but I`ll take it back to walk for the time being, and incorporate them into my hacks. Other exercises I can do is walking over poles. and raised poles, as this encourages him to flex the joints a bit more. Again, he knows the drill but I will start him in walk over the next week, perhaps building the exercises up to trot if he feels better. In the meantime I can hack him and use hillwork to help strengthen his quarters.

Fingers crossed by next week he`ll be feeling a lot stronger and better! If anyone has any other suggestions for exercises then please let me know!

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5 thoughts on “Strengthening the Hindquarters

  1. firnhyde June 14, 2014 / 10:13 am

    Has your chiropractor shown you any stretches you can do with him yourself on the ground? I stretch my horses a few times a week and it’s a great way to pick up on any muscle soreness or joint mobility problems, as well as improving their suppleness and loosening up their muscles. This is the routine I use:
    1. Carrot stretch, bringing the horse’s nose to his hip and holding it there for 5-10 seconds. Repeat on the other side
    2. Carrot stretch, bringing the hose’s nose to his hind hooves and holding it there for 5-10 seconds
    3. Pick up the front hoof, fold the forearm parallel to the ground and lift the leg until the heel touches the elbow (or as far as the horse can flex). One hand supports the cannon bone in this position, the other goes under the forearm and lifts it up, raising the entire shoulder. Hold for 5-10 seconds. Helps to relax the shoulder and wither
    4. Take the front leg and stretch it backwards towards the hind hoof, as in a very extended trot, and hold for 5-10 seconds
    5. Take the front leg and stretch it forwards and outwards, as in a very extended trot, and hold for 5-10 seconds. Make sure the shoulder drops down
    6. Repeat (4) and (5) with the hindlegs
    7. Press both palms against the hip joint of the horse and push up and away from yourself. Encourage the horse to lean into you so that his rump gets really relaxed, when you touch the muscle it should be completely loose and squishy, and hold for 5-10 seconds. They really like this one, I assume that it provides relief for a muscle that is seldom relaxed as even when the horse is standing his rump is quite tense.

    • therubbercurrycomb June 14, 2014 / 10:11 pm

      Thanks for these suggestions; I already do the carrot stretches but number seven sounds like a good one, and I`ll give the leg stretches a go, particularly on the hind legs 🙂

      • firnhyde June 15, 2014 / 6:45 am

        Hope it helps 🙂

      • therubbercurrycomb June 16, 2014 / 4:36 pm

        I’ve been doing those exercises, no massive difference but he’s feeling better in the school. I really like the quarters exercise and the gluteals go all squishy like you said. I think he’s much better there too because when I groom his croup the whole of his loins start to swing 🙂

      • firnhyde June 17, 2014 / 4:24 pm

        Awesome! 🙂

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