Response to the waspish ghosts of theological thinking.

Part III

(During the lunch time of a clinic, I was approached by a woman asking, “have you read my book?” The title of the book could have been the title of a humoristic book. It was suggesting the thought that one is riding in the fog. I read the first pages hoping to find some humor. It was funny indeed, but it was sadly funny. The author was talking about a muscle connecting the base of the horse neck to the hind leg. The woman was not referring to a network of muscles which, interpreted a certain way could justify a correlation between lateral bending of the neck and engagement of the hind legs. The author made it simpler. She invented a single muscle or more exactly a pair of muscles that would fit her theory. Thanks to these muscles, by bending the horse neck one could engage the hind leg!!!)

I asked the name of the muscles and she told me. This is why I come to see you. You know muscles. You must know the name of these two muscles. I expressed my doubts about the existence of such muscles. She then concluded, well, if it is not a muscle, it must be a mass. The term mass makes suggested a cancer issue, but the author was not concerned at all. The self confidence of the ghosts is an appalling phenomenon. This woman wrote a book about two muscles that do not exist. Not for one second would she question the accuracy of her theory. If the muscles do not exist, they must be two masses…

Do not expect to learn anything useful in these waspish ghosts’ Internet discussions. However, you might learn about the complex meanders of human psychology. The instant a ghost is cornered, by a pertinent response or question, the ghost reformulates his or her theory. If the horse’s vertebral column does not swing, it is the energy flow that is swinging. If the energy flow is not swinging, it is the force that is swinging and so on. Usually, at the end of futile exchanges comes the pedestal syndrome. If such classic author say so, it must be true. 

The ghost’s muscles may appear at an extreme theory. In fact, the woman’s theory is not worse than principles currently rewarded in the show ring. Among the initial drafts of the pyramid of training was the thought; impulsion is a race horse with a relaxed back. Physiologically, the thought is a plain contradiction. Speed is created by stiffening the horse’s thoracolumbar spine. If the back muscle were to relax, the horse could not sustain the same speed. However, as irrational the concept is, the concept is applied on a daily basis. Horses are rushed forward faster than their natural cadence consequently stiffening their back muscles. Then, neck postures are emphasized for their theoretical propensity to relax the horse’s back muscles…

A horse responds to the rider’s demands and when the rider’s demand is a physiological contradiction, the horse tries to find a compromise, which often leads to injuries. Considering the real work of the back muscles, the thought that greater performances could be achieved by relaxing the back muscles or increasing the amplitude of the vertebral column’s range of motion is not only false but it is dangerous for the horse. The primary function of the back muscles is to preserve the integrity of the vertebral column structure. The first aim is to maintain the amplitude of the vertebral column movements within the limit of its possible range of motion, which is extremely limited. Forces are induced on the spine by the limbs actions, the effects of gravity, inertia forces and rider’s movements. The horse’s back muscles absorb these forces through supple resistance, maintaining the amplitude of the thoracolumbar column within the limits of its possible range of motion. All attempts to increase the amplitude of the horse’s thoracolumbar column’s movements are against the fundamental functioning of the horse’s thoracolumbar spine. In fact, any tentative attempt to elongate a muscle that is actively working would create eccentric contraction and not stretching.

Recent studies have demonstrated the dangers and benefit of eccentric contractions. When a muscle is elongated while actively working, the effort is referred to as eccentric contraction. This type of contraction greatly increases the power produced by the muscle. This muscular work is also labeled as active stretching. The increased power in the muscle cells is more and more regarded as a protection mechanism. Increased intensity of the muscle cells prevent them from being ripped by the effort. The phenomenon is true for the horse’s back muscles but easier to understand referring to the work of the legs muscles. Walking down the hill, the knee extensor muscle of a human works eccentrically at impact. The muscle is decelerating the human body, exactly as does the horse’s hind leg at impact. Doing so, the human knee extensor muscle works as a chock absorber, increasing the muscle and tendon’s elastic recoil and favoring the elevation of the knee at the following sequence of the stride. However, the intensity of the eccentric contraction will create soreness the day after the walk if the human is not accustomed to hike up and down hills. If not properly trained, high force eccentric contraction may cause injury when a horse is rushed on the forehand. Hind and front legs muscles are working eccentrically at impact. With proper education, such eccentric contraction is likely to increase the horse propensity of greater spring in its legs action. However, rushing the horse on the forehands as a training system or a warm up is likely to overload the horse’s limbs creating soreness and muscle damage.


Jean Luc Cornille

Science Of Motion