Think of a spider’s web, strong enough to withstand force but flexible enough not to break.

Touch the web and the whole web moves. Now you have an idea of how fascia works. It surrounds every structure in the body from the tiny muscle fibres to nerves and to bones. It helps maintain structure but also creates a sliding surface during movement. For example, the superficial dorsal line (dark blue line), gives direct connection from the under surface of the coffin bone directly to the horse’s poll. So, if you have tension in the hind leg, it will create tension in the poll, an extraordinary connection1.

Fascia has an enormous influence on the horse’s movement, in extreme cases (when injured) it can reduce a horse’s stride length. For fascia to work at its best, it needs to be supple, hydrated and injury free2.

Fascia can be damaged by direct trauma such as a kick or even slipping. Often, significant damage is caused by “repetitive micro-trauma”, over-stretching movements over time, such a compensatory movement because of a sore back1, 2.

When fascia has increased tension, it becomes taught and reduces its ability to function properly. It can be seen on the horse as lines (often between muscles) or feel like a tight strip. This is where myofascial release can be used to start alleviating the tension. What is important though, is to treat the problem that is causing the fascial restriction first.

Myofascial release is a series of gentle massage and stretching techniques designed to release tension within the fascial structure, increasing blood flow, lymphatic drainage, and oxygen, allowing the fascia to work normally. Your musculoskeletal therapist will choose what treatment is necessary based on the location and cause of tension.

But what can you do? There are several techniques that can help release tension in fascia, this being the simplest. Hold your hands in front of you so that your left thumb and fore finger create an L shape and the right hand will mirror this. Place your hands on the area of tension with a gap of 3 cm between your thumbs. Gently and slowly drag the skin together and release. You can repeat this below, ensuring you only cover the area once. Your horse will then need to be left to process this, so its better done after riding or on a day off and repeated once or twice a week.


Myofascial lines of the horse taken from Fascia in the horse by Vibeke S Elbrond Veterinary and Associate Professor at the University of Copehagen.


Article By Anne Skivington - Veterinary Physiotherapist -

165960975 2774084926171684 5331945471128065501 n