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The Splenius Muscle

The Splenius muscle originates from the thoracic spinous processes found in the withers and the Nuchal Ligament, and inserts in to the poll and c1-c4. The Splenius is responsible for lifting and extending the neck, providing lateral flexion through the neck and stabilising the head and neck.


Injury or strain to the area can occur through direct trauma, but other things need to be considered too;


🔸 Discipline - Higher levels of competition, in particular dressage, will increase the demand on this muscle during certain movements involving extended periods of lateral flexion.


🔸 Compensation - If the horse is suffering from a lameness, there is likely to be a ‘head nod’ present during movement. The Splenius muscle will need to work harder than it is designed to, to stabilise the head and neck during movement, and therefore more likely to suffer from a strain injury.


🔸 Rider Influence - Heavy handed riders see-sawing at their horse’s mouth can cause asymmetry of the muscle due to blocking the horse’s natural movement and lateral flexion.


Symptoms of restrictions/pain in the Splenius muscle include;


🔹 Crookedness through the head and neck

🔹 Resistance to fleet to one side

🔹 Sensitivity to bridling

🔹 Sensitivity around the poll

🔹 Lower head posture


(Not all symptoms may be present)


A combination of correctly prescribed stretching & exercise can help, alongside massage and myofascial release.

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