New Muscle Monday #2 – Rectus Abdominus

Happy Monday everyone, here goes number 2! As always, questions and comments are welcome.

Rectus Abdominus

Name: Rectus Abdominus

Action: Flexes the spine

Affected by: ill-fitting cinches, improper carriage whilst under saddle

Other info: This muscle is one of the key muscles that are involved with rounding the back and achieving collection. When this muscle is too contracted, the horse will have a roach back.

A good exercise to activate this muscle on your horse from the ground is belly lifts. To do this, use your fingers on the belly of the muscle, starting about where the girth would sit, and apply pressure up, running down the length of the muscle. A normal response from the horse would be to contract the rectus abdominus muscle and you will see the spine flex.

A reminder that some horses are more sensitive to this and may react more then others!

If your horse doesn’t have much of a belly lift to speak of, there are ways of helping to strengthen the muscle. Regular belly lifts, exercises over poles/cavelleties, and riding up and down hills are all excellent to do routinely.
Having a strong rectus abdomnius muscle will make it way easier on your horse to collect and remain in a proper frame under saddle.

This muscle originates from the sternum and inserts at the cranial pubic ligament.

For those who may like some more reading, a fantastic article by Deb Bennett can be found below. The ‘ring of muscles’ outlined in the article are the key components to attaining collection in the horse. he rectus abdominus is one of these crucial muscles. Without these muscles in balance and being used effectively under saddle, there is no possible way for the horse to carry itself correctly.