The intercostal muscles are the muscles between the ribs and the most important function they do in aid in breathing.
- Have a horse that holds their breath?
- Do you have a horse that always favors one lead over the other?
- Is your horse harder to bend or turn in a particular direction?
- Is your saddle is always slipping off to one side?
When a horse habitually holds its ribs to one side, it makes certain movements harder for them. Things like lateral flexion on the side the ribs stick out on becomes very difficult. Holding the proper bend on that side is hard, their shoulder falls into the circle because their ribs are in the way. Higher level lateral movements and lead changes become a challenge, not because the horse is being difficult, but because they simply can't move their ribs out of the way to allow for the proper position of their body to accommodate the movement.
Releasing these muscles can help the horse maintain proper muscles function to help them become more balanced and free in their rib cage. Just like people, horses are one-sided or one side dominant just like someone who is right or left handed. Our job as riders, trainers and therapist is to help them be as balanced as possible through proper training and with the help of bodywork. Releasing the intercostal muscles and the rib cage may help your horse overcome that ingrained muscle memory and get them swinging freely through the ribs again.