• Jennifer Bodnar

Tip: Need to work on those thoracic sling muscles?

The Importance of the “Thoracic Sling”

Unlike people horses don’t have a collar bone or any sort of a boney connection between their shoulder and their trunk. Their forelegs are attached by a group of muscles referred to as the thoracic sling which suspends the trunk between the front legs. This mainly consists of the serratus ventralis thoracis, and the pectoral muscles. Proper contraction of these muscles is imperative in maintaining balance and straightness. To achieve proper and balanced collection the horse needs to lift its trunk and raise its withers by contracting these muscles. A horse with weak sling muscles will be dropped at the shoulder resulting in a downhill motion pushing the sternum forwards and blocking the hind end from engaging. Many straightness issues are also caused by the sling muscles having a stronger and a weaker side causing the horse to in fall in or out of turns. This is especially common in young horses. We tend to think the hind end needs development and push when in actuality the push from the hind end needs to be equally met by the upward push of the front end for the horse to perform with controlled power and balance.

Hang a hay net chest height or higher to mimic natural browsing.

—In the wild horses would get about 20% of their forage from browsing shrubs and trees.

—Browsing engages the thoracic sling muscles and encourages the horse to square up the front limbs.

—Only eating from a grazing posture can often create or exacerbate issues like high heel/low heel and weak sling muscles. When grazing, horses will typically take up one of two postures. They will either stand bracing with one foot back and the other out in front, or they will brace with both and lean over their shoulder pushing their shoulder down and their sternum forward.

—Variety is key. Do not force your horse to eat from the net, simply offer it as an additional snack and play with different heights to see what is comfortable for your horse. If your horse has neck or SI issues consult your Veterinarian first.

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