The Muscles of the Foreleg
Reprinted from Whole Horse Connection, LLC
Much focus is given to the often-vulnerable tendons below the knee, with seldom any consideration ever given to the muscles of which they are attached to above. The horse care products market has exploded in the past 10 years with a countless number of lower leg wraps, poultices, liniments, etc., to support, heat, cool, compress, vibrate, penetrate, circulate, etc., everything below the knee. But what good do all of these products do, when there is compromising restriction/s in the muscles above?
Jack Meagher (1985) once stated, "Horsemen pay more attention to tendons than to any other part of the horse, and rightly so. However, no one pays attention to the area that makes the tendon work - the muscles of the foreleg! The tendons are NOT a separate entity by themselves." For example, take a good look at the anatomical illustrations (Horse Side Vet Guide, 2016) of the front and hind limbs posted here. These pictures show how the tendons below the knee, (deep digital, common digital, superficial digital) are connected to the corresponding muscles above, which originate from the most upper portions of the limbs themselves. What do you think happens to the tendons below, (supportively wrapped, or not), if the muscles acting on these tendons were tight and restricted themselves?
If the muscle above is unable to carry through a healthy range of motion, it is inevitable that there will be undue strain on its corresponding tendons below. By utilizing some popular stretches of the limbs, a horse owner can not only help their horse "remember" their full range of motion (which is useful, because horses by nature, tend to favor and remember whatever motion requires the least effort possible), but also when performed on a routine basis, restrictions in the muscles of the limbs can be successfully minimized, and thus decrease the risks of damaging the tendons below.
Reference: Meagher, J. (1985), "Beating Muscle Injuries in Horses." Rowley, MA: Hamilton Horse Associates Photo credit: Thal, D. (2016). Horse Side Vet Guide. Thal Enterprises.