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Muscle Chains and Body Balance

Gerd Herschmann, German vet and horse trainer who wrote the books ‘Tug of War’ and ‘Balancing Act’, discovered that the horse has 2 muscle chains, an Upper Muscle Chain, all the muscles at the top of the body, and a Lower Muscle Chain, all the muscles at the bottom of the body. 

Muscle Chains

Gerd Herschmann, German vet and horse trainer who wrote the books ‘Tug of War’ and ‘Balancing Act’, discovered that the horse has 2 muscle chains, an Upper Muscle Chain, all the muscles at the top of the body, and a Lower Muscle Chain, all the muscles at the bottom of the body. 


Gerd says when horses blow out, they are giving the rider/handler flowers, bc the horse was able to relax both the upper and lower muscle chains. He also says many horses will cough in an effort to loosen or relax one or both of these muscle chains. This is why many horses cough at the beginning of the ride.


I noticed that the Upper Muscle Chain corresponds with the Left side of the brain; and the Lower Muscle Chain corresponds with the Right side of the brain. Horses that have a longer top of the body, tend to use their left brain more; horses that have a longer bottom of the body, tend to use their right brain more. 


Energy in the horse runs from the back to the front. 


The end of the Upper Muscle Chain is the poll. Horses that are tight in the left side of their brain, or are really thinking and trying super hard, will tend to get tight or overactive in their pole. 

They may keep their nose behind the vertical or flip their heads/nose up and down. 

Tight = Introvert holding in, Flipping = Extrovert release 


The end of the Lower Muscle Chain is the tongue. Horses that are tight in the right side of the brain, or are really emotional or energetic, will tend to get tight or overactive in their tongue. 

They may be tight in their tongue and mouth = Introvert, Overactive/sticking tongue out = Extrovert trying to release.


The Tail is part of muscle chains at the beginning. Horses will express right and left brain things with their tails. The TMJ joint and the Eye are part of both muscle chains at the end. A horse will only release in its jaw (yawn) or soften its eye when both muscle chains have relaxed, and its able to use both sides of the brain. If the horse is blinking, it’s thinking. If its staring blankly, it’s in survival mode.

Body Balance

Watching the way a horse stands and holds its body will give you loads of information about both its physical and mental/emotional state. 


1) Watch for front and hind feet being square vs offset. The squarer they are the more balanced.


2) Watch which legs, front or hind, are wider apart. The legs that are wider apart show where the horse is carrying the most weight. Emotional/reactionary horses tend to stand with front feet wider that hind feet. Mentally and physically balanced horses tend to stand wider in the back feet. 


3) The closer together the front and hind feet are to each other is very important too. The more relaxed/thinking horse will stand with front and hind feet relatively close together.


4) Emotional/overreacting horses will tend to ‘park out’ or have those feet further apart. If a horse is tight in his back, he cannot relax and allow those feet to come closer together.