Equus-Soma Equine Osteology, Anatomy & Bodywork

Equus-Soma Equine Osteology, Anatomy & Bodywork Using integrative modalities of craniosacral therapy, Ridgway Fascial-specific acupoints and Masterson® method to keep your equine athlete feeling great!

After 25+ years conducting research on functional reproductive morphology of tiny marine invertebrates, followed by 23 years as a professional equine sports photographer… I am now embarking on a new career path as a para-professional equine body worker (EBW). Like human athletes , the performance horse sustains injuries that can result in soft tissue tightening and compensatory neuromuscular activity. Trauma may arise from an acute injury, repetitive work or poor training techniques. Over time, restrictions of the fascial network will negatively affect muscular biomechanics, structural alignment, strength & endurance. Through clinics, coursework and self-education I am developing an intuitive and integrated approach to bodywork that incorporates several soft-tissue modalities such as, craniosacral therapy, Ridgway fascial-specific acupoints and the Masterson Method® of Integrated Equine Performance Bodywork. This multi-method approach is quiet, gentle, non-invasive and addresses the whole horse. My hope is that the information I post on this page will educate horse owners, trainers & riders to the physical, therapeutic and psychological needs of their equine partners. ************************************************************ Courses: Oct. 2013- Masterson Method® of Integrated Equine Bodywork 2-day Introductory Workshop. April 2014- Masterson Method® of Integrated Equine Bodywork Advanced 5-day Workshop. Sept. 2014- Four Day Integrative Veterinary Medicine Seminar with Dr. Kerry Ridgway April 2015: Equine Craniosacral Therapy, Level 1. Taught by Dr. Sandi Howlett through Upledger Institute. Aug. 2015: Biomechanics of the Dressage Horse. An advanced Masterson Method® course. Oct. 2015: Whole Horse Dissection taught by Dr. Ivana Rudduck of EquineTouch. April 2016: Equine Craniosacral Therapy, Level 2 and Level 3. Taught by Dr. Sandi Howlett through Upledger Institute. May 2017: Equine Craniosacral Therapy, Level 4. Taught by Dr. Sandi Howlett through Upledger Institute.

Watch Case Study #7: Winona - Equine Wellness 2013 with Dr. Ridgway and Manolo Mendez Online | Vimeo On Demand

Generously shared by Manolo Mendez Dressage private page! these are just clips but great information and you can purchase the full videos of all of the case studies during this clinic!

Here are seven free clips from seven case studies featuring the pioneering work of the late Dr. Kerry Ridgway and Manolo on postural rehabilitation and training for wellness using integrative veterinary medicine, in-hand work, bodywork and riding.

Rent and buy movies online. Stream and download films and series directly from their creators on Vimeo On Demand

Thank you Equi-Tape for utilizing our Equine Myofascial Meridian booklet as a "road map" for your taping sessions!

Thank you Equi-Tape for utilizing our Equine Myofascial Meridian booklet as a "road map" for your taping sessions!

Why is soft tissue therapy so critical to healthy movement and behavior? Think of the skin as a neurological-sensory organ that transmits information to the horses brain about his physical relationship with the environment around him. Proprioception is also how a horse understands his physical being in motion, it influences his equilibrium, muscle use, and how he reacts or responds to stimuli through the skin and fascia.

Think of fascia as a biological computer network that processes information back and forth from the brain to nerves and receptors in the skin and body. Here is a great definition of fascia:

“Fascia is a body-wide fabric of connective tissue that extends from under the skin to deep within the body. It wraps around and permeates every muscle and organ, down to the cellular level. Fascia manifests in various physical forms depending on its function at any particular location. It ranges from flimsy and delicate to thick and incredibly strong. Fascia is vascularized, hydrated and endowed with an assortment of nerve types such as mechanoreceptors, proprioceptors, and nociceptors. This allows the fascia to transmit messages to the brain at lightning speed.”

When tissue is damaged as a result of an injury, over work, lack of nutrition, stress, etc., the communication network in the fascia can be disrupted or damaged. Consequently, negative changes to movement and behavior can manifest forcing the body to compensate and adjust in ways that will alter comprehensive “soundness”.

Soft tissue therapy is critical to any rehab, preventative maintenance, or training program. Learn how to effectively use Equi-Tape to influence proprioception, muscles, and fascia with our “Fundamentals of Equi-Taping” online course with a certification option for healthcare professionals.

Highly recommend this brilliant booklet on fascia lines and how they influence biomechanics from Pamela Blades Eckelbarger M.S. from Equus-Soma Equine Osteology, Anatomy & Bodywork where the above quote and illustrations are derived.


Link to Equi-Tape course: https://equi-tape.com/pages/the-fundamentals-of-equi-taping-online-course-with-certification-option

Applications by SS Tape and Rehab in Maryland.

How many have noticed this "line" on your horse's shoulder?

How many have noticed this "line" on your horse's shoulder?

What's in the muscle? Cutaneous Omobrachialis

I am taking a small detour from the neck, as I got many questions about a specific muscle line in the area of the horse’s shoulder. As such, today’s spotlight is for the Cutaneous Omobrachialis.

The Cutaneous group are the most superficial muscles in the horse’s body. In most anatomy books, not much importance or explanation is given on this muscle grouping. Although mainly considered as fly deterrants, certain cutaneous muscles also assist and provide mechanical functions. For example, the cutaneous coli seems to acts as part of the thoracic sling upon landing – for example during jumps or working down hill. The Cutaenous Trunci can be recruited to draw the hind limb forward in case of hind limb – especially stifle – weakness.

The Cutaneous Omobrachialis is located on the lateral surface of the horse’s shoulder and forearm and is often confused as being a ‘fascial line’. However, dissections have taught me that in fact it really should be classified as a separate muscle. Interestingly, there is quite some variation in exact shape or size of this muscle in individual horses.

Despite being a superficial muscle, the Cutaneous Omobrachialis should not be visible from the outside. So why does it pop up in so many horses?

Although there isn’t a definite one-on-one reason / explanation, the most common connections I have seen are two-fold:

1️⃣ Shoulder issues / tightness. Most of the time, the lining of the Omobrachialis is combined with a dip in front of the whither, or muscle imbalances in the shoulder area including Biceps, Triceps (Elbow issues!), Deltoid, Iinfraspinatus, Supraspinatus and/or Terres Minor. I also find it quite commonly in horses with a recessed ribcage or sternum issues as well as hoof imbalances.

When there is a primary weakness, the Cutaneous Omobrachialis can be recruited to assist in shoulder mechanics as a means of compensation.

2️⃣Neurological sensitivity. The skin is a highly innervated organ and some horses
are very sensitive to the lightest sensory stimulus. In some cases it could be a seasonal phenomenon - in which case it would have to disappear upon winter.

3️⃣ Personal signature. Every horse is different. Hence, these lines can be like identification markers creating their own personal signature. However, in order to
come to this conclusion it must be certain that explanations 1-2 can be ruled out - in my personal experience these often still prevail.

Want to know more? Than follow this page or come join us for an (online) dissection of biomechanics course!
Check: https://www.thirzahendriks.com/events-1/online-live-whole-horse-dissection

Evelyn Brereton - Ev's Equine Services

This is an absolutely fabulous presentation describing the clinical signs of a very uncomfortable, anxious horse who had become dangerous, was humanely euthanized and donated for dissection.
Although containing GRAPHIC images of dissected parts (that are not that bad because they are cleaned up nicely), Evelyn Brereton presents the information discovered clearly and concisely with illustrations.

This is a MUST WATCH and SHARE video beautifully describing ECVM and more!

With great thanks and in conjunction with Valmont Farms we are happy to share this video overview of our dissection performed over the weekend. The horse was found to have Equine Complex Vertebral Malformation (otherwise known as C6/C7 malformation or ECVM)

Once again... no mention that the skeletons of these horses are far from mature with respect to fusion of ALL growth pla...
What We Know, And What We Don't, From 30 Years Of Racehorse Necropsies - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

Once again... no mention that the skeletons of these horses are far from mature with respect to fusion of ALL growth plates 😕


Since the start of California's equine necropsy program in 1990, researchers at the University of California-Davis and elsewhere have learned a lot about fatal injuries in racehorses. Data from the necropsy program has given regulators, veterinarians, and trainers pointers on the best way to manage....

Artistic representation of the brachial plexus

Artistic representation of the brachial plexus

Once again ... think horses.  This makes me wonder about those affected by ECVM... http://www.equus-soma.com/ecvm/

Once again ... think horses. This makes me wonder about those affected by ECVM... http://www.equus-soma.com/ecvm/




The heart (1, all numbers in the text refer to pic 2!) has obvious importance for sustaining life but it has a lesser known connection to the more “orthopedic” problems commonly seen amongst patients. Specifically, the fascial outer layering called the pericardium is directly connected to multiple tissues in the thorax and spine.

On the anterior is the connection to the sternum (2) via the superior and inferior sternopericardiac ligaments (3,4). Superiorly, the link is the cervico-pericardiac ligament (5), which is connected to the deep cervical fascia (green) and houses the trunk of the brachio-cephalic vein (6). Inferiorly, the pericardium directly connects to the diaphragm (7). Lastly, and perhaps most interesting, is the posterior-superior connection to the cervical spine. The Vertebro-pericardiac ligament (8) directly connects the heart to the anterior aspects of C6 and C7.

Tension on bones is not just muscular, but can be from visceral connections such as this. Tension in this tissue can contribute the anterior translation and sheer forces in the vertebrae and discs. This raises the question why we see so much degeneration, disc herniation and pain at the lower cervical spine. Perhaps a direct connection of cervical problems to poor breathing patterns? Maybe we can positively influence the heart via the neck as therapists? The anatomical LINKS provide us the possibilities!

How I manipulate the pericardium with a fascial recoil technique via the sternum you can see in my previous post. You can influence the pericardium via the superior and inferior sternopericardiac ligaments (3,4).

Credit: @AnatomyLinks
#Physiotherapy #SportsPhysiotherapy #Osteopathy

Excellent review of the biology & physiology of pain.Our “poster” horse Apollo provides a perfect example. http://www.eq...

Excellent review of the biology & physiology of pain.

Our “poster” horse Apollo provides a perfect example. http://www.equus-soma.com/apollo-intro/


It is vital that veterinary referral is sought as pain and illness frequently underlie behaviour issues. These MUST be addressed first!! In some instances a qualified behaviourist can support you to manage any behaviours your horse may be showing whilst under-going treatment. This highlights the importance of multidisciplinary working to support both physical and emotional wellbeing .

Pain or nociception is a stimulus most animals and humans seek to avoid. It is defined as a complex, multi-dimensional experience involving both sensory and emotional components (Leeuw et al, 2007) The concept of pain and its applications is learnt through an animal’s or humans’ life experiences. Pain can be classed as either acute or chronic. Pain is also complex to measure in horses (Dyson et al,2019, Gleerup et al, 2015) and non-verbal humans (Van-Rysewyck et al,2016).

Acute pain is present for less than three months, it may be associated with tissue damage or even the threat of tissue damage amongst other causes. It is adaptive and serves a vital function of quickly altering an individual’s behaviour in order to minimise or avoid further damage. It is self-limiting, it begins to allow healing to take place and ends when healing has finished (Hausberger et al, 2016).Some examples of acute pain are cuts, acute onset disease such as colic or elective surgery. It is highly individual and may be impacted by age, personality, stressors and even breed (Iljichi et al, 2014). Behaviour indicators may include changes in body position or posture, altered reactions to touch such as increased sensitivity, reduction in appetite, changes in mobility such as reluctance to move, unsoundness or lameness, alterations in interactions with people or other animals such as withdrawal,avoidance or aggression (Rochais, et al, 2016).Less common in horses would be vocalisations although dogs and other animals may vocalise more frequently.

Chronic pain has a duration of more than three months and is prolonged. It persists beyond the normal healing time or the expected time course of an acute disease process and has no clear or definitive end point. An example of chronic pain would be arthritis or osteoarthritis (Leeuw et al, 2007). Chronic pain serves no biological purpose. It can impact quality of life including mental state and physical wellbeing (Fureix et al, 2010). Chronic pain may be classed as a disease state. In comparison to acute pain chronic pain may be associated with a loss of interest in the environment and pessimistic cognitive bias ( Henry et al,2017). in some individuals. Pain can also be intermittent or wax and wane dependent on other factors such as temperature or activity level. Pain has also been linked to sound sensitivity in the dog (Lopes-Fegundes et al, 2018).

Pain memory can also play a role in some of the behaviours that a horse or dog displays (von-Baeyer et all, Pain related fear and anxiety may be defined as the fear that is present when stimuli related to pain are perceived as a threat (Vlayen et al, 2016) . The fear and anxiety response is composed of behavioural (escape and avoidance behaviour), psychophysiological (heightened muscle reactivity) and cognitive components. The fear and avoidance model of pain offers some explanation for some responses during training and handling such as avoidance of touch or snatching legs away when picking out feet . The model essentially seeks to explain the way an individual interprets pain may lead to different responses the first being if acute pain is perceived as non-threatening the individual is able to continue to function which promotes recovery (Vlayen et al, 2016). In contrast, if the pain is interpreted as threatening by the individual it may cause pain related fear, hypervigilance and other associated safety behaviours such as escape or avoidance behaviours. Rearing and biting or nipping are also examples of escape and avoidance behaviours.These are also examples of escape and avoidance conflict . It is possible that pain or memory of pain may exacerbate and trigger reactions. Fluctuating pain levels on any given day will understandably also influence behaviour. If a horse or dog experiences pain during training such as when a rope halter or collar tightens or experiences discomfort from other equipment this may also elevate fear and anxiety.

In the light of Covid 19 where so many of us are separated from loved ones and are likely so familiar with the pain this brings. Social pain also warrants some attention. Separation anxiety goes far beyond just simple frustration or worry about social isolation and being alone but instead relates very specifically to the aversion to the loss or absence of an attachment figure (Bowlby, 1977) from an evolutionary perspective for young mammals such as foals or puppies loss of their dam could be life-threatening ( Hennessey et al, 2009, Panksepp, 2011,Panksepp and Van Biven, 2012). Whilst research into horse/human attachment is a little sparse given horses are highly socially it is very likely they form bonds to their human caregivers (Payne et al, 2016 DeArugo et al, 2014).Dysfunctional attachment is a more likely explanation as a consequence of inconsistencies in interactions with human caregivers (Payne et al, 2016) than true hyper-attachment. Multiple caregivers such as occurs in livery yard settings may also disrupt attachment as a consequence of inconsistent interactions also impacting the horse/human bond.

Social panic, bonding and attachment is opioid-mediated, so separation and social isolation produces and analogous response to that of opioid withdrawal via activation of the PANIC system. (Panksepp, 2011). In other words separation and isolation is comparable to actual physical pain in all mammals including dogs, horses and humans, separation and emotional pain hurts (Ferdowsian and Mershkin, 2012, Panksepp, 2011,McMillan,2016, Hennessy et al,2009).

Pain can influence behaviour in a multitude of ways.It is important to understand that whilst initially pain and fear memories are adaptive and result in a horse or dog performing behaviours that avoid situations that are potentially risky to the individual animal such as in the case of fear or that they threaten the integrity of tissue as is the case with pain (Sandkhuer and Lee, 2013). In time these memories may become maladaptive and interfere with day to day functioning and wellbeing (Sandkhur and Lee, 2013). As yet it is not possible to eradicate these memories but their effects may be reduced (Lacagnina et al, 2019,Sandkuhler and Lee, 2013).


Bowlby, J., 1977. The making and breaking of affectional bonds: I. Aetiology and psychopathology in the light of attachment theory. The British journal of psychiatry, 130(3), pp.201-210

DeAraugo, J., McLean, A., McLaren, S., Caspar, G., McLean, M. and McGreevy, P., 2014. Training methodologies differ with the attachment of humans to horses. Journal of Veterinary Behavior, 9(5), pp.235-241.

Dyson, S., Thomson, K., Quiney, L., Bondi, A. and Ellis, A.D., 2019. Can veterinarians reliably apply a whole horse ridden ethogram to differentiate nonlame and lame horses based on live horse assessment of behaviour?. Equine Veterinary Education.

Ferdowsian, H. and Merskin, D., 2012. Parallels in sources of trauma, pain, distress, and suffering in humans and nonhuman animals. Journal of Trauma & Dissociation, 13(4), pp.448-468.

Fureix, C., Menguy, H. and Hausberger, M., 2010. Partners with bad temper: reject or cure? A study of chronic pain and aggression in horses. PloS one, 5(8).

Gleerup, K.B., Forkman, B., Lindegaard, C. and Andersen, P.H., 2015. An equine pain face. Veterinary anaesthesia and analgesia, 42(1), pp.103-114.
Hausberger, M., Fureix, C. and Lesimple, C., 2016. Detecting horses’ sickness: in search of visible signs. Applied animal behaviour science, 175, pp.41-49.

Henry, S., Fureix, C., Rowberry, R., Bateson, M. and Hausberger, M., 2017. Do horses with poor welfare show ‘pessimistic’cognitive biases?. The Science of Nature, 104(1-2), p.8.

Hennessy, M.B., Kaiser, S. and Sachser, N., 2009. Social buffering of the stress response: diversity, mechanisms, and functions. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 30(4), pp.470-482.

Ijichi, C., Collins, L.M. and Elwood, R.W., 2014. Pain expression is linked to personality in horses. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 152, pp.38-43.

Lacagnina, A.F., Brockway, E.T., Crovetti, C.R., Shue, F., McCarty, M.J., Sattler, K.P., Lim, S.C., Santos, S.L., Denny, C.A. and Drew, M.R., 2019. Distinct hippocampal engrams control extinction and relapse of fear memory. Nature neuroscience, 22(5), pp.753-761.

Leeuw, M., Goossens, M.E., Linton, S.J., Crombez, G., Boersma, K. and
Vlaeyen, J.W., 2007. The fear-avoidance model of musculoskeletal pain: current state of scientific evidence. Journal of behavioral medicine, 30(1), pp.77-94.

Lopes Fagundes, A.L., Hewison, L., McPeake, K.J., Zulch, H. and Mills, D.S., 2018. Noise sensitivities in dogs: an exploration of signs in dogs with and without musculoskeletal pain using qualitative content analysis. Frontiers in veterinary science, 5, p.17.

McMillan, F.D., 1999. Influence of mental states on somatic health in animals. JOURNAL-AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION, 214, pp.1221-1225.

McMillan, F.D., 2016. The psychobiology of social pain: Evidence for a neurocognitive overlap with physical pain and welfare implications for social animals with special attention to the domestic dog (Canis familiaris). Physiology & behavior.

Payne, E., DeAraugo, J., Bennett, P. and McGreevy, P., 2016. Exploring the existence and potential underpinnings of dog–human and horse–human attachment bonds. Behavioural processes, 125, pp.114-121.

Rochais, C., Fureix, C., Lesimple, C. and Hausberger, M., 2016. Lower attention to daily environment: a novel cue for detecting chronic horses’ back pain?. Scientific reports, 6(1), pp.1-7.

Sandkühler, J. and Lee, J., 2013. How to erase memory traces of pain and fear. Trends in neurosciences, 36(6), pp.343-352.
Van Rysewyk, S., 2016. Nonverbal indicators of pain. Animal Sentience: An Interdisciplinary Journal on Animal Feeling, 1(3), p.30.
von Baeyer, C.L., Marche, T.A., Rocha, E.M. and Salmon, K., 2004. Children's memory for pain: overview and implications for practice. The journal of Pain, 5(5), pp.241-249.

Vlaeyen, J.W., Crombez, G. and Linton, S.J., 2016. The fear-avoidance model of pain. Pain, 157(8), pp.1588-1589.

©️Jessie Sams (2020) Animal Behaviour and Trauma Recovery Service and Beeching Horse Behaviour


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The Osteology & Anatomy Learning Center LOVES visitors and today was no exception. Diane & I spent several hours sharing and comparing bone stories with Amber Fies of Elite Power Stables!
A friend asked for some info on bitless bridle. This was a good article. Pamela Blades Eckelbarger what’s the easiest way to dig up the research sited here?
That bubbling container is MIKEY getting clean!!!!!
I trained racehorse many years ago and grieved to see the jockey swinging off his head, no wonder he was scared to race!
Fantastic presentation last night at Brook Ledge Farm - thank you so much for helping us explore and LEARN!