proprioception pro·pri·o·cep·tion (prō’prē-ō-sěp’shən)
The unconscious perception of movement and spatial orientation arising from stimuli within the body itself.
I have been avoiding writing this post for a while, since I find the concept difficult to describe. I think of proprioception as efficient movement developed from an awareness of the function and balance of the body. If, for example, your leg falls asleep, you might have a hard time walking, as you can’t really feel where your leg is. If a horse is not feeling all his body parts clearly, injury during challenging athletic activities could well be the outcome. As you watch a foal struggle to stand and walk, you are watching a baby develop proprioception.
Pain and lameness affect proprioception as the new sensations cause the body to find new ways to find balance. Two ways the horse might cope are to limit movement where the pain occurs or to compensate by using other muscles. When an injury heals, it might take some time for the memory of pain to allow the horse to return to healthy proprioception. Massage can assist horses in preserving a healthy awareness and comfort in the body, and also to recover from injury.