Tag Archives: hock

Peroneus Tertius Muscle

I was called to work on a horse that had a mystery lameness in the hind leg. The chiropractor and farrier were both puzzled by the discomfort the horse was demonstrating. He looked very stiff in the hock area, and I wondered if maybe he needed hock injections, as he is in his teens.  I found an area of tightness and proceeded to work gently, as the horse flinched when I touched the muscle, which is the peroneus tertius.

This muscle extends the hock and flexes the stifle simultaneously. After a few minutes of massage and cross fiber friction, I had the owner walk him out. He looked better, and I did another round of deep pressure massage. This muscle is very stringy and tendinous, so can easily become tight. It is not naturally a pliable spot on the horse. Massage in the area of the peroneus tertius and gastricnemius is good insurance against such a build up of tightening and stress that a rupture is unavoidable.

The owner has reported that her gelding is moving normally and returning to light work. I will be returning for another treatment very soon, as this is an area that takes several sessions to improve.


Ossifying Myocitus

Myocitus refers to a muscle. Ossifying is hardening. The condition is more common in breeds with dense muscles, like Quarter Horses and Mustangs.

Ossifying myopathy is a mechanical lameness caused by improper healing of an old injury to the belly of a muscle (as opposed to the fibrous ends that attach to bone). Scar tissue forms and the muscle loses its ability to stretch. The result is that the leg where the muscle is located loses it’s ability to move through a normal range of motion. There are several muscles in the horse that seem to be predisposed to this complication.

I recently visited a client, a Mustang, that was showing discomfort at the canter going left. Going in the other direction did not seem to be a problem. I worked on her, and much of her body felt great. This mare gets regular body work. Where I did find a lot of tightness and stress was in her left hind above the hock: the gastricnemius and semitendinosus muscle at the back of the thigh. When I watched her walk, the left hock was not flexing as it should.  Without X-ray vision, it is impossible for me to determine: Was the tight muscle coming from a bad joint? Or was the hock not flexing because of the tight muscle?

After a good massage session, the mare felt good everywhere except in that left hind. I suggested that my client have the vet come out. He felt that the leg had suffered some recent trauma (maybe a kick or wild pasture play) and confirmed the diagnosis: The muscle healing was being complicated by excessive fibrous connective tissue. The presence of this scar tissue severely restricts the action of the muscle.

In trying to avoid surgery (which has not had great success in other horses), we are all in agreement to try anti-inflammatory treatments, cold laser, DMSO massaged directly into the muscle, heat packs, good nutrition, and light stretching.

I will follow up in a few weeks, and hope to report good progress in returning to an active life for this sweet mare.



What Are Those Three Lumps?

Right behind the stifle, you can see three lumpy looking muscles. Those are the lower end of the biceps femoris. The top of this muscle attaches to the sacrum, and is responsible for the motion of the stifle and the hock. I focus a lot of attention on the biceps femoris during massage sessions at horse shows when the horse has to pass a jog. Tightness will cause an up and down, short stride. Release of the tension will suddenly produce a lovely, forward stride.

If your horse is swinging his lower leg outward, it can be that a tight lower biceps femoris attachment is actually causing the stifle to rotate. Again, releasing tight muscles will restore balance and movement.

Analyzing Problems in the Trot

If the horses head bobs while trotting, the head will go down when the leg in pain hits the ground.

Watching from behind: the hip that looks higher is the side where the problem is, since the hip will come up to relieve pressure.

A hind leg travels inside: There could be hock pain, low back pain, or muscle spasms of the semimembranosus.

Throws hind leg outwards: There could be pain in the stifle or hip, or spasms in the tensor fascia latae.

The front leg travels inside: there could be knee pain, or tight pectoral muscles.

The front leg arcs out: there could be back or shoulder pain, or spasms in the spinatus muscles. (see first diagram)

Short stride in front: spasm in the triceps.

Short stride behind: if it is on one side, there could be a problem with that hip. If both hind legs are short and tight, there could be a problem with the sacroiliac joint, or the muscles surrounding that joint.

Many of the problems described here can be resolved through massage, cold laser, and/or chiropractic treatment.



Another Cause of Restricted Motion: The Gastrocnemius

This muscle is so overlooked, I could not find a good picture to illustrate where it is! It is roughly the equivalent of the human calf muscle. The gastrocnemius flexes the stifle and extends the hock. The muscle is surrounded by tendons and is not easy to massage. In my regular clients I see improvement after many sessions, and once loose, is not difficult to maintain that way, so I usually instruct the horses’ owner how to do a little massage each day.  When I meet a new horse that has an extremely tight gastrocnemius a red light flashes in my head, as I have seen a few tearing injuries occur while landing from a jump. Prevention is always preferable to rehab!





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