No seriously. Often I get asked, “How did my animal get a knot in their (insert muscle here) or why did my pet have so much out of balance?

The truth is, it could be anything. I’ll explain.

I know that answer isn’t the one you want to hear. Horse owners usually assume any imbalance has something to do with their riding or exercise program. This can certainly be a contributing factor. However, that doesn’t explain how a well-muscled and balanced horse that is unridden for a month can still have a knot in their neck, a sore area on their ribs, or a tight hamstring.

Dog owners can find the same issues with their pet in a bodywork session. Obviously, no one is riding their canine (or they certainly shouldn’t) and yet they still have similar issues. If you were to receive bodywork yourself, you’d likely find something out of whack as well.

Why is this? Environmental factors are always possible. Cold weather creates tighter muscles and stiffer joints. Changing of seasons can result in digestive upset and inflammation regardless of species. Rough play, long walks or exercise can result in imbalance or muscle tweaks and strains the same as for their human counterparts.

Did you know that in addition to environmental factors, equipment can also be a consideration? A dog harness is more likely to cause heat in the sternum and thoracic sling, and a dog that pulls can front load the body with more weight on the forehand. Eventually this leads to an animal that is not using their hindquarters correctly and eventually may slip out behind or put additional strain on the lower back and hips. For horses, bridles and saddles must fit well and be checked regularly (at minimum twice per year) but saddle pads, tendon boots, and lunging systems can also create physical issues if not fitted or not used correctly.

The true mystery, however, occurs when equipment and environmental factors are ruled out but there is a mental/emotional stress. Some animals are highly sensitive, highly anxious. Others are extremely stoic, internalizing their responses. As a result, either case may hold tension in their body for long periods of time causing muscle tension and thus, imbalance in the body due to compensatory issues, inflammation due to lymph build up, or stress on the skeletal system and Central Nervous System if left untreated.

Our bodies, human or animal, all recognize physical and mental/emotional stress in the body the same way. The end result if left untreated is lameness, injury, or immobility. The truth is, there is no preventing imbalance unless your animal receives regularly bodywork sessions to remove issues before they can become a problem.

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