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Balance Command: Verticals vs. Horizontals

Gravity is a constant vertical force which is always pressing down upon us. Whether you are a biped (Vertical: human) or a quadruped (Horizontal: canine or equine), we all need to battle against gravity to keep our balance and remain upright. Verticals have an easier time resisting gravity or “vertical force” because we have a collar bone. Horizontals, however, have a harder time maintaining their balance with gravity pushing down upon them because they do not have a collar bone.

Front-end Alignment:

Vertical animals have a collarbone to stabilize the shoulder to the ribcage. The collarbone adds a huge advantage in making the connection stable. However, it also has its disadvantage by restricting movement.

horse gait

To withstand the gravitational forces pressing down, a horizontal animal has what we call a "thoracic sling." The thoracic sling is meant to suspend the horizontal’s trunk between the front legs. This allows the Horizontal to gain the much needed movement in their front-end, suspending the front limbs between the chest, and more importantly, providing and inclining against gravity. So, in lieu of a collarbone, a horizontal animal's thoracic sling is a system built mainly of muscles that connect the medial aspect of the scapula or shoulder blade to their ribcage.

Rear Wheel Drive Explained:

In a Horizontal, the hind limbs' job is propelling forward movement. Hence, the power of a horizontal is biomechanically a “rear wheel drive” force. That “rear wheel drive” force travels up through the horizontal’s sacrum/pelvic area and transfers up through the thoracic-lumbar spine and then the front end to converts the “rear wheel drive” force into a vertical impulse against gravity.

For example, in horses this vertical balance allows the animal to move the front limbs straight and “track up” (front limbs and hind limbs are in the same track without falling once side or to the other. Balance command is ultimately determined by the Horizontal's forehand. You should see vertical and horizontal balance (using two tracks when going on a straight line (no falling in or out)) with the weight distribution of the front and hind limbs almost evenly. You will also see a horizontal striation at the top line. Croup, wither and ears should be on a horizontal line (if not slightly higher).

“As Above So Below”, Maureen Rogers

Horizontals have multiple sling systems in the body because, according to Maureen Rogers, “as above, so below” meaning if you have it in the front end, you must have it in the hind end. In the front-end a Horizontal has a thoracic sling that consists mainly of muscles for mobility. In the hind-end, Horizontals have a sacral pelvic sling system consisting mainly of ligaments to provide stability. In the Horizontal, the lumbar-sacral area and the pelvis are on a horizontal plane, which act like a suspension bridge for the animal.

If Your Horizontal is Out of Balance:

The thoracic sling to elevate the forehand and also support the base of the lower neck and help the rhomboids and the trapezius with their telescoping ability.

If your Horizontal is always on the forehand, you may safely conclude their thoracic sling is not working properly. Without a properly functioning thoracic sling, the Horizontal will be (vertically) out of balance. You may also notice restricted breathing and hind end problems when the thoracic sling is malfunctioning. We help with this! With a combination of Equine Pilates and Equine Bodywork, Pilates Mastery can help your horse or dog find the balance they need.

To learn more about Horse Speak®, Equine Pilates and/or Reformer Pilates for Humans here in Aiken, head to Pilates Mastery. If you’re looking for Pilates near me, Pilates Mastery also offers virtual Pilates sessions if you are not local to Aiken, SC. You may book an Equine Pilates or a Horse Speak® session at:

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