I had an interesting case today: an upper level warm blood dressage and event horse. This horse is stunning and balanced, but quite large. He is over 17 hands, has a long neck and back, and big bones. His owner sent me video of a recent dressage lesson and pointed out that he was a bit stiff behind and not coming through over his back. I watched the video several times. The ride was lovely, but the horse seemed uncomfortable. I saw slight twisting of the head, occasional gaping of his mouth: just little signs that something was not quite right.
When I started working on the horse, I noticed one side of his neck was more hollow than the other. I also found big spasms in the rhomboid and brachiocephalicus. These muscles are in the neck, and even though the owner felt that jumping had left the horse stiff in the hind end, I thought that if I could release the spasms in the front end, the hind end would be able to connect and the back would come through. The brachiocephalicus muscle needs to contract properly for jumping and collected work. With the spasm on the left side of his neck, this horse appeared stiff behind because he wasn’t working through his back as well as he could. The big spasms in the rhomboid muscle also were preventing him from reaching and arching his neck.
I also worked on the splenius, a muscle that attaches at the poll, the atlas, and three vertebrae in the neck. As I worked, the hollow looking space in the neck started to match the fuller side. The splenius muscle must be functioning properly to have the flexion necessary in the upper levels. I then did some myofascial release on either side of the neck and there were audible snap,crackle, and pops!
This wonderful horse seemed very relaxed and happy by the end of the session. He will be competing this weekend and I expect to see more connection, balance, flexibility, and freedom of movement.
Send me a message if you would like to know how he places in his championship division!