In order for the horse to move efficiently and with a good flow, it must be allowed to position its head and neck so that it can freely maintain pace, balance and harmony. There are four neck positions that you need to avoid if you want to achieve just that.
Placing the head and neck in the correct position can be a challenge, but according to biomechanics expert Gillian Higgins, it is absolutely crucial for the horse to use its body correctly.
LONG AND DEEP
It is natural for the horse to keep its head low, and according to Gillian Higgins, there are a number of physiological benefits to it whether we look at the horse when it grazes, relaxes or is ridden.
• The back is raised.
• The vertebral bodies are positioned correctly.
• The muscles of the top line are developed, flexed and relaxed.
• The long back muscles can relax so that the back can move with ease.
• The abdominal muscles develop.
• The spinal cord and nerves can pass unhindered through the spinal canal and between the vertebrae.
The purpose of the training of the horse is in addition to general health and well-being to build the muscles needed to perform. According to Gillian Higgins, it is something that takes time and can only be achieved with proper training. When it comes to the neck muscles, they only develop properly if the horse is encouraged to use its hindquarters. And that does not happen by the rider simply shortening the reins.
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According to Gillian Higgins, the work in the startup phase should be done in a long and deep posture until the muscles gradually become stronger and allow more assembly. In other words, the horse must develop both physically and mentally before it is ready for the more collected exercises.
NECK POSITIONS THAT RESTRICT AND PREVENT MOVEMENT
If the position of the head and neck is limited, the back and abdominal muscles cannot be activated properly. The result is a swayback and limited movements. The following neck positions should preferably be avoided.
DEEP AND ROUND NECK
In an extreme form, this is known as roll cure or hyperflexion. This neck position can cause overload and sway in the lower back. In addition, movement is restricted because the weight is moved forward. This prevents the horse from bringing its hindlegs under itself and collect itself anatomically correctly.
In this position, the neck ligaments, the upper part of the neck, the back muscles and the connective tissue are subjected to an enormous stretch. Damage to the vertebrae can occur and there is a risk that the horse’s airways can be blocked. In addition, the horse may experience pain in the mouth, lower jaw and neck area. Finally, the horse’s field of vision is considerably limited in this position.
This position is not quite as extreme as rollkur. Often it is a form that arises in an attempt to achieve a kind of collection, however, without focusing on pushing and getting the horse to extend forward towards the bit. If the horse is generally ridden in this form, it will have the same consequences as described above and may prevent prober movement.
STEEP BEND IN THE NECK
This form is characterized by the horse’s second or third cervical vertebra being the highest point instead of it being in the neck. The area around the second and third cervical vertebrae is the weakest point in the horse’s neck. Riding in this position affects the back ligament and the entire structure in the back. This creates an imbalance that prevents the horse from being on the bit and moving properly.
TALL AND LONG
It makes good sense to keep an eye on the lower back muscles. Overdeveloped muscles in this area are a sign of incorrect training. The position where the horse holds its head high prevents bending to the side and, according to Gillian Higgins, causes a vicious spiral with poor gaits, resistance, lack of concentration, incorrect muscle development, stress and tension.