Equine massage specialist Geary Whiting explains how to massage the neck of a horse:
When Whiting first approaches a horse for equine massage, he begins by working on its neck.Beginning with a percussion technique starting at the base of the neck where it goes into the shoulder, he begins by applying considerable pressure.Working his way up into around the ear area — the atlas, or pole — he uses less percussion for obvious reasons. Rotation and sedation come next following five lines on the neck.
“We do a rotation/sedation following the top line and then the second, third, fourth and fifth — we clear all of those lines by using rotation/sedation, and we use a cross fiber technique on all of those lines or randomly on the neck,” Whiting says.
Percussion is used again, along with kneading, to wrap up the treatment procedure.
Q: Why does a horse’s neck need massage treatment? Is it for tired, rigorous riding, misuse, mishandling — where would you see neck problems most often?
A: All of the above could cause it. If you are heavy-handed with a bit, you’re going to create resistance in the jaw or the atlas area.
Having shoes on a horse increases the concussion factor by 60 to 80 percent. Any time that horse hits the ground like hard pavement with that shoe on, it’s going to send a shock right on up the leg, into the joints, into the shoulder and right up into the atlas. If you have a jumper that goes over and comes down and hits the ground and you have these pieces of metal and the horse doesn’t move now because his shoe locks the foot in instead of being able to splay out, you’re going to increase the percussion factor, and it goes all of the way up into the atlas.
Young horses that are strong-willed — like race horses that learned to work with the jockey going into turns — they’ll be cranking the head around because they’re trying to run out of control, and the jockey doesn’t want them running; they want them paying attention to what he’s asking. This involves man strength working against the horse.
Worrying: Horses worry. They have things on their mind. Give them a situation where their mind is active and there may be lots of endless inner chatter. The mind is going all of the time, and it can affect the atlas of the horse — it can affect right around the ear area. So that’s a real good area I find to work on the horse where I focus a lot.
I also work around the base of the ear just like we do on a human being. Focusing on where the neck attaches into the shoulder is a point of interest, where the top line goes into withers of the horse, the bump right in front of the saddle is an important area. In addition, I spend a lot of time doing cross fiber in the pole area, atlas and withers.
Learning how to massage a horse’s neck is a simple yet effective way to increase long-term stamina, relieve stress-induced muscle pain and leverage your horse’s performance.
Whiting’s approach to horse neck therapy is in sync with principles of the Palmer College of Chiropractic. In essence, by paying attention to your horse’s neck, you’ll minimize other bodily dysfunctions.
“If you do a thorough job on the neck and withers, it will start to clear the issues on the back,” Whiting says.