10) Head Down Technique

The Purpose of this Technique is to release tension and improve comfort and range of motion in the poll and atlas.

The Goal is to get the horse to relax the head down so that the muscles behind the poll can be massaged, and to get movement in the poll/atlas (atlanto-occipital) junction in a relaxed state by “bobbing” the head.

The Trick Is not to try to get the head down! If you try to get the horse to lower his head when he doesn’t want to, he will resist.

Step by Step

  • Place both hands on the poll, one in front of the ears, the other behind. Gently ask the horse to lower the head to where he is most comfortable.
  • Stop asking the horse to lower the head at a height where he is most comfortable. If you do, he/she will tense.
  • Soften the hands and begin massaging the muscles behind the poll at this level, with the goal of him gently relaxing his head.
  • Use the pads (not tips) of your fingers, using a flowing motion. As the horse relaxes continue massaging, asking for a head-bobbing movement. Be sensitive to how much pressure to use.
  • Bring the head slightly toward you, just a little off center. This makes it easier for the horse to relax.
  • Be mindful of when the horse might need a break.

If the horse throws his head up, keep hands loosely on the poll then ask again. Don’t try to keep the head down.

If you feel the horse starting to move, move your feet and go there first.

Anticipate and soften before the horse tenses.

Recognize when the horse is too sore, sensitive, or scared.

 

* Safety note. Keep your head off to the side while the horse’s head is down.