Primary Issues Part 3

In the previous Educational Fridays we talked about performance or behavior issues and possible primary issues that might be behind them and discussed Masterson Method® techniques that may help with the (secondary) tension caused by them.

All of what we work on in the horse’s body is caused by something. It is secondary to, or created by some other, primary issue. We can clear tension in the horse’s body until the cows come home (which is always good), but if we can determine what’s causing the tension and remedy it, then ideally the tension will likely not return. We can help the horse even more.

We continue the list of possible primary issues here:


Head-Shy – Possible Primary Issues

In my experience, 95% of head-shy horses are the way because of pain and tension in the poll and atlas.

There are many things that may be creating pain or tension in the poll and atlas. Sore front feet and dental issues are two of the most common. Back soreness can cause tension just behind the poll and on top of the atlas, and I believe that mental stress and tension can also develop into “headaches” in the horse. Some horses and breeds that are more high strung than others have trouble relaxing tension there once it has accumulated. If a horse is head-shy, it’s a 99% chance that he will need work, so releasing tension there can be one of the most rewarding things you can do for the horse.


How to Address – Techniques to use:

  • Poll and Atlas releases
  • Scapula and Under Scapula Releases
  • Hind End Release Points

The Poll and Atlas Release are the key to releasing tension and relieving pain there, but aren’t always the easiest things to do with a head-shy horse. The key to doing them is to keep the horse relaxed, and to stay as light as possible starting out. You may even want to start with air gap pressure or an “extended air gap” of as much as 4 to 5 inches. Once the horse realizes that he is not being forced, and that it feels good, it will be easier to work with him.

Another good alternative is to do the Scapula Release first. This is generally easier for the horse in this situation, and even the smallest releases will often break the ice and get enough endorphins going to make the next steps a little easier. If you can get the horse to relax through even a tiny bit of Lateral Cervical Flexion in the poll area, the horse will relax enough for you to do a little more, then a little more. Have patience, and from there you may be able to work gently up the neck toward the poll.