27) Scapula Release Down and Forward
The goal of these techniques is to release and drop the scapula down and back, and down and forward in a relaxed state, beyond the normal relaxed range of motion.
This will result in a release of tension in the muscles that attach the forelimb to the body, deeper muscles of the junction of the neck and withers, and key muscles that affect both the poll/atlas and the hind end. There is an improvement in range of motion in the front limbs, elasticity and ‘shock absorption’ function in the legs and shoulders, release of tension in the hind end, and more coordinated movement between the fore and hind ends.
Step-by-Step instructions for Scapula Release Down and Forward:
Important – Do not let the horse fall forward.
There is a tendency when first doing the leg release forward to continue bringing the foot out and away from the horse until he either falls forward or has to pull back. If he falls forward and you can’t support his weight, you must set the foot down before he hyper-extends. Beware of this and set the foot down if you find him coming off balance. (photo 8)
1. Stand forward of the horse’s shoulder, facing the hind end. (photo 1)
2. Pick up the foot, bringing the leg forward. (photo 2)
3. Take a small step backward and support the leg, holding the leg either by the toe, or with your hand under the pastern. (photo 3)
4. Support your weight on your knees to protect your back, if needed, as you allow the horse to relax the leg. Pick your landing spot while you wait. (photo 4)
5. Shift your hand to under the pastern, and set the foot down in a line straight down from the horse’s knee. (photo 5)
6. Keep your hand on the horse’s foot to encourage him to relax in this position, if he will. (photo 6)
7. Step back and see what the horse has to say. (photo 7)
Photo 8: Do not let the horse fall forward or hyper-extend.
Note: These Scapula Releases can be done in a kneeling position if you are comfortable kneeling next to your horse. This may be a little easier on your back. However, be aware that if the horse needs to move suddenly that he will need the space to move away from you, and that you will need to be able to move out of his way.
Special note on holding the foot by the toe:
Handling the foot by the toe is the best way to do this work with most horses. However, it’s important to keep in the back of your mind when to let go. Always keep the foot well away from the ground when you have hold of the toe, and keep in the back of your mind an “invisible floor” below which you will let go of the toe. This could be about a foot off of the ground (pardon the pun). If the horse leans into your hand and you drop your hand lower than this “Invisible floor”, then release the fingers that are holding the toe and let the leg down with the other hand.
Last Few Tips:
“Break it up”. Don’t do the same thing more than two or three times in a row or the horse will catch on to what you are asking and he will just start going through the moves. Break up the sequence by going from one side to the other, or going back to a little light Lateral Cervical Flexion in between.
Again, you don’t need to set the leg forward a long distance to get the release. If it’s too uncomfortable for the horse, then pick a spot that is a little closer. The longer he can stay comfortably in this position, the more he will release. You can ask him to set the foot back a little farther a second time.
And remember, we are only looking for an improvement each time we do this.