6) Three Key Junctions
The 15 second definition of the Masterson Method is: It’s a method of equine bodywork in which we read and follow the horse’s responses to our touch to enable it to release tension in key junctions of the body that most affect performance.
We’ve talked about the responses and levels of touch, and how we can use these to enable the horse’s nervous system to release tension. Now let’s talk about how we apply this to the three key junctions that most affect and are affected by performance.
- The Poll-Atlas Junction
- The Neck-Shoulder-Withers Junction
- The Hind End or Sacroiliac Junction
And everything else in between. But when the horse releases tension in these three junctions it will release tension in the entire areas around these junctions, as well as in other areas of the body.
The first, the Poll-Atlas Junction, is where the head, which we’ll call the poll, connects with the first vertebra of the neck, the atlas. This is the most important junction in the body. The nerves of the spinal cord pass from the brain through this junction to the rest of the body. In my experience (which is basically the only experience I have) anything going on in the body will show up as tension in the poll. Conversely, excessive tension in this junction will affect movement, tension and health other areas of the body. Sore feet -especially front – sore back, sore hocks, ulcers, TMJ issues, poor riding. All of these will create tension in the poll and atlas, and conversely this will create more tension in the body in general as well as in specific areas. And when you release tension in this junction, you will release tension in the rest of the body as well as in specific areas.
We’ll talk more about these interconnections later.
The second, the Neck-Shoulder-Withers Junction, is where the forelimbs attach to the body. This is where the force exerted by the forelimbs through movement, suspension or concussion, compensation from pain or discomfort in the front feet or legs, as well as input from the rider’s hands through the neck, transfers into the body.
The third, the Hind End Junction, is where the driving and stopping force of the horse as well as suspension and compensation from pain or discomfort in the hind feet or legs transfers into the horse’s body.
When tension on these junctions accumulates it causes the areas around them to tighten and become restricted. And when tension develops unilaterally, meaning more on one side than the other, then it puts a twist, or “torque” on these junctions which further restricts movement, causes discomfort and affects performance and also behavior.
Why would tension develop unilaterally? One reason is that horses, like humans, are not naturally symmetrical. Another reason is that in the course of the horse’s work, pain or discomfort might start to develop in the feet and legs which causes the horse to compensated unilaterally, creating more torque.
When we help the horse to release the tension that is pulling on these key joints and junctions, then tension releases in the connective tissues in the larger areas around them. Tension also releases in other areas interconnected with them. And how do we know this is happening? By the improvement in movement and performance afterward, and by the release responses we see in the horse as we are releasing the tension.