8) Lateral Cervical Flexion Explanation & Steps

With the Bladder Meridian Technique, we began the process of getting the horse to release tension in the body by bringing her awareness to it in a way that she can’t brace against it. When we use no pressure, the horse has nothing to brace against.

Now we’re going to use the same principle, but with movement. When we move a joint or junction through a range of motion while keeping no resistance in the junction (meaning, in a relaxed state) then the horse’s body will release any tension we find tension in the connective tissue of that joint or junction.

We’re going to start with releasing tension in the poll, atlas and neck with a technique called Lateral Cervical Flexion, or side-to-side movement of the vertebrae of the neck. The key to this is not the amount of movement or range of motion, but the amount of relaxation. The amount of relaxation is what releases the tension, not the amount of movement. A smaller amount of movement, with a huge amount of relaxation is ten times (I’m making that figure up) more effective than a large range of movement with no relaxation. So, what we are going to do is wiggle our way down the vertebrae of the horse’s neck, using the steps below. We’ll start on the left side of the horse, standing at the head.

Note that the vertebrae of the neck do not run down the topline of the neck, but farther down, along the widest part of the neck. If you’re not sure where they are you can find a youtube video of Lateral Cervical Flexion being done on the Training Videos section on the Masterson Method website, but don’t worry about being exactly on the right spot. You can’t hurt the horse doing this.

The Purpose of this Technique is to begin the process of releasing tension In the poll/atlas junction,­­ to improve comfort and range of motion in the poll and atlas, and neck.

The Goal of this Technique is to ask for gentle movement of the poll, and neck with the muscles in a relaxed state. This is done by using the nose to wiggle each vertebra of the neck – C1 through C7 – while keeping the horse as relaxed as he can be.

Step by Step

  • Place the left hand on the nose with thumb under the nose-band. Place fingers of the right hand a few inches behind the ear, on the first vertebra. Begin with both hands soft, waiting for the horse to relax as much as possible before starting.
  • Wiggle the nose gently side-to-side. Stop.
  • Slide the right hand down the neck about three or four inches. Soften.
  • Wiggle-wiggle again. Soften.)
  • Move gently down the neck in increments, allowing the horse to relax at each re-positioning before moving on.
  • If you feel the horse begin to resist, it means you are finding tension and he is feeling it. When this happens, soften both hands and stop wiggling. Anticipate and soften before the horse braces, resists, or evades.

For more details on this technique and many other techniques, see the Beyond Horse Massage Book and DVD.