9) Lateral Cervical Flexion Anatomy, Tips, & Notes
Once the initial tension is released and the horse is capable staying relaxed, increased movement and range of motion can be asked in subsequent passes down the neck.
Don’t over-focus on any one area. Be aware that it may cause bracing or discomfort. Soften hands, arms, shoulders and body before asking for movement. Soften when the horse tenses, then ask again.
Ask the horse to step away laterally if he walks or moves his feet.
Make It easier on the horse by going from to side to side. Don’t over-focus on one side.
Skip over reactive areas until the horse is more relaxed.
Keep hand soft. Yield when the horse pulls away, at the same time keeping him in the neighborhood.
Ask the horse to bring his nose back towards the front if he pushes his head around to the side.
Look for noticeable release, relaxation, or improvement in movement—or note if the horse had nothing to release.
If the technique is unsuccessful or if the horse demonstrates excessive discomfort or restriction in the neck, move to another technique and return to LCF later, as many times as necessary to get an improvement in comfort and ROM.
Some Anatomical Considerations:
The poll/atlas junction is the most important junction in the body. This junction is the gateway for the central nervous system from the horse’s brain to the rest of the body. Anything going on in the body is reflected in the poll/atlas, and tension in the poll/atlas affects function and movement in the rest of the body.
There is a notable connection between the atlas and the sacrum, observable during techniques that release tension in the poll and atlas when the horse gets “wobbly” behind, and during techniques that release tension in the sacrum when the horse shakes its head in response to sensations in the poll.
The brachiocephalic, omotransverse and other muscles affecting movement of the foreleg, neck and head attach at the forearm on one end, and at the poll, atlas and upper neck at the other. Techniques that focus on releasing tension at one end of these muscles such as Head Up and LCF also affect the muscles at the other end, while techniques focusing on the lower end such as Scapula Releases also affect the upper end around the poll and atlas.