Tongue (and poll) Release


The Purpose of this Technique is to release muscle tension in deep muscles around and associated with the hyoid apparatus. This area is associated with tension in the poll, TMJ and jaw, sternum and other areas of the horse.


The Goal of this Technique is to encourage the horse to gently work the muscles of the entire tongue, including the hyoid apparatus beneath the poll.


This simple yet powerful technique is AMAZING at releasing tension in the poll, neck and TMJ.


The reason for this is that the tongue attaches to a huge amount of muscles in the poll, TMJ and throatlatch area. Tension can develop in this area due to a number of reasons, but if you can get the horse to get these muscles moving then this tension will begin to release. You may be surprised at the effect this technique has on this area


Any time there is tension here the Tongue Release should be done. It is in effect like “massaging the poll from the inside”.


Anatomy: The tongue is a long muscle that attaches to a fragile set of bones in the throatlatch area called the hyoid apparatus. Muscles and ligaments also attach the hyoid bones to the atlas, TMJ, and underside of the occiput or  poll. Other, longer muscles attach from the hyoid to the sternum and foreleg, so tension in the hyoid can also affect movement of the forelimbs.


OK, enough Greek and Latin; let’s get started.


First thing to know Is that the hyoid Is a very delicate structure, so the technique should be approached gently. Second is that there can be a lot of tension built up here and it may startle the horse when it starts moving. So be gentle, and prepared. Follow these steps:


–      Stand on the left side and place your right hand loosely on the halter so that you can move with the horse if he moves his head around. Keep your arm loose.


–      Rest the palm of left hand softly on the side of the horse’s nose. Wait for the horse to relax.


–      Slide the thumb of your heft hand gently into the horse’s mouth in the area behind the incisors (biters), and the molars (grinders). Don’t be intimidated by these; there are no teeth in this area, other than possibly one set of canines but don’t worry, those won’t get in the way.


–      Rest your thumb softly on the roof of the horse’s mouth. Don’t push


–      If the horse moves or throws his head go with him, keeping both arms soft.


–      Don’t pull on the halter or the horse will continue to pull away. Just “keep him in the neighborhood” as you would with the LCF.


–      If the horse stops moving the tongue you can stimulate further movement by “tickling” the roof of the mouth with the thumb.


“How long do I do this?” Continue until the horse seems a little more relaxed than when you started, or until you think things are “loosening up” in there. Could be 10 seconds, could be 20 seconds.


“How often?” Every day for 5-10 seconds possibly. Or every couple of days If the horse seems he has relaxed some of the tension you started with. The rule of thumb (sorry) is that this should relax the horse. If he’s relaxed every time you do this then you can do it less frequently. If he still seems uncomfortable with it then he may still have tension there, and need a little more. Don’t over-do it. Less is more.


Safety Notes (for you):


–      Keep your thumb forward of the molars and behind the incisors. The licking motion of the tongue may cause the horse to pull your thumb back into the molars. Be careful not to let your thumb get “licked” back into the horse’s molars. It hurts.


Safety Notes (for the horse):


–      Keep your arm, hand and thumb SOFT.


–      Remove the thumb if the horse throws his head excessively, if he is extremely uncomfortable, or if the situation is unsafe for you or the horse.


–      Maintain contact with the horse with halter-hand, effectively following the movement and staying with him.