3 Major Junctions of the Horse most affected by performance:
1. Poll-Atlas Junction
2. Neck-Shoulder-Withers Junction
3. Hind End or Sacroiliac Junction
1.Poll-Atlas Junction - where the poll connects with the first vertebra C1 of 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. Anything going on in the body will show up as tension in the poll. Conversely, excessive tension in this junction will affect movement in other areas of the body i.e. sore feet, especially front, sore back, sore hocks, ulcers and TMJ issues because of poor riding. And when tension is released in the poll junction through massage therapy, tension in the rest of the body will be released as well as in specific tight areas.
2. Neck-Shoulder-Withers Junction - 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 as well as input from the rider’s hands through the neck transfers into the body.
3. Hind End Junction - 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 in these junctions which further restricts movement/range of motion causing discomfort and affecting performance and 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 compensate unilaterally creating more torque. It could also be related to rider imbalance.
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 seeing and feeling in your riding the improvement in movement and performance afterward and by the release responses we see in the horse as we are releasing the tension. When the horse releases tension in these three key junctions through massage therapy, it will release tension in the areas around these junctions as well as in other areas of the body.
*Equine massage therapy is NOT a substitute for veterinary care