How many times have you come across the comments, weak in neck/broken neck/ upside down neck. All of these are a result of either poor nutrition, incorrect training or even your horses general posture. Soo many horses that I treat currently have neck issues, whether that be tight around the poll or further down at the base of the wither. So how can we reduce these issues?
1. Reducing the time in the stable. Many horses that are in for long hours a day can suffer from all sort of ailments from respiratory disease to gastric issues, from swollen legs to over muscling of the under side of the neck where they have either been constantly pulling at a high hung Haynet or holding their head over the door. If this is not possible allow extra time warming up and cooling down the horse in a long low frame can help. Putting hay on the floor or if this is not possible then place in a HayGrazer Play bag as this hung in the stable can stimulate your horse whilst also benefitting from more neck movement whilst they try and get the hay out from a swinging bag, with high and low holes it encourages slow feeding whilst also ensuring the horse is not holding its head and neck in a specific angle constantly that you find with normal haynets. Having the horses head down will encourage saliva production which in turn can reduce the ph in the stomach leading to a reduction in risk of Ulcers.
2. Mentioned by many, the carrot stretch, between the legs, to the shoulder and to the point of hip. However what I remind all my clients is that it is not all about how far they can reach its about how long they can hold it for. Think how you would stretch, you wouldn't go as far as you can go and then come back would you? You would hold it to allow the muscle to stretch, it is no different for the horse! As well as this it should always be done when your horse has either been out in the field or ridden and not from cold as this can cause more damage!
3. Have your horses back checked, whether by an osteopath, physiotherapists (which has trained in manipulation) or a chiropractor. Over muscling of the underside of the neck can be due to a restriction in the pelvis or most commonly in the intertransverse joints just in front of the pelvis which leads to an abnormal posture.
4. Correctly working your horse, the use of side reins, running reins or other training aids can be useful in the right hands, they are not there to force the horse in an outline. Spend time getting your horse to relax, start long and low and gradually build up the connection. Working your horse on a circle spiralling in and out and lots of quick transitions will help you get your horse connected from the inside leg to outside hand.
5. My favourite trick! The use of vibration. A horse with tight muscles can benefit from vibration therapy, 5-10 seconds twice a day on a tight or weak muscle with a hand held massager can help improve muscle function and tone.
6. A good joint supplement. If your horse is in a high level of work, feeling stiff or getting that little bit older a joint supplement can support your horses skeletal system and prolong your horses working life.