Something is always going on with the horse’s neck. Some horses are very stiff here, some over-flexible, others use it as a balancing pole. Still others have great tensions in the neck due to problems with the metabolism: The stiffened tissue directly at the mane comb is one of the signals that is noticeable early. Because one of the main lymph pumps in the equine system is to be found directly in front of the shoulder blade, problems with this system are so early palpable. From here, the lymphatic fluid is transported in two directions. One is directly to the heart, where the fluid is processed and going back into the blood circulation. In the other direction, many small lymphatic branches ramify through the neck, with most ending directly under the mane comb, crossing path with some nerves. Therefore, massaging the mane directly influences the equine lymphatic system.
Another phenomenon of the horse’s neck: It is the most flexible part of the spine and is therefore often abused to create (false) bending. Additionally, at the front end of the neck the sensitive structures of the poll, Atlas and Axis are placed. At the back end, the thorax sling and the transition into the thoracic spine are to be found.
If the horse suffers from a bad constitution, a lot of load on the shoulders, a bad rider’s hand, a poor fit saddle, or exhaustion, the neck will always be part of the compensation mechanism and show symptoms early. In general, it is like with humans: most tensions are found around the neck. Therefore, most horses appreciate the effort of a little massage very much.
A very simple and wonderful tool for the neck is the massage of the mane comb. The technique relaxes the upper line, massages the neck ligamentum directly and thus influences all directly or indirectly connected structures, muscles and fascia. And of course, also to the lymphatic system. Here I would like to share some tips with you before you start trying.
Placement of hands
Start with both hands side by side, about 2 fingers behind the cranial end of the shoulder blade.
All fingers are on one side so that the tissue is not squeezed in between the thumb and palm. Then the hands begin to carefully move against each other as they move from bottom to top – and back again. It is not important how often you repeat going up and down. You can do this as often and long as you and your horse like it. BUT: It is important that the end is down at the scapula . As we use a technique that moves the lymph, the technique shall end at a point where the fluid can be transported. Should that be an issue for your horse anyway, an additional nice idea might let your fingertips make little raindrops at the left side of the neck at the end of the massage.
Firm or gentle, fast or slow – your horse can decide its individual preferences. Nowadays, my own mare, which you can see on the video, likes it quite firm. The first time I used this technique, she considered already very light touch as too much – and bit straight into my butt. Lymphatic types often suffer from tensions around this tissue and therefore are extremely sensitive. Accordingly, I had to learn to be gentle, slow and careful. With increasing suppleness and regular massage, she demanded more and more pressure.
Please also pay attention to the natural structures of the horse. Massage to the Axis, but never beyond. The fragile structures of the spine should not be compromised with any force or pressure. There are other great techniques that the therapist of your confidence will happily carry out when needed.
“Usually” this is a relaxation technique that can be applied well at home, taking the above tips into account. If you are unsure, your horse shows defence signals or even is painful – do not play around, get veterinarian or other professional immediately.