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 Post subject: 2. How does the neck and the pelvis interact when moving?
PostPosted: Thu Feb 20, 2014 6:05 pm 
White Lady
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Joined: Wed Apr 06, 2005 4:18 pm
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Location: Eriksbråten, Skotterud
In order to understand why it is important for the horse to have a flexible forehand, we need to look at the connection between the pelvis, the back, and the neck. Physiotherapists and cranio sacral therapists may explain more thoroughly what mechanical structures that build up this connection. As trainers, we only relate to the functions, and what is actually happening in practice.

Let us again have a look at the pictures of my posture, the ones I have used so many times:

The picture above shows me in the posture my body really falls back into if I let it. It looks ugly, and there is a reason for this. We naturally recognize a position like that to be unhealthy, we know is it how old people and sick or depressed people stand. Intuitively we know what is healthy.

This picture looks more healthy, even though I was very stressed and tense in order to be able to stand like this. Why? Because my neck is too stiff. All my neck muscles are pulling on my whole body, and forcing my head forwards. This head and neck position in turn makes the thoracic spine too curved, the lower back hollow and pelvis tilted, and the hip too closed. That in turn makes the knees turn inward and "knock kneed" and the foot flat. All this because an error in the neck.

This blocked neck position thus forced the whole body into a less athletic mechanical buildup, which both makes it physically more difficult to balance and to jump or run, but also psychologically, since our nervous system is made with efficient mechanisms to stop violent movement if important structures or nerves are in danger of damage. As we can see from the top picture, that neck is in danger if I try to jump with real force.

One may perhaps believe that it is easy to change into the latter position, because it is obvious that I am able to get into it, I mean I did it in the picture. But in that moment, I was straining my muscles and nervous system so hard, that it was impossible for me to move at all. So, in order to be able to move more correctly, I had to stretch my muscles.

I have for many years stretched my muscles all over my body. In order to be supple in one place, one needs to be more supple in general, for all pieces of the body is connected to the rest. Stiffness one place will result in stiffness in the rest. And eventually, the whole body will stick together like a snarl on a fish line that someone has tried to tear apart by tugging.

The only way to loosen up in a problem like that, is to stretch one or a few muscles at a time. For me, it was impossible to try to stretch my neck. For all the muscles in and around the neck were too short.That is the reason why we must start stretching for example one side at a time.

I will get back to stretching methods in a later article.

To understand the complexity of the movement in such a small area as the neck, one has to just google "muscles of the neck" and look at all the very good images. An explanation of the functions of the different muscles is beyond the scope of this article, but may be useful in order to understand more of specific problems that you may have or will encounter. But looking at a random illustration, it becomes obvious that there are very many muscles in the neck, and if all of them are too short, it becomes impossible to stretch the neck, and the whole neck becomes too short.

There may also be many other faults in the neck posture, like mine, where the muscles in unison pull the head forwards and downwards into a very unstable position. One may make a comparison to horses, and say that I have a ewe neck. Google it, I have no picture of my own of an equine ewe neck. A good example here: ... dhorse.jpg

In a ewe neck, the muscles of the neck pull the spine of the neck down in front of the shoulder. Or forwards in a human. In some horses, if they have been trained OK, but still have a rest of the problem, you may see a "hole" in the topline in front of the withers:

You may also observe, from this picture, that the horse is forced to stay on her forehand, and not able to tilt her pelvis under, because she is stuck in the neck and withers.

Horses with neck or back problems like this will also likely be skittish, easily freaked out, may be running along on the forehand or even sluggish or unresponsive. Movement may be choppy and difficult to sit to.

In order to prevent a problem like this, it is very difficult to plainly force the horse to stretch while riding normally. The neck is held down by very strong muscles, and also by habit. The nervous system is programmed to move and stabilized with its muscles and bones aligned in exactly this posture. To change this, one needs to re-program the nervous system, which is the same as stretching. And this stretching must be done while moving in order to change the movement pattern.

We will look more into different examples of faulty posture and other ways hips, shoulders and neck is connected later.

Stay tuned.

Paradox is a pointer telling you to look beyond it. If paradoxes bother you, that betrays your deep desire for absolutes. The relativist treats a paradox merely as interesting, perhaps amusing or even, dreadful thought, educational.

Frank Herbert.

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