As you can see in the initial photos Bryan was deeply tied in in front of the withers with a strongly developed underneck.
Twenty years ago I would have felt this was just a conformational defect. Now I know that it is a reflection of soundness and movement anomalies, and that with the correct approaches, can and will change. There are of course conformational defects in necks…like the ‘Nest’, wherein the neck comes so low out of the body it looks like the horse has no chest. You can’t do much about where the neck comes out of the body. But you can do remarkable things with the neck itself, and the way it ties in to the wither and the shoulder.
There are several excellent treatises in the subject so rather than go in to a lot of detail I refer you to Hillary Clayton, Jean Luc Cornille, Jean Claude Racinet, Phillippe Karl, Gerd Heuschmann, and Mary DeBono, the Feldenkrais practitioner who has applied the work to horses. All of these riders have studied the biomechanics of movement and the neck; knowing their work and their conclusions is vital to understanding how the neck functions. I don’t want to write a textbook, and lucky for me I needn’t, as these riders/writers/vets/body workers have already done so. I *would* like to show you how understanding and applying their work has changed the necks and shoulders of the horses in my care.
Fixing a neck is a process. You first need to work on the physical neck itself, releasing the muscle spasms that are contributing to the imbalances. This would include Mary’s SENSE work and/or Jack Meagher’s deep tissue work, hand massagers, infrared, pulsed magnetic, whatever therapeutic device you have at your disposal. You can’t rebuild until you release the holding patterns. Meanwhile, you must study the horse’s body and how he uses himself. A wrecked neck has been compensating for a stiff back, sore hocks, sore feet, imbalanced feet, sore stifles, whatever; a neck is a reflection of the rest of the body. Then you must address the way the horse is ridden; in ‘collection’, or ‘in a frame’ or any of the other misunderstood things we think we are doing. And last you must study and change the rider. A crooked rider produces a crooked horse. A crooked rider who is always going to the rein or the draw rein or the side rein to try to straighten a crooked horse is guaranteed a wrecked neck.
We did all of these things with Bryan. And they paid off.