• Muscles of the Horse: Rectus Capitus Lateralis (Rectus Capitis Lateralis)

    Where is it? The RCL is located just behind the poll at the top of the neck. It attaches the back of the skull to the atlas (first cervical vertebrae).

    What does it do? When relaxed, it allows the head to flex. It also inclines the head from side to side.

    How does it get dysfunctional? Horses that get asked for a lot of flexion can suffer with pain/tension in the RCL. So, in particular, dressage/competition horses and horses that do a lot of schooling. Horses that are ‘forced’ into an outline with the use of side-reins/draw reins and other ‘gadgets’. It can also be caused by a poorly fitted bridle/headcollar or by ‘misuse’ of the headcollar, for example, a lot of hard jerking on the leadrope. If a horse pulls back from being tied, this can also cause problems at the RCL.

    What are the symptoms of dysfunction? Problems in this area can mean that the horse is reluctant to flex at the poll. It can affect turning, the horse won’t be comfortable to bend properly at the poll. It can manifest as head-shyness to.

    How can equine sports massage help: By releasing tension and working on stress points in this area, the horse will be able to bend better and gain more flexion at the poll. This will obviously have a dramatic effect on ridden work and the overall comfort of the horse.


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