The horses’ neck is highly innervated with locomotory nerves; contains the oesophagus, windpipe and spinal cord, as well as superficial and deep muscles, fascia and ligaments; the neck is his balancer and he will rescue himself in any way he can in order to maintain that balance, loading limbs unevenly.
This horse (pictured above) will be under stress physiologically and mentally; experiencing neck and poll pain, his stride/ forward motion and overall freedom of movement hindered with the potential for limb, pelvis and back issues etc., and here is why:
Behind the vertical, over-flexed and under strain:
Poll tension; sensitive bursa – little fluid filled sacs – are found between the nuchal ligament and the first two cervical vertebrae and they prevent the ligament from rubbing on the vertebrae and getting damaged. Due to their sensitivity, they cannot withstand a lot of pressure and therefore, a tightly buckled or poorly fitted bridle will cause the bursa to swell due to fluid increase
Pressure on nuchal ligament all the way to the withers
Compression on the lower cervical vertebrae
Reduced airflow due to very tight flash and position of head
Grooves in sinus cavities due to tight flash
Nasal cartilage damage tight noseband / poorly positioned noseband
Nerve pain and discomfort due to tight flash – inability to move jaw therefore creating jaw tension which travels all the way up to the poll, to the neck, to the shoulders and so on and so forth
Saliva glands under stress (can create bleeding and contusions in the saliva glands)
Lower jaw, TMJ and hyoid tension and one of the key nerves exits here, close to the horses mouth; extra care should be taken if using, for example, a chain on a Pelham bit, and not have the chain too tight
Line of vision is compromised
Flexing at the wrong vertebrae – misaligned between axis and 3rd vertebrae causing inflammation and over time possible arthritis
Fixed neck – burning muscles → contracted muscles → tight [and hindered] shoulder movement, hindered forward motion and hindered engagement; repetitive strain.
“Tension is counterproductive to effective balance and the harmony of free movement.”