One Day Case Study: 21 year old Cayman Island Mare
Complaint: Tight, tense, hollow/sway back and high headed.
This little mare presented with a classic Green Light Reflex dominating her habitual posture. Green Light, aka the Startle Reflex, typically causes the horse to tighten the back, lift the head and neck, tense the legs and go on high alert. If this reflex becomes part of a horse’s habitual posture, as it had for this mare, it becomes very difficult for a horse to relax and keep the head level or low. According to the owner, this mare could be warmed-up into a relaxed frame and thinking mindset with good training and correct riding, but she ALWAYS required this warm-up before finding relaxation and the duration of warm-up required never improved over the years.
As you can see in the before photo, this mare’s chronically tight back has forced her spine into an arch (aka a hollow or sway-back) which in turn causes the abdominal muscles to be on stretch-weakness, a state in which a muscle is held in a lengthened position and never allowed to contract and shorten.
Muscles on chronic stretch weakness perform as if they are weak, when they are actually just mechanically compromised and exhausted. In this first EHS session, as the mare re-learned to control the level of tension in her back muscles, the center of her back began to lift and she started to regain feeling and the ability to activate her belly muscles. This allowed her to rest with a lower and more “level-headed” head and neck posture. Lowering the head and neck as the muscles release chronic tension is a quick and effective way to get a horse out of “flight mode” and back into a calmer thinking state.
It is also apparent from the photos that as the mare reset the resting level of these and other muscle groups, her posture further improved with a more square base of support, limbs under shoulders and hips, a more laid-back scapula and wider hoof positioning.
She was also much calmer and more trainable in this new relaxed posture!