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Today I did not enjoy my ride. My horse seemed unhappy, and then I became unhappy. He was NOT bending to the right, and that's unlike him. I mean, SERIOUSLY? Bending should be the least of our worries.. But today, he was not giving it up.

Lately he's been really stiff in his neck, and I'm not quite sure what it is exactly, but it's like he's not using his neck and locking it up, especially at the poll.

I finally gave up trying because I had been riding for a while and could not get him to use his neck (or body for that matter) correctly.

We were both frustrated.

I'm not sure if he is actually in some kind of pain that he's locking his neck up like he is, or if I'm just not asking him in a way he doesn't understand.

Any exercises I can do to unlock his neck, and especially his poll?
 

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Have you thought of having a chiropractor look at him? My mare just went yesterday, and hasn't always been very flexible in her neck, she was adjusted and I did notice a difference in her within a few minutes. I was also given some stretches to do with her to loosen her up and keep her loose.

Using a treat, you can have her reach around to her shoulder and have her hold it there for a few seconds. Do this on both sides to make it even. My chiropractor said my mare should be able to position her nose anywhere from her shoulder to her butt and not have discomfort. (She can't do that yet...LoL) So it's a work in progress.

Did he suffer any type of injury that would be the cause? Playing in the pasture he may have pulled a muscle or something.

Good luck with him!
 

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If this has come on suddenly, and he is normally very loose through the neck and poll, I would have him assessed by a chiro.
Also remember when you're riding, that if he's not being ridden forward and is holding his back tight, the neck is also going to lock. Perhaps try riding very forward into a forgiving hand, and spiralling in an out in a 20m circle in trot and canter, in a forward seat. I find that this will loosen a horse up if they've gotten a little muscle sore or locked through the back.
 

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You most likely need a chiropractor and/or massage therapist but to help in between - you can use treats (before and after the ride) to get him to bend in the neck. Take a treat, stand on his left side at the girth, with horses right side against a wall. Without allowing him to move forward ask him to bend his head/neck to get the treat.

Hold treat at girth area (where riders ankles would be located).
When he can do that raise it up to rider's knee height.
When he can do that raise it to spine.

Then switch sides - it's always important to make certain horse can bend on BOTH sides equally.

It's also good to put treat between his front legs about 6 inches under the chest - that stretches out his back.

Lastly when horse is standing straight run your thumb nail under his belly from just behind the shoulders (horses elbow) to about the middle of his bell. Watch the back at the same time - you should see him "lift" the back. This is what you are asking him to do when you ride dressage - lift and engage back - makes it MUCH easier to sit a bouncy trot if the horse has raised his/her back.
 

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The belly scratch with the thumb. . . I've tried this bare handed scratching with my fingers and scratching with the curry comb and my horse will stick his neck out and wiggle his lips but I don't feel or see any movement in back. Should all horses be able to do this back lift thing?
 

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The belly scratch with the thumb. . . I've tried this bare handed scratching with my fingers and scratching with the curry comb and my horse will stick his neck out and wiggle his lips but I don't feel or see any movement in back. Should all horses be able to do this back lift thing?
Yes unless there is a physical problem. try the hoof pick - run it under their belly frm between front leg back to middle of belly. If no reaction press a bit harder - not so hard that it hurts.

I see it more than feel it - and some horses will show more movement after you've done this a month or so (every time you ride) as they develop more tummy muscles.

It's like a human that gets a beer gut - their back hurts since the belly and back are 2 different side of the same physical area. So to prevent back from hurting you do "sit up" to work belly muscles. this horse exercise is a "sit up" for the horse. But doesn't show a lot until muscles get more built up and doesn't show a lot if muscles are tired (do it 5 times at most - more than than the muscles get too tired).
 
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