How Important Is the Hyoid?

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Do you know about the hyoid apparatus in your horse?  Many riders don't, and it's super important information.  It may even change the way you ride! 

When there is pressure on the horse's tongue, his poll, shoulders, back and hind end are being blocked to some extent because of the action on the hyoid. There are a lot of connected moving parts!

xray hyoidIt doesn't matter why the pressure is being put on the tongue or even whether the horse or rider put it there. Pressure on the tongue/hyoid keeps the horse from using his body in a healthy way, it destroys relaxation, and it prevents true collection.

If the rider is putting pressure on the tongue for more than a few seconds for any reason,... then STOP IT! (LOL! ? I know it's not easy to build new habits, but it can be done.)

If the horse is leaning on the bit, then the problem lies in the horse being mentally, emotionally, and/or physically uncomfortable with the bit. The solution is to go back to the beginning, lesson by lesson, and discover the trigger. It's almost always the rider's hands and backwards action on the reins. ( I promise there are other ways to communicate with your horse. Don't give up! PM me, if you need ideas.)

Logic tells us that we should strive to put little to no backwards tension on the reins/bit, if we want an athlete who is performing to their full potential. Relaxation and self-carriage should be the foundation of every training session, and finding a trainer/instructor who understands this is really helpful if you're trying to problem solve or even learn from the beginning.

A horse MUST be able to confidently stretch over his back and down into a rider's hands with his nose in front of the vertical, finding his full range of motion, while keeping his own free-flowing elastic balance. This is the starting point of relaxation, balance, and impulsion that builds to collection.

IMPORTANT! - A horse will not do this if he is thinking that the rider's hands will close on his tongue at any moment. He will be conditioned to hold back or rush, and brace for impact. Trust is what allows a horse to use every ounce of his athletic gifts in harmony with our ideas.

This is a great example of how intertwined the mechanics of the horse's body are with his emotional state and training progress. We have to look closely at the whole package.

By the way, this also makes a compelling argument for bitless riding!

Here's a post with some great pictures and diagrams of the hyoid and it's connections in the horse's body. 

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About Classical Naturally


K. Baxter
Maria saved my horse and I. She taught me how to understand the body language and needs of my horse and has completely changed my life as an … read more