“If I pulse his head, will I get a sound-minded horse?”

We have all heard the jokes. We’ve probably made a fair share ourselves, but what can we actually look for when we apply PEMF (a pulsed electromagnetic field) to the head of a horse? More often than not, pulsing the head is where we get those fabulous, viral social media posts. Why is that?

While the head seems to be the obvious control center of the body, it is often overlooked. There are many anatomical structures that are critical for the horse’s performance and overall well being, but as important as the head. With just one or two different loop positions, we can reach so much. Since PEMF works on the cellular level, pulsing the head can support the functions of: 

  • Respiratory and sinus health
  • Ocular health
  • Precursors of the digestive tract
  • Pituitary gland and hormones
  • Beginning points of many of the meridian lines where acupressure/puncture points lay
  • Main headquarters of the Central Nervous System
  • Origins and connecting points for multiple muscle groups
  • Origin of the vertebral column with the C1 and C2 (assisting with head motion)

Best Methods for Pulsing the Head

All sizes of Pulse equine loops can be used while working on the head. That’s one of the beautiful things about PEMF: unlike other modalities, there are no limiting factors to using the loops on the head or near the eyes. With the head being such a sensitive spot, it’s recommended to use the medium or large loops. 

Using the large equine loops allows you to reach the entire length of the horse’s head which can affect a lot of different mechanics for the horse. While most motions come from the poll and are affected largely by the temporomandibular joint (TMJ), the lower half of the face has important nerves and circulatory ends along the nasal passages. A variety of positions with these loops can be used – dependent on the horse’s comfort levels and acceptance.

The large loops are the first go-to for working the head, and they can be used in a variety of ways. The most common would be sliding the Y-joint up behind the ears and letting the loops dangle naturally off to the side. If the horse is tolerant, the loop will get pulled over the ears and meet in the middle of the horse’s frontal bones. 

Respiratory Responses

The horse’s respiratory system is divided into 2 different portions; the upper and the lower respiratory system. The upper portion is located entirely in the head, starting with the nares (nostrils). Horses breathe in exorbitant amounts of air only through their nose, therefore keeping these passages clean and healthy is very important. 

There have been many candid accounts of horses having different responses while pulsing the head. These can be seen in head tossing, flashing their third eyelid, extreme yawning, exhibiting the flehmen response, snorting and sneezing, an increased respiratory rate, and sometimes even draining of the nasal passages. This is due to the mechanics of the respiratory system. 

When air is drawn in through the nares system it is filtered and cleared through a series of passages lined with a mucus membrane and celia, or little hair-like structures that help collect dust, germs, and irritants. The celia acts in a wave-like motion to move the collections back to the pharynx (throat) and then push it out through the nostrils or it is swallowed. PEMF may stimulate these nerve endings and the muscles throughout the nasal passage to help move along any of this debris that hasn’t been dispelled yet. This is why we can see a clear nasal discharge or see a horse sneeze something out after a couple of minutes of head tossing. This stimulation is helping the body remove the irritants and supporting the horse’s overall respiratory system.  

The Medium for Maximum

The large loops are the most comprehensive for working the head, but another accessory may be easier for certain body parts. Depending on the size of the animal or how “head-shy” the animal may be, the medium loops could provide a better fit. The medium loops are a great asset for those looking to target certain areas without having to manage excess loop; certain areas like the poll.

The poll is the origin of the spinal column, central nervous system (CNS) and nuchal ligament. Since all of these structures travel the length of the horse, a problem originating up top can easily travel down the length of the horse and manifest in performance issues down the line. There is also a little known muscle group in the poll called the rectus capitis. This is a group of three dense muscles that can work individually or as a group depending on the desired movement.

A lot of performance horses will get tight up in their poll, and it can be very pronounced in lesson horses. Horses in this sector of the equine industry have to deal with a lot of unforgiving hands and compensate their movement to work with riders who may not be very balanced or coordinated. In the same way an issue at the top can travel down, compensation or issues in the back can travel to the front. The poll is small in size, but it is the key to good performance and comfort for your horse. The ears through the loops is a favorite position, but tucking them right behind the ears may be a good alternative (see pictures). The rectus capitis group extends a few inches beyond the poll itself and inserts into the occipital.

Break out those medium loops and find what feels right for you and your horse!

More About The Author

Paige Chamerlik has spent the majority of her life on or around horses. She obtained her Bachelor’s of Science in Agriculture focusing in Equine Science from Murray State University. She partook in the collegiate equestrian team and acted on the boards of several local and national equine organizations. She has accumulated 10-years of teaching experience through riding classes and equine science classes through both Murray State and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America. Her passion for equine science and wellness transmits into her continued studies of equine biomechanics and has served her through breaking and training across multiple disciplines along with managing several custom care boarding facilities. Paige continues to pursue her love of studying and teaching through her role in our customer training program.