Originally Posted by existentialpony View Post
Thanks TinyLiny! :) Like I said, when I keep asking he'll do this once in a while, but he has a trouble holding it due to muscle development/the fact that he loves to go back to that high head carriage.
Kayty-- A horse who does not have adequate muscling has a difficult time using his ring of muscles and abdominals specifically to lift his back. Muscles will not spontaneously develop and strengthen when a rider asks them to (with riding), hence my current predicament. Encouraging him to relax and lower his head (to "put his back into it") is a small part of helping him learn to use his hind instead of his front.
The issue is muscle building. Actually, a belly band on-and-off is quite a good idea, because it will cause a reflexive contraction of the abdominals and lifting of the back to build those muscles over time-- which is what I'm looking for! He needs to learn how to use those muscles before he can put them into practice, if that makes sense. Building them is what I'm looking for here, not how to ask him. :)
Edited to say-- the targeted "reaching" exercises are not to fake a headset. Think about it mechanically. If a horse is reaching downward, it is not so easy to hollow out the back. Rather, it encourages them to lift and round their back.
As a competitive Dressage rider I'd hope I'd be aware of this ;)
In Dressage, strengthening the back and encouraging the swing of the hind legs through the back is one of the most vital concepts that we teach a horse from day one.
No, they can't carry their back and swing for long periods of time at first, hence we ask only for short bursts at a time, with walk breaks in between. Gradually the muscles develop and the horse becomes more confident and capable to carry its rider rather than hollow away.
And, surprise surprise, no fancy gadgets are needed.
Encouraging this swing under saddle, by the rider, BUILDS their back.
Concentrating on just dropping their head will yes, stretch the neck. But in the process you will very easily dump the horse on its front legs, which means that it will actually brace its neck and back to remain in balance.
So you might get more muscle, but it will be muscle in the wrong places. This is why you will see in every piece of literature, every coach worth their salt and every rider who has some concept of working a horse correctly, will ALWAYS advise that the hind legs MUST work before the front end is put in a 'frame'.