Advice towards getting the horse to work through his back? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 09:55 AM Thread Starter
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Advice towards getting the horse to work through his back?

My gelding has always been pretty hollow through the back and pulls himself along with his forelegs. I was wondering if anyone could help me with getting him to work through his back and engage the hindquarters? I eventually want to ride him in 3des, so I really want to work on the basics and get them near perfect as I can before we start competing.

Thanks for your time and help :)

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it. ~John Moore
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post #2 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 11:55 AM
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I would work a lot on getting your horse to soften his poll. A horse who braces against the bit hollows through the back, which it sounds like your horse is doing. If he doesn't already know how, I would go back to groundwork in the halter and teach him to give to the pressure side to side and teach him to tuck his chin then you apply pressure too, then move up to doing it in the bit. This will improve some brakes and steering, too.

Once he knows how to soften, when you're in the saddle, ask him to frame up by giving the cue with your hands to soften his face and then bump/squeeze with your legs. Ideally he will round up for you. Sometimes horses are a little confused and throw their head, speed up, get jiggy, etc the first time this is done. Eventually they settle down with a lot of bump-squeeze-rein action. :) If I have time tonight I can make a video. Good luck!

Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #3 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 01:12 PM
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For horses tyhat hollow you'll need to do a LOT of long and low, but not just peanut rolling, rather using your legs and seat to drive him into reins then ask he hits rein ends SLOWLY allow them to lengthen. Do NOT throw away reins.

Do you not have a competent dressage instructor in the area to help you with these basics? It's hard since the horse can be running it's legs off and still be "behind the leg" - and if so that the first thing you'll need to work on. When horse is using their back they will have a "bulge" on both sides of their neck - in the middle of the neck.
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post #4 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 08:04 PM
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You can give your horse a head start by keeping him on a large circle. The natural bend of the circle helps keep him balanced on the outside rein more easily than if he were travelling on a straight line. My next advice may sound backwards, but forget about everything on your horse in front of his shoulders. Think rear wheel drive and ride the back legs to the shoulders. Sure, provide enough contact with your reins so he has something to reach into, but after that, forget the head. Look up and sit square so you don't impede your horse's efforts to bring his back up. Trot along on that big circle until you start feeling signs of him reaching into that contact. Every time he reaches, you should feel his shoulders bulge up a big. He will probably try a few steps and then back off by throwing his head up and hollowing his back. Do nothing except push him through the unbalance part. Just keep asking until he says, "oh, I get it". Most horses will act like you are trying to kill them only to find out it feels really comfy to trot with their back round and then trot around like balerinas. good luck.
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post #5 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 08:21 PM Thread Starter
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SorrelHorse - if you had the time, a video would be amazing. Your right, he does tend to brace against the bit a fair bit. I think that the person who owned him before me was a little scared of him and really heavy on the hands. The first time I attempted to put a bit on his mouth he was really displeased about it. He was treated pretty badly before he came to me, I've talked to people and have been given eye-witness accounts of abuse towards him from his old owners, which is horrible. I've been rehabilitating him.

Valentina - I kind of live in pretty much the middle of nowhere, any kind of instructor is a long drive away, so I'm pretty much doing this by myself, which is difficult. My family isn't even horsie, so I don't really have anyone on the ground either. Saying that though, I can properly video myself so I can see whats happening beneath me. Thank you for the advice, I'll try to apply more leg and seat next time I ride him.

MyBoyPuck - Thank you, what you say makes alot of sense and is very helpful :)

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it. ~John Moore
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post #6 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 09:04 PM
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Go right back to basics.

A horse cannot swing through the back, if it is not relaxed, infront of the leg, and submissive to the bit. This does not mean pulling the bit side to side to 'soften' the horse's head, then kick it a bit to go forward. This will give you a false frame - the horse will build incorrect muscle - most noticably under muscle on the neck. It will also tend to back off the contact and hold its neck set in one position. In a dressage test, you may be asked to give the reins and have the horse stretch long and low for a full circle - if the horse is trained to 'soften its head' by having the bit wiggled, you won't get a true stretch in this movement, because the horse is NOT using it's back.

So, basics first. Make sure your aids are reacted to positively, every time. He needs to be in front of your leg, with your seat and not running. Put your leg on, if he doesn't go straight away, give him a flick behind your leg with a dressage whip. When you're moving, if he tries to pull on you and barge through your seat, halt. Then start again.
It is tempting to ask the horse to work 'long and long' straight away. But this is actually a very strenuous exercise for a horse to perform correctly - and if it's not correct, it's useless because the horse will be on it's front legs.
I like to ride a green horse on a steady contact, with reasonably long reins that give it something to work into.
Ride MILLIONS of transitions, changes of rein and transitions within the pace. I can't stress enough how important it is to stay on curved figures and continue to change the work. Straight lines are for testing, curved lines are for training.
Don't get stuck in the rut of riding circle after circle, not changing anything. Ride no more than 1/2 a 20m circle without changing something. Either slow the tempo, speed it up, change pace, put in a smaller circle in the opposite direction - be creative. The more you change things up, the better the horse's balance will be. He'll NEED to start shifting weight to his hind legs to be able to balance.
Try introducing some leg yields in and out of a 20m circle. Leg yield out, then ride a 10m circle in the opposite direction, then leg yield back in.
The more work you do, juggling the horse between your aids, the stronger, more supple and more swinging he will become.

Always keep your contact steady, there is no shame in holding onto the saddle blanket to help you if you don't have perfect hands. The hands should never interfere with the work, they are only there to add flexion, provide a contact and very occassionally give a correction. I will often ride with the velcro straps on my saddle cloth in my hands, it is a great reminder to keep your hands quiet!

After all of this work, if you're riding well, your horse will be starting to stretch into the bridle, stretch out from the wither and be more active in the hind legs.
You can then start refining half halts, which will transfer the horse's weight back to its hind legs, then ride forward again.

If you don't have access to a trainer, putting a video up here would be very useful, so we can see exactly what's going on and give advice more specific to your case - every horse and rider is different so all I have given you is generic blanket advice.
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post #7 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 09:17 PM Thread Starter
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That was a very helpful and informative article. I have to ask, how do I ask him for a leg yield? I know what they are, but I've never used them before.

I would love to put a video up, but I don't have one, and I'm not riding him right now, he's lame due to an abscess that has finally come through to the sole of his foot and burst. But I will take one when I start riding again.

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it. ~John Moore
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post #8 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 09:32 PM
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A leg yield is a movement that is sometimes defined as a lateral movements, however this is incorrect as it does not contain bend. Basically, you want the horse to move sideways, with the forehand leading very slightly, and slight flexion at the poll away from the direction of travel. The horse should be moving equally forward and sideways.
Leg yield helps to develop lateral flexion and an understanding of moving sideways off the leg and into an outside rein - the beginning of genuine lateral movements. It is a great exercise to help unlock a horse's back, as the inside hind has to step right across and under the horse's centre of gravity.

When starting out, keep your inside seat bone slightly heavier than your outside seat bone. Bring your outside rein slightly off the horse's neck but keep contact on it. Close your inside rein against the horse's neck, and put your inside leg on the girth.
Essentially, you want to think of 'opening' the outside of the horse's body, and 'closing' the inside, to give him a clear indication of which direction you want him to move in.
Only ask for a few sideways steps at a time, then ride forward and straight again. Quality is far more important than quantity, just like any work we do with a horse. There is little point in riding multiple poor quality leg yields.
As soon as your feel that the inside hind leg and inside fore leg are stepping forward and across their corresponding outside legs, allow the horse to go forward, and reward him.
You will be able to build up on this exercise until he can carry a correct leg yield for as long as you need.

Many people teach leg yield from the 1/4 line of the arena, moving in towards the rail. It's personal preference, but I prefer to start this movement, and other lateral movements, on a circle. You have more control, the horse isn't thinking about walking straight to the track, and you already have established a basic inside leg to outside rein connection due to the bend in the circle.

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post #9 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 09:49 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks heaps, that really cleared things up for me :)

Wherever man has left his footprint in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization we will find the hoofprint of the horse beside it. ~John Moore
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post #10 of 15 Old 06-12-2012, 10:05 PM
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Something a little different that might help, boy doesn't work properly through his back - he's a retired show jumper, and evidently didn't really need to collect for that, because he mostly doesn't. You can really see and feel this at the trot, and in his down transition.

Our program for getting him on board with this has several elements.

1. Trot work over long series (7 or so) of cavaletti to strengthen the muscles around his stifle and get him to build some mass in his hind quarters.

2. Encouraging him to go back on the bit frequently - he goes on, but it's challenging for him to hold that, so he comes off...we give him a little break and then send him back onto it.

3. Lots of collected down-transitions. Giving the horse a squeeze with the legs in time with the half-halt for the down. It causes him to transition down with his legs much more "under" him.

4. This one was from his chiropractor, who saw him last week - we just got a chance to try it out today, and it's a beaut. Tack the horse up with saddle, as if to ride. Bridle is optional - you're going to be lunging. Take an ace bandage, or a long stretchy polo wrap, tie it around one of the billet straps so that it doesn't slip down, carry the thing around the back - it should be hitting about halfway between the dock and the hock, and carry it back up to the other side and tie it onto the billet strap other side of the saddle. So now this stretch wrap is wrapped around the horse's rump...not pulling, but not loose enough to slide down over the hocks, either. Then lunge the horse. The chiro said that the stretch band provides some useful feedback to the horse and encourages the horse to move away from it, which means carrying his hind legs more under the body and rounding up the back. It worked like a dream too - as soon as he moved out at the walk you could see the difference, his tail was dropped, his hindquarters more round, and when he trotted it was MUCH more what we want to see. I wouldn't do this all the time, but once in a while to give him the idea, and to help create the muscle memory, seems like it's going to really promote the whole agenda.
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back , engage , hindquarters , hocks , hollow

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