Oh, the issues we must fix... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 11-11-2010, 08:41 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Indiana
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Question Oh, the issues we must fix...

So, I finally got to ride my horse for the first time since I got him a few weeks ago! Had to wait for a chiro visit and a hoof trim. He was wonderful considering the situation he came from!! But we do have a few things we need to work on.

First, he had developed a very weak top line. He has very high withers and is kind of turning a little sway backed. He is next to impossible to fit for a saddle, and you pretty much always have to have a breast plate on him to keep it from falling back. Its usually better when he has a nice top line though. So my question is, what are some exercises to build a top line from the ground? I know someone said hill work, but we don't have access to any hills. Indiana is flat cornfields.. haha! I was told long and low forward movement is good, but I don't know what to do to encourage himt to lower his head. He naturally has a high head carriage as a saddlebred... Any ideas?

Second, he really drops his inside shoulder BAD to the when we are cantering clockwise and he has a very hard time finding his balance beyond what I can help him with. I know, I'm not perfect in my riding, but he canters perfect when cantering counter clockwise. He does this when lunging too, which leads me to believe it's just his weaker side. Is he compromising for something or just not wanting to properly find his own balance? What can I do to balance him on the ground before we work on it in the saddle? Side reins perhaps? I'm at a loss!

Anyway, sorry for the novel, but any information would help tremendously! I want to have the most enjoyable rides with my boy and I want to get a good start before we mess something up by not taking things slowly and getting it right from the start!
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post #2 of 7 Old 11-11-2010, 08:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Huntington Beach, CA
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This advice is coming from a hunter/jumper background. But, flatwork should be the same for mine and yours.

As far as the sway back/topline issue:
Some horses are born sway backed, so its just the way they are. For the hunter jumper horses, to build topline [without hills] we keep them balanced and in a frame. If you dont know what a frame is I can explain it. But a frame makes them use their whole body [including their butt and back] so it builds muscle.

For the shoulder issue:
When you ride him really work on circles, bend him around and use your inside leg to really push his body out so he stays from falling in. It will take a lot of muscle if he is weak. And he falls in simply because he is weak, so the more you make him do it the correct way and build muscle, the easier it will become. (Im bringing one of my mares back from a 2 year break and she had the same problem. To the right she could hardly circle. With 2 weeks of consistant training, I hardly notice a difference in her directions now)

Also, when he gets a little stronger, you can lunge him in side reins and just use a lunge whip to keep him on the circle without falling in. But make sure to do this after he has gotten better with you riding him. You have to make him do it, and show him how in order for him to do it on the lunge line without your aids.

Hope this helps!
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post #3 of 7 Old 11-11-2010, 09:03 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Indiana
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Thanks so much! You helped a lot!

He is naturally a little sway backed with huge withers, but it has gotten a lot worse due to his deteriorating topline. I leased him 2 years ago before I bought him, and he had a beautiful topline considering his natural build! In the past year to six months it has gone pretty far down hill with other people riding him just bouncing along, and in ill-fitting saddles to boot!

I actually JUST found a whole thread on building the topline. Super interesting!

And thanks so much for the advice with his shoulder! I was doing exactly what you said I should today and he wasn't happy about it.. threw a little buck. Whoops! Guess we'll just have to work through that one! Hah
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post #4 of 7 Old 11-11-2010, 11:05 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Indiana
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Bump. :)
Anyone know how I can encourage him to stretch long and low? His saddlebred-ness doesn't exactly allow him to have a naturally long and low position... I wish it did though!
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post #5 of 7 Old 11-12-2010, 07:03 PM
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Don't worry about his head it doesn't determine the long and low it's just the easiest thing for people to see visually. You want to put him into light contact and ride him back to front. You want him pushing off behind and seeking the contact. Another good thing to do is trot poles and raised cavaletti. He will naturally have to elevate his back and shoulder and lift his legs to get over the poles. Another thing to do is a lot of transitions. walk/halt, walk/trot, walk/canter, etc. And changing directions. Lots of serpentines, figure eights, circles, etc and really concentrate on getting a nice inside bend and using your inside leg to push his body out into your outside rein. You want to feel like you're creating energy with your seat and legs and channeling it with your hands through the reins and back through his body in a continuous circle of energy.
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post #6 of 7 Old 11-12-2010, 10:10 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2010
Location: Indiana
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Thanks for the reply! I will definitely have to set up some ground poles next time I go out to ride! Wish we had an indoor... we're suppose to have cruddy weather this weekend!
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post #7 of 7 Old 11-12-2010, 10:58 PM
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topline comes from bottomline


With regard to building a topline. One of the things is that in order for your horse to lift his back, he must contract his abdominal muscles. If he tightens his back muscles, it will shorten his back and cause it to bow downward even more as the two ends are pulled nearer each other.
So, in order for you to help him lift his back you will want to do things that make him engage his abdominal and oblique muscles.
All things mentioned before are good; hills ( I know), cavaletti/trot poles, transitions up and down gaits, lots of bending and stepping under with the hind leg. This is important as it engages the obliques and this helps to build BALANCE. It will also engourage a tiny shift of weight onto the hind quarter, all desirable changes.

As for the falling in on the inside shoulder going clockwise, . . ., let me see . . That means going to the right, ok? So, that means at the canter going to the right, the outside lateral pair of legs will bear the most weight. IF there is soreness or stiffnesson that side, he will not want to go to the right because his left side is tender.
Also, if going to the right means that he must bend his neck to the right and it might be that the muscles on his left side of the neck are contracted ( there might even be a bulge evident on his left side when looking straight down from above.). So, for him to stetch toward the rigth would mean stretching out those contracted and hard muscles on the left of his neck and he will want to keep bent toward the left, thus he overweights his rigth shoulder and "falls in". Does this describe the situation?

While you can use your inside leg to push him over, you would want to work some more flexibility into the body first. I would do a lot of work at the walk and do circles in both directions, and do them bent correct to the direction and do them counterbent, (circle to the right but be bent to the left and viceversa). If you can do it, do some shoulder-in work at the walk and really get him to step under himself.
IF you know how, do lots of disengagement of the hindend.

When you do work at the walk, you are WORKING, so he needs to walk out, and really put some umph in it. Don't try to speed him beyond his natural walk rythm, but have him pushing off with a real forward mentality.
Doing long and low is great and you can do it at walk and trot, just don't do circles so small that your horse has to fall on that shoulder.

I am not a fan of side reins, but I guess used correctly they are said to help. Not sure from personal experience.

Got any photos of your horse?

Last edited by tinyliny; 11-12-2010 at 11:02 PM.
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