Topline-ness... Or back muscles...are they the same? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 3 Old 04-11-2009, 12:00 AM Thread Starter
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Topline-ness... Or back muscles...are they the same?

In the last critque I got of Lacey, people said Lacey didn't have much back muscle-ness going on and I'm wondering how to fix that. I'd like to get her looking better by the end of this month since my senior project is due then and she was my project, but I understand that muscles don't just pop up overnight so it's fine if they don't appear in time. I don't have anywhere to ride her safely at more than a walk so I've been doing lots of lunging. I've been doing tons of gait changes and direction changes and I've been using the three trot poles that are available. Today I actually got her to canter in a pretty small circle (which I would figure meant she was using her muscles kinda hard...but maybe not...), I'm not sure of it's exact dimensions, but she hadn't been able to do it all at that small of a circle just a week or so ago. She wasn't even able to canter in a circle in the first place 4 months ago, so go me! Haha I don't have any side-reins availiable to me so that's kinda out of the question...
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post #2 of 3 Old 04-11-2009, 02:03 AM
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To really work a horses top line you should really know how to make a horse round. If the horse is round and using itself with the impulsion coming from the hind end then those muscles are going to be worked. You can do exercises at the walk and when you start out it's good to a lot of them at the walk. When you're walking make sure she or he is round and moving forward, bend left and right and have the horse move off your leg. Frequently let the horse stretch his or her neck out and start slow because you don't want to strain him or her.
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post #3 of 3 Old 04-11-2009, 04:46 AM
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For everyone that comes to this post, I hope they learn something and take this advice away from it:

Topline is not made by 'going through the exercises'. It is not like 'if you do sit ups, you will get ab muscle'.

You have to have the knowledge to know what kind of exercises work; you have to have the knowledge on how to do them correctly; you have to have the knowledge on how to feel what is right and what isn't. It's not something that you say, 'Hey I want her to be collected today'. The horse works towards building topline/collection every day.

With that being said, don't just put her head on the vertical and assume she's building topline. She isn't.

Don't rush her forward and assume she's building topline. She isn't.

Don't let her drop her head and assume she's going 'long and low'. Don't pull her in small circles and don't make her slow and call it 'collection'.

The difference between a horse doing an exercise correctly and incorrectly is the right muscles. You can piaffe a horse and it can be completely on the forehand--and then you can do it the right way. You can have a 4-beat 'collected canter', and then you can canter the right way. The move itself is not important. The degree of accuracy you have in executing it is.

So what can you do?

One: Read up on it as much as you can! The more you know, the more your horse will benefit.

Two: Find somewhere to ride your horse. Constant circles causes horrible wear and tear on the joints.

Three: If you can't work the horse more then 4-5 times a week, you shouldn't really bother. Horses need to be treated like atheletes; if you run only twice a week you're never going to build muscle either!

Four: Work on long and low when you ride. I wrote a post about it here: Dressage In Jeans: Get Low

Five: Walk over raised poles (raised 5-8 inches). This helps build leg muscles and back muscles! Get 'landscaping timbers' at a home improvement store... usually run around 2 dollars and they are GREAT for trot poles, walk poles, etc.

Six: Use hills if you can!

Hope this helps. :)

Dressage in Jeans - My blog with dressage tips for happy, relaxed horses, specifically for those who ride dressage in western saddles, no saddles, cowboy boots, or jeans. ;) Also now with cute pygmy goat pictures! :P
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