Topline and relaxation
 
 

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Topline and relaxation

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  • Top line reins
  • Horse hollow backed at trot won't stretch down

 
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    08-27-2010, 04:41 PM
  #1
Uma
Foal
Topline and relaxation

My hunter horse seems very tight at the trot. His back is hollow and he won't give to the bit. He constantly curls his neck. Even if I have the reins loose he won't stretch down.
He also has no motivation to move forward. If I let him he would put along at a very small, weak low energy trot.

What can I do to get him to relax and get a stronger topline.

Also, I know hills are a good workout but unfortunately I don't have any accessible hills to work him on.
     
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    08-27-2010, 06:03 PM
  #2
Started
I'm sure someone else will come along with a better and more detailed reply, but here is what I would do.

First of all, what kind of bit do you use? If it's anything more then a snaffle, that could be a contributing problem right there. It sounds like he is afraid to move out and stretch down for some reason. If he were mine I would take a soft feel of his mouth (emphasis on soft!) and push him out into a working trot. Forget about straight lines right now. Work him on circles, serpentines, and figure eights, but keep it interesting and change it up. Do not try to work his head down or make him "give to the bit". If your ride him correctly in your circles he will be bending with his body, and will start to stretch down into the contact on his own.

Hopefully that made sense. The short and quick of it is, work him forward and wait for HIM to give and stretch on his own through correct riding leading to correct self carriage. Do not pull, or otherwise make him give. When you do that he "curls" his neck as you put it, and continues to travel hollow and inverted.

Hope I helped a bit. And feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
There are many members here that are more knowledgeable then me, I just speak from my own experience with harder mouthed horses.
     
    08-27-2010, 07:43 PM
  #3
Uma
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gillian    
I'm sure someone else will come along with a better and more detailed reply, but here is what I would do.

First of all, what kind of bit do you use? If it's anything more then a snaffle, that could be a contributing problem right there. It sounds like he is afraid to move out and stretch down for some reason. If he were mine I would take a soft feel of his mouth (emphasis on soft!) and push him out into a working trot. Forget about straight lines right now. Work him on circles, serpentines, and figure eights, but keep it interesting and change it up. Do not try to work his head down or make him "give to the bit". If your ride him correctly in your circles he will be bending with his body, and will start to stretch down into the contact on his own.

Hopefully that made sense. The short and quick of it is, work him forward and wait for HIM to give and stretch on his own through correct riding leading to correct self carriage. Do not pull, or otherwise make him give. When you do that he "curls" his neck as you put it, and continues to travel hollow and inverted.

Hope I helped a bit. And feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.
There are many members here that are more knowledgeable then me, I just speak from my own experience with harder mouthed horses.
Ok thanks that makes sense. Right now I have been using a 13mm loose ring french link by AlBaCon. I also have a hunter dee ring by korsteel, but I haven't been using that because someone told me the loose ring is nicer.

My trainer tells me to massage his mouth when I am doing circles or bending or riding to see if he'll bring his head down. He will but he won't get into a frame, just curl.
     
    08-27-2010, 07:54 PM
  #4
Green Broke
Ok this is totally off topic.. but is your horse's name Uma?
     
    08-27-2010, 08:18 PM
  #5
Uma
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by eventerdrew    
ok this is totally off topic.. but is your horse's name Uma?
haha no :) its the japanese word for horse.
I think I noticed that that is your horses name though right?
     
    08-27-2010, 08:24 PM
  #6
Green Broke
Ohhh ok.

Well that's some new info! Yeah that's my horse's name :)
     
    08-29-2010, 05:14 PM
  #7
Trained
If by massage the reins, she simply means squeeze them like a sponge, I agree. If she means any visible hand movement which results in alternate pulling on the mouth, I disagree.

Too bad you have no trails. That's always my first line of defense for a bored, stiff horse. I would suggest a few things. Before the ride, and little neck message to get the ball rolling. He can't stretch out his neck if it's locked up. Gently palm and scrunch up his neck as if you were putting mousse is his mane. Don't apply any pressure unless he starts pressing back into you asking for it. If he likes it, he'll lick his lips, yawn or put his head down.

When you begin your ride, on a semi-loose rein, supple his neck by asking for very shallow changes of flexion bordering on shallow serpentines. Just enough inside rein to see the inside nostril and rein, back to straight and then a few steps flexion the other way. Make sure to walk a good 5 to 10 minutes before even thinking of trotting. If he leg yields, do some shallow ones at the walk, throw in a few circles, anything that bends a body part and supples a muscle.

When you trot for the first time, be careful to take a feel of the reins, but not TAKE the contact if that makes any sense. Think horse reaching for the bit, not the other way around. Since he's stiff, let him trot for the first 5 minutes or so with you in half seat so you're off his back and then move onto posting. Try and keep consistent inside flexion by massaging that inside rein as your trainer suggested. We're talking just squeezing it like a sponge, no actual movement. Just enough to see that inside nostril and eyelash. Lots of large circles and changes of direction. Again, leg yield if your horse knows it.

If your horse finds obstacles fun, put some ground poles all over the place and trot over them in no particular order. Keep it interesting in him. Just keep thinking forward. Make sure you're posting lightly and not slamming down on his back. If he repeatedly braces against the bit, transition down for a step or two and immediately back up. The transitions alone will help unlock his stuck parts and it might get him interested in what he's doing again.

Hope this helps.
     
    08-29-2010, 08:09 PM
  #8
Trained
Just to add on Puck's excellent post, and I think she may have noted this in there but to make it clear - Don't allow a loop to form in your reins. That doesn't mean to pull back, but always allow for an elastic, giving contact, making sure he knows that there is a contact there.
If you try to encourage a horse to reach into the bit, but completely throwing your reins away up their neck, they have nothing to reach into.
You will see in a dressage test, some will ask for you to give the reins for a few strides allowing the horse to stretch down and out. Some people throw their reins up the horses neck and the horse's head will stay where it is. The riders that get god marks for the give of reins, are the ones that prepare prepare prepare and then gently let them out to allow the horse to follow the contact.
     
    08-29-2010, 08:47 PM
  #9
Uma
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
If by massage the reins, she simply means squeeze them like a sponge, I agree. If she means any visible hand movement which results in alternate pulling on the mouth, I disagree.

Too bad you have no trails. That's always my first line of defense for a bored, stiff horse. I would suggest a few things. Before the ride, and little neck message to get the ball rolling. He can't stretch out his neck if it's locked up. Gently palm and scrunch up his neck as if you were putting mousse is his mane. Don't apply any pressure unless he starts pressing back into you asking for it. If he likes it, he'll lick his lips, yawn or put his head down.

When you begin your ride, on a semi-loose rein, supple his neck by asking for very shallow changes of flexion bordering on shallow serpentines. Just enough inside rein to see the inside nostril and rein, back to straight and then a few steps flexion the other way. Make sure to walk a good 5 to 10 minutes before even thinking of trotting. If he leg yields, do some shallow ones at the walk, throw in a few circles, anything that bends a body part and supples a muscle.

When you trot for the first time, be careful to take a feel of the reins, but not TAKE the contact if that makes any sense. Think horse reaching for the bit, not the other way around. Since he's stiff, let him trot for the first 5 minutes or so with you in half seat so you're off his back and then move onto posting. Try and keep consistent inside flexion by massaging that inside rein as your trainer suggested. We're talking just squeezing it like a sponge, no actual movement. Just enough to see that inside nostril and eyelash. Lots of large circles and changes of direction. Again, leg yield if your horse knows it.

If your horse finds obstacles fun, put some ground poles all over the place and trot over them in no particular order. Keep it interesting in him. Just keep thinking forward. Make sure you're posting lightly and not slamming down on his back. If he repeatedly braces against the bit, transition down for a step or two and immediately back up. The transitions alone will help unlock his stuck parts and it might get him interested in what he's doing again.

Hope this helps.
Thanks so much for that post!

Well my instructor has always said massage the reins, but it didn't click until right now. Yes she means squeeze like a sponge.
I rode him today and because he doesn't like to move forward we worked on that. We started out trying to do serpentines and circles but he just got stiff so we went straight. We actually had a couple breakthroughs at trot and quite a few at walk.
It will take some time because once he starts to put his head down he kind of backs off. So I have to remind him head down and legs under you!

And thanks for mentioning the half seat thing. That will give me an excuse to work on my thing and calves while also helping him!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kayty    
Just to add on Puck's excellent post, and I think she may have noted this in there but to make it clear - Don't allow a loop to form in your reins. That doesn't mean to pull back, but always allow for an elastic, giving contact, making sure he knows that there is a contact there.
If you try to encourage a horse to reach into the bit, but completely throwing your reins away up their neck, they have nothing to reach into.
You will see in a dressage test, some will ask for you to give the reins for a few strides allowing the horse to stretch down and out. Some people throw their reins up the horses neck and the horse's head will stay where it is. The riders that get god marks for the give of reins, are the ones that prepare prepare prepare and then gently let them out to allow the horse to follow the contact.
Thanks for the contact advice. After our work out today something finally clicked in my head and I think I have figured out the contact thing.


A couple more months and hopefully he will have a nice developed neck and relaxed not so hollow back!
     
    09-01-2010, 03:31 PM
  #10
Yearling
The undersaddle things mentioned by Puck and Kayty are excellent. I would also add that a horse that has been traveling this way for some time has some serious muscle re-mapping that needs to take place in order to carry himself correctly. I strongly suggest getting some nice stretchy side reins and learning to lunge him for fitness. This will allow him to learn to stretch into contact, it will allow him to learn to carry himself correctly without the added burden of a rider and it will allow him to build the correct muscles faster without becoming fatigued by carrying a rider while using those muscles. A good riding program, interspersed with a constructive lunging program will really help a horse like him. The other good thing about lunging is that it allows them to really stretch those tight topline and underline muscles much more than when they are ridden undersaddle. So not only will he learn to use and build up these new muscles but it will allow him to stretch and strengthen the muscles he already has. Good luck and if you need any specific lunging advice/directions feel free to PM me. There are also good websites and books out there on lunging.
     

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