Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Sweden - the land of carrots and apples
The big issue with ridden horses and wild horses are that wild horses doesn't carry a heavy person on their backs.
Even a trail horse needs to learn how to raise their backs against the rider, to make their backs strong. If they just do it by putting their heads and necks down, they won't get a good topline, but they'll use their back enough to avoid injury.
But then to move freely and avoid damage on the frontlegs, they should put weight on their hindlegs. Horses naturally carry more weight o the forehand, but with the extra rider on that, it can easily be too much for the frontlegs, especially the joints. The hindlegs however, are formed differently and can become stronger by training the muscle, o that they can handle the extra weight. The frontlegs can't really become stronger in that sense.
So, for a horse to carry a rider without hurting itself, it needs to arch the back and put as much weight as they can (without straining the muscles more than they're ready for) on the hindquarters. They do this naturally when they jump or go through rough terrain - if they're not stressed up and just wants to run.
That builds some topline but not necessarily extremely much.
On a plain arena however, you need to teach them to do this without any appearant reason (in their minds there are no reason to carry since there is just plain smooth ground).
Try yourself; stand on all four, arch your back and let someone sit on you. You can do that for a while without getting hurt. Then do the same thing but sway your back..it won't feel as nice after a while.
A horse that just lowers the neck, even without fancy arching, raises their backs and that can very well be enough for most trail horses. :)
Always keep your head up, but be careful to keep your nose at a friendly level.