Topline and Neck Placement
How can I encourage/cue my horse to lower her head and telescope her neck while I ride her? I want to build her back muscles, but for the riding exercises she needs to put her head down low and she absolutely refuses! I don't have any lungeing equipment to work with her, so what is a way that I can do it with minimal equipment? (besides my lunge line and basic tack)
I would start by getting her up into the bridle and get her back rounded for a few strides at a time and the walk and trot, then do trotting poles and raised cavaletti while trying to keep her on the bit. It would also be a good idea to do a lot of circles - both large and small, and serpentines.
To get her up into the bridle, use your legs and seat to push her forward, and keep a constant feel on the bit (Use a ring snaffle. No shanks!) and when she collects up, you'll feel the impulsion and her really starting to use her back and hindquarters. When she does this, relax your body and the contact you have on the bit, give her a reward and try again in a little bit. Don't ask too often, or else she might get annoyed and try stupid stuff. Make sure she get's a clear reward, it really helps.
There are other people who can explain it better, as they helped me with my horse last year. She now has a strong topline and collects well when I ask her to. She bends like a dream and she just did lead changes going in a straight line for me! Good luck :)
Qh rider has a lot of good points. Making sure your horse is flexed and collected is a large part of getting that head down. I work with some trainers out of Fargo, ND, and this is what they try:
They mostly train english show quarter horses with o-ring snaffles. At a walk, try taking a rein in each hand and pulling your horse one way, then the other, then one way etc. They don't neccessarily have to be going in a certain direction, and might act a little confused. However, you should notice a certain "bulge" at your horses shoulder. You want that "bulge" to eventually move down behind their ears, hence a large change in muscling. This technique is used a lot in these trainers' young horses, in order to develop that muscle. Practice it every day, along with flexing your horse in circles, and eventually your horse will develop those muscles, making head lowering a much easier task.
Horse does not need any special muscles to lower its' head. Rather it needs to relax the muscles that are literally pushing it out against the pull of the bit, these being the muscles in the front/lower part of the neck.
If the horse doesnt know the cue to lower the neck, then pick a cue and teach it. I use a "tickling" of the reins to ask the horse to reach forward and down.
I was just riding a horse yesterday that needs to learn this, big time. I tickled the reins, asking her to take them forward and down, but she had no idea what I wanted. It will take time, but if I keep doing this, she will try this and that to respond to this stimulus. Eventually, she will just happen to move her face forward and neck down. I will be watching like a hawk for the tiniest bit of that movement to happen. When it does, I will cease any hand movement on the rein and will give the rein forward a bit to reward her.
Rinse and repeat, many times, and eventually she will take the rein forward and down when I tickle them with my fingers. I will not give away the rein totally, but will "follow' her mouth down, maintaining a soft contact.
A person can do this cue training either standing or at a walk. IF you do it standing, then transition to walking after a bit. Doing this WHILE moving forward can be harder for the horse.
Once they are getting it walking, then you keep a little bit closer contact as the horse reaches down and put more leg on, you stay upright and be really free with allowing your hip to move with the horse. All things to encourage the horse to step more forward and under themselves, while with your contact you are asking the horse to step under without raising the head, and to not get heavier on the front. Result will be that the horse must lift up the back and the lower portion of the neck (where it enters the shoulders). This will help to build a better neck and topline.
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