Correct movement - engaging his back
I am an endurance rider, and after a 50-miler in July, my horse came up with a sore back. After time off and trying new saddles, he seemed fine but came up with a sore back at the next ride. The vet and other experienced riders advised me this was probably due to the previous injury not entirely healing up. Some other contributing factors may also be my riding and my boy's movement.
Now, he's had over 2 months off and we are riding in a different saddle. We are moving soon, and I plan on taking equitation lessons to be improve my riding and his movement. In the meantime, I'm doing my best to pick up nuggets here and there and teach myself. Forgive me if I don't have correct terminology or skills - I was raised riding Western under my dad's instruction and attending 4-H shows, and while I do feel like I'm a pretty good and successful rider, I know there are a lot of things I don't know.
Right now, I mainly want to make sure he's engaging his hind end and raising his back so that he's using his body correctly. After doing some research, I thought it was best to start working "long and low" to get him to collect and round himself up. I recorded myself to get some feedback from everyone - this is the first time I've ever approached "collection" from this point of view and with these goals - I was always taught collection was a low head and western-pleasure jog.
Let me know what I can do better, and please let me know if I'm actually doing something right lol. I'm mostly concerned about getting him moving correctly, but anything that might help with my English riding abilities might help, too. Hopefully, it won't be long before I have a trainer to help me in person!
First off I have never done a lot of endurance riding. Only ne long ride of 100 miles in two days.
Now, any endurance horse needs to learn to go on a loose rein. You cannot ride them held together for any great distance. This means that they will go with a lower head carriage = again making it safer because they are looking where they are going.
Secondly some of his sore back could be from the way you rare riding. You are shoving your lower keg forward and this is making you sit on the back of the saddle every time you land from a trot rise. Constant pounding would make his back sore. Learn to keep your lower leg under you and to sit more central in the saddle.
Thirdly he needs to be taking a better stride. At the walk, even though his head is down, he is not using his shoulders and his back legs are only just coming to where the front feet were, they should be over stepping by at least four+ inches. He needs to open his shoulders more, taking a longer step.
At the trot he also needs to engage his back end more.
If you intend to do several distance rides then get a saddle with plenty of weight bearing area. An endurance saddle , and Aussie saddle or a western, all have larger weight bearing surface than an English.
Teach you horse to go on a loose rein at all paces. Learn to get out of the saddle yourself especially at a canter. Also teach him to top up with water at every stream or puddle you come across so there is no dehydration.
Have fun and good luck!
Here's a video from back in February, not too long after I first got him. This is more normal for him, as far as collection goes. I've made adjustments in my riding since then, but this trotting part is a pretty good example of how he usually moves for me when I'm trying to do semi-collected. Unfortunately, I don't really have a lot of video for how he moves out, at least not with a rider.
February 20, 2012 - YouTube
I thought Foxhunter had some great advice. If you look back at the Feb. Video he looks more balanced. When you are working long and low he is so heavy on the forehand he occaisionally trips. I have never heard that low and jog meant collection. If they are not engaging there hind they are not collected. I think you should take a step back and get some training from a classical trainer or maybe some dressage lessons. There are also lots of ground excercises to strenghten the back. But from what I have learned you get them round 1st and then have them follow the bit lower.
I don't mean to sound harsh but that video was not comfortable to watch.
I also think you should be riding him like an arabian and not trying to make him a peanut roller.
I have a different perspective from that which has been put out so far.
I beleive long and low can be useful for almost any horse, except perhaps a draft used for pulling, and in fact, maybe for them , too. Yes, initially the horse IS on the forehand. That is part of the process. Long and low is a step in the progression toward collection. It is also used to encourage a stretching of the back in one direction, and more importantly, it's used to train a horse to learn to come to the bit and follow the bit forward, which is especially useful for a horse that has learned to come behind the bit, have a tight contracted back and thus is impossible to get enough impulsion for the rider to have anything TO collect.
you must have impulsion to be able to have collection. The impulsion must be containable by the rider. (the ride from back to front requires you to have a front (the bit) to ride toward, right?) impulsion that just runs out the front is just a horse running away.
So, I do see the value in doing work long and low, especially if a horse has been hollowing out due to back issues cuased by a bad saddle, the saddle is remedied and the rider wants to erase a possible bad habit that was developing and get the horse back to being honest to the bit.
This horse is an arab. He will not move the same way as a warmblood and some folks who are used to seeing warmbloods or thbds doing this kind of work will not be very impressed with an arab doing it. I think the walk section of your long and low was rather good, especially for someone who hasn't done it much.
(more in my next post)
I was doing a search for endurance horses and I would say none had their heads low nor looked collected. Impossible to keep collected for long periods of time. Anyway I saw this article and thought it to be interesting.
Positive Dissociation Indicates Effecient Movement - Dunc's Diatribe | EasyCare
retyping the long post that my computer lost . . .
As for the trotting:
in the round pen video the horse looks almost off at the trot, in his hind . comparing it to the february video, where he trots very evenly , this video doesn't look as good.
I know you are doing the long and low with him in the round pen, but even so, he should be moving very vigorously forward. In fact, you have to put in a bit MORE push for impulsion in long and low than in just riding him in a circle.
The others commented that your riding might have something to do with him having a sore back. It might be so. you are a bit behind the motion and this is related to you having your legs too far out in front of you, and a lack of weight down into your stirrup. You need to have your foot more under your body and be more able to stand overy your own feet. many endurance riders simply stand in the stirrups for most of the ride, and to do that, you have to have them more or less under you. The saddle may be making this difficult due to its' design.
I commend you for considering some work at long and low. Don't do it for ages and learn to be able to take your horse down into the L and L and , maintaining contact, bring him back up into a normal position, then back down again. this stretching and compressing longitudinally will be very good for his back and balance.
And no, it was not comfortable for me to watch, either. Unfortunately, I look like a total novice when it comes to English and Arabians since, until this year, I've only ridden Western and on QH's. Tack is different, positions are different, movements are different... everything. I almost feel like I'm starting all over and cannot wait to get an instructor to help me do it properly. In the meantime, posting videos and getting feedback is the best I can do.
As for being on the forehand and not being engaged, I get the idea of how those are supposed to look and how it's supposed to look when he's moving correctly, but I'm still really unsure of how to tell when I'm up there on him or watching him. I appreciate the more experienced eyes to tell me what's really going on.
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