Lifting the back!
So attached is a picture of riding today. Jax did this for maybe 5-10% of the time, and rest of the time he had his head up. The thing is, he'd do this of his own accord once in a while, I'd give a little rein to let him and say "yeah! do that!" and then his silly head would pop back up. He does drop his nose on command, but it's kind of a fake drop that doesn't last long-- or go this comfortably low.
I am working on getting him to move long and low with a lifted back, but I'm having some trouble.
I am doing standing ab exercises ("raking" my fingers under his belly or pressing into the muscle alongside his tail to make him lift his back), trying to get in some hill trotting (and trotting, trotting, trotting...)...
We tried dangling a carrot on a stick ahead and below his nose while riding today, but he is too smart and would just pick up the rope holding the carrot and try to lift it into his mouth (ha!). I am going to try to do some targeting with a lunge stick so that I can ride with it below his nose and he'll reach down to touch it.
Lessons will start again as soon as I have a vet out to check his on-going hind leg stiffness (he isn't the slightest lame, so no worries).
Any thoughts? I really want to help my boy use his muscles better and learn to relax into his movement.
ETA: Don't mind my looking downward-- it was an "oh my gosh! he's doing it!" look. :P
so unlike you, i ride english, so having your horses head down in what i do is imperative haha:) so i would like to give you some advice:)
when i ride my horse (walk trot or canter ) i ALWAYS have contact through the reins with my horse. it will mostly be half halts through the outside rein (alternating 3 beats to a rest) or pushing into a bend through the inside rein! if that makes sense haha!
ALSO another thing that helps, is motivation!!! my trainer is a little fruity haha and all to often sings while instructing us.... oh lord *face palm*. BUT he would always sing MOTIVATION IS THE KEY! meaning the more you have your horse going, the more he/she will want to extend, and put her head down :) all to many times my horse has wanted to throw her head up, and i would simply kick her to get going and she would lower it back down haha :)
alsssoooo , circles! bend her and motivate her through a smooth circle to help get that head down :)
ALLLSSSO! when you eventually get her head down at a fairly constant time, lift your hands up a few inches, it will help her lift through her back!
so yea hop this helped :) GOOD LUCK!
Getting the horse to use his body is not trick training. I did laugh out loud when you mentioned that you'd actually tried a carrot on a stick - I thought that only happened in cartoons!
A round back comes not from 'faking' a 'head set', but from working the horse's whole body. I am a Dressage rider (English) so do not feel qualified to give specific advice to a Western rider. However the concepts are fairly well the same - work the horse's hind end, and the front end will follow.
Find an instructor that knows what their doing. Targeting sticks in front of his nose to fake a dropped head is not a brilliant idea - is carrying a long stick around everywhere you ride REALLY practical? I suspect 99.9% of the population will realise that your faking the horse's "head set" ;)
My horse also had a major problem with this, buttttt we ride English. :)
I don't feel comfortable or qualified to give you advice about Western riding, but try talking to your chiropractor (if you have one). When my chiro first saw my horse after we bought him from his previous owners (we were knew to owning a horse at the time), she told us the muscles in his back were dead due to an incorrect saddle and kids tugging his head up (he was a summer camp horse). He used to race around the ring because his saddle was hurting him, but he was too good of a boy to toss anyone off.
She then told us to use a belly band. :) Basically, it's a rubberband that goes underneath the horse's belly towards the end of his barrel (closer to his butt end, not shoulder). I noticed a difference the first time we rode with it. It felt like there was more power in my horse and that he was now using his muscles correctly. We've been using it for a while and now my horse rides with his head down, relaxed and he just plods along happily. He's also gained about 85% more muslce mass: he's a completely different horse. Talk to your chiro about it. :)
And good luck! :D
PS if you search for "horse belly band" on Google, most of the images ARE NOT what a belly band looks like. Mine is blue, made of rubber, not very thick at all, but about 5 inches wide. I'll try searching around for it.
Or.... just learn to ride effectively to be able to lift the horse's back on your own, instead of forking out on various gadgets to make money for chiro's and so on.
There is no need to be strapping things around bellies, teaching them to 'target' a pole in front of them etc. to get their back going. Just plain old good riding.
Everyone has different opinions on how they ride or what they ride with. I know the belly band was a bit out there, but it did work and it doesn't hurt your horse. You can also use Kayty's idea of just riding. Good plain old riding. Although I used the belly band, I didn't use it each time I rode - less than half the time I was riding.
The MAIN thing I did was circles. And cirlces. And more circles. Teach your horse to bend and move off the leg. The circles also help with balance. Also, whenever your horse puts their head down, PRAISE THEM. It will let them know that they're doing what you want them to do. They're also seeking reasurance (or at least mine is haha). Good luck. :)
I like what I see in that picture; horse is trotting out nicely, reaching well under himself, stretching down and out and you are light on his back. Good Stuff!
Thanks TinyLiny! :) Like I said, when I keep asking he'll do this once in a while, but he has a trouble holding it due to muscle development/the fact that he loves to go back to that high head carriage.
Kayty-- A horse who does not have adequate muscling has a difficult time using his ring of muscles and abdominals specifically to lift his back. Muscles will not spontaneously develop and strengthen when a rider asks them to (with riding), hence my current predicament. Encouraging him to relax and lower his head (to "put his back into it") is a small part of helping him learn to use his hind instead of his front.
The issue is muscle building. Actually, a belly band on-and-off is quite a good idea, because it will cause a reflexive contraction of the abdominals and lifting of the back to build those muscles over time-- which is what I'm looking for! He needs to learn how to use those muscles before he can put them into practice, if that makes sense. Building them is what I'm looking for here, not how to ask him. :)
Edited to say-- the targeted "reaching" exercises are not to fake a headset. Think about it mechanically. If a horse is reaching downward, it is not so easy to hollow out the back. Rather, it encourages them to lift and round their back.
Also, Audacious, I do have a chiro for my boy! Her work has helped him tremendously. :) Thanks for the advice!
In Dressage, strengthening the back and encouraging the swing of the hind legs through the back is one of the most vital concepts that we teach a horse from day one.
No, they can't carry their back and swing for long periods of time at first, hence we ask only for short bursts at a time, with walk breaks in between. Gradually the muscles develop and the horse becomes more confident and capable to carry its rider rather than hollow away.
And, surprise surprise, no fancy gadgets are needed.
Encouraging this swing under saddle, by the rider, BUILDS their back.
Concentrating on just dropping their head will yes, stretch the neck. But in the process you will very easily dump the horse on its front legs, which means that it will actually brace its neck and back to remain in balance.
So you might get more muscle, but it will be muscle in the wrong places. This is why you will see in every piece of literature, every coach worth their salt and every rider who has some concept of working a horse correctly, will ALWAYS advise that the hind legs MUST work before the front end is put in a 'frame'.
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