Long and Low?
How do you guys teach your horses to go long and low/stretch down and out? I worked with a dressage trainer years ago and all of his horses were trained to do it. He said that it was very good for the horses topline and keeping horses nice and loose/supple.
I have tried lunging with an inside loose side rein and my horse will occasionally stretch out. Undersaddle I have tried getting him to stretch down and out without much success. Occasionally he will give me a stretch, but usually he drops his neck and comes behind the bridle rather than stretching out and keeping the contact. Anybody have any suggestions on how to fix this? I would really appreciate it!
Thanks in advance!
Some horses will do it automatically on a long rein and some others actually have to be cued. To get them to stretch you first have to get them to understand contact and wanting to reach for that contact. With normal length reins, ask for impulsion from behind and contain the horse in front...not necessarily collecting, just asking the horse to yield/relax the withers and head. Slowly let out your reins..the idea is that the horse will seek the contact and will follow the rein.
An instructor of mine put it like this...when the horse stretches down and out with long reins and then we shorten the reins and ask for the horse to be on the bit, we are just limiting the amount of stretch.
Essentially it means you still have to maintain the impulsion, pushing the horse into the bridle but the longer rein allows the horse to seek the bridle.
My prior horse, and even this one to a certain extent, flat refused to go down and out at the same time. In that case I had to wiggle the reins a bunch to get him to drop and then jiggle every couple of strides to keep it, but, he never really maintained contact..as soon as I picked up contact that head came up. I could hide it enough for the low level tests..the reins didn't have a loop or dip but he didn't have any presence at all on the reins until I picked him back up. Essentially he just learned that when the reins are long, he is in neutral and to drop his head and stretch.
Your other option and one I have seriously considered more than once...borrow a short pony that doesn't kick and likes your horse, tie a carrot to its tail and have your horse follow....:)
For my mare, I push her into my hands and she'll round down, rather than just in. You can really FEEL it.
Try to keep a soft contact with you hands and use your leg to support your horse. Don't let your leg sit tight and unable to move.
If you ride with your stirrups short, drop them down a hole or two. When you sit, give a gentle squeeze with your legs. Feel your horse's sides.
Use your body as much as you can, don't worry about your hands so much. IF you're fussing with your hands, your horse will be less willing to put their head down and relax/stretch all those muscles.
Also, if this a new thing, don't expect to go around the ring perfectly round and stretched. You'll get a few strides before you horse goes "wait a minute.." and goes back to how the usually go. Be happy with those few strides and keep working at it!
I hope what I said makes sense, this is how I ride my horse and I see a huge difference. Her trot strides are strong and consistent, I feel her back raise up. We've been working this way for almost a month. She's prone to a sore back, and after our rides, working properly, her back isn't flinchy at all
When he comes behind the bit, really push him back into it!
I've noticed that a lot of riders make the mistake of dropping the contact instead of maintaining the contact while still fishing out longer rein. Make sure the elastic contact stays in place or the horse won't have anything to stretch into.
When I ask for a stretch, I always do it on a circle. I establish a good forward working trot, half halt and then ask for the stretch. It took my horse some trial and error before he understood what was being asked, but once he got it, he really seems to enjoy the stretch time. We now finish every ride with it.
Thanks for the advice everyone! I have been trying to teach him this for a while, but I'm guessing that I haven't been pushing enough and keeping the contact through my reins. I thought I was keeping the contact through the reins, but maybe not. I will try videotaping myself next time I try and see exactly what my aids look like.
I'm sure Blazer will love it once he figures out what I'm actually asking!
MBP: How exactly do you ask for the stretch after your half halt? I'm going to try it on a circle next time, that's a good idea.
I literally laughed out loud at reading this. Desperate times call for desperate measures. I might try this, if all my other attempts fail!
I used to have the same problem with my mare. I fixed it by getting her super collected at the trot for a few strides. Then I would literallythrow the reins at her while putting my calf on. IIf she ran off I would squeeze with my thigh. When you start so collected you put yourself in a place to push them up into the bridle.
When you change the length of the horses neck you force them to balance differently. This means if you allow them a longer neck, they are also able to take a bigger step behind. This is why when teaching them to stretch you can throw the rein at them. Once they get better at it you can maintain a soft feel.
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Really? I have the opposite problem. All I have to do is give him the reins and he gladly stretches down at the walk or the trot. He will even let out a very audible dragged out grunt if I let him stretch at the trot :)
The hard part is getting him back on the bit.
There is a BIG difference between a horse stretching out on a looped/loose rein, and actually working long and low. 90% of the time you see a horse on the forehand and the rider thinking they have achieved long and low.
True long and low is very difficult, for both horse and rider. It requires a good degree of feel and timing by the rider, and a great deal of balance, strength and confidence from the horse. The back needs to stay round and swinging, with the hind legs coming through and remaining into the bridle. This position is hugely difficult for any horse to maintain, and as such it requires a great deal of physical conditioning before they can hold it for more than a few strides, without falling on the forehand.
First - get rid of the inside side rein. If you want to use one side rein, put it on the outside. By blocking the inside and opening the outside, you encourage over-longitudinal-bend through the neck to the inside, allowing the inside shoulder to take all of the weight and the energy generated behind simply falls out of the outside shoulder. Its an effective method of intentionally putting a horse on the forehand.
You need to establish a good contact on a shorter rein before even thinking about long and low. Many people work backwards - trying to get long and low first, with the assumption that it will make the horse loose. Yes it will often relax a horse if they are dumped on the forehand and allowed to put their nose on the ground, BUT, it is useless for building topline and conditioning.
Get spot on basic transitions on a shorter rein, with the horse willingly working up into the bridle, with active, carrying hind legs. You can then gradually give the rein, allowing the horse to take the contact forward and down. Initially allow only a little, then bring back up into the shorter contact. Every time you feel that the horse is in the contact well enough, test that contact by giving and seeing if the horse follows. If he does not follow, then you are not doing your job properly.
It should feel as if he is gently chewing the rein from your hand, with NOTHING changing in his body except for the slightly longer/lower neck, at this point. If you allow too much rein and he dumps on the forehand thus losing his balance, then you will have to hope you have a forgiving horse!
It is up to us as riders to establish and maintain a horse's balance under saddle. If we skimp on this part of the deal, the horse loses confidence in our abilities. Then later down the track when we start asking for even more demanding movements such as the half pass or pirouette, is the horse going to trust our judgement and ability to keep him in balance?
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