Building topline and neck muscle, the thing is....

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Building topline and neck muscle, the thing is....

This is a discussion on Building topline and neck muscle, the thing is.... within the Western Riding forums, part of the Riding Horses category

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    04-24-2012, 01:40 AM
Question Building topline and neck muscle, the thing is....

Hi everyone !

My horse is lacking muscle in his neck, the rest of him is quite nice but his neck is on the scrawny side.

I know breeding and things have a lot to do with it, but there is no hurt in exercise !

Now EVERY thread I have read talks about pushing him into the bit, working from the hind end and lifting in his withers. "low long work" and such, however, I do not ride him english and in western , we do not want our horse to learn to ride into the bit, but its actually quite the opposite.

SOO, I was wondering if anyone had any neck/topline muscle boosting tips/ exercises that my horse and I can use in our discipline of riding ?

Please help. Thank you !
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    04-24-2012, 02:03 AM
Flexing, side to side, and then carrying that flex through walking and trotting. I basically get my horse soft to either side, then I'll go into the walk and push them straight while the head is bent, then once they get good at that, I go onto the jog. The trick is to keep that flexion supple, and not to let them lean on your hand. You can also counter-bend your circles.

And I think every western horse can benefit from "long and low" work. All my pleasure horses go through learning english pleasure, and they are responsible for holding their own frame and headset. I'll push them into the bridle, hold for a couple strides, then I'll loosen the rein and expect them to hold self-carriage. Getting your horse to hold his neck in self carriage will promote building muscle. The difference is that typically Dressage riders will keep constant contact with the bit, while I will release when the horse is "set" and if he falls out, I will pick him back up and release again...

A lot of backing up will help, along with a lot of roll-backs to get that topline in order. And a huxbajillion leg-yields.
Skyseternalangel likes this.
    04-24-2012, 02:26 AM
I think western riders, at least good ones, want the horse on the bit, too. Just that since a curb bit is so very much more powerful, the horse will maintain more of a 'cushin" of distance off the bit itself. But he is still connected to the bit and influenced by a bit that says, "no further than here, please". The good western horse respects the limit set by the bit and is then asked to work up inot the bit, just as a dressage hrose.
The dressage horse may have a more "intimate" feel on the bit and rein becuase he comes right to the bit, no cusion of space. But, he should not be leaning on the bit any more than a western horse is allowed to lean on the bit. He comes to the bit, but contains the push behind it , by having more lift through his back and shoulders.
You can work on some topline improvements without seriously "pushing him into the bit". The long and low exercizes would have really minimal push. It's more of a "let" than a push, with some more encouragement for the horse to push under himself. For this, it does help to have a connetion to the bit, so that you can tell the horse "not faster, deeper" I think you can do this in a western way with out compromising your training.

Doing things like hill work and over cavalettie also help with topline. Topline comes from abdominal work, which comes from having to lift the legs higher and more under the centerline of the horse.
    04-24-2012, 02:30 AM
From what know/ have seen, I don't see how even a western horse wouldn't benefit from learning to be on the bit- correct me if I'm wrong, but being on the bit just helps them to carry themselves, the difference between it in english and western (as has been stated) is that in english/ dressage, the contact is kept.
I can't guarantee what I've said is correct, it's just my opinion based on my current knowledge/ understanding. Correct me if I'm wrong. :)
    04-24-2012, 03:03 AM
I believe any good horse can benefit from having english training.....believe it or not I have talked to a lot of NBHA people and the one girl sent her horses to get basic dressage training. It helps them loosen up in the front end, the self carriage, freeing up the shoulders, bending and flexing, being supple in the barrel getting them rounded and also getting them to really engage their hind quarters. I recently sent my mare for 60 days of english training and wow what a difference it has made in her and her performance in the ring!!!! I thought my friend was nuts when she told me to get my mare some english training but I thought about it and said what the heck, im pleased with the results, it has helped a lot especially with her front end she was so heavy and always had dropped shoulders I couldnt get her to lift around barrels but now with the side passing and leg yielding and her being taught a head set im able to control her shoulders
soenjer55 and CLaPorte432 like this.
    04-24-2012, 03:07 AM
Dust is right. I personally do a lot of Dressage. Leg yields, half passes, circles and figure eights, counter cantering, and sometimes a little piaffe or a pirouette here or there. If you want your horse to jog super duper slow or lope while still keeping impulsion, Dressage moves are the way to go so long as you teach them to do it on a loose rein.
    04-24-2012, 03:30 AM
Yes!! My latest adventures have been attending these reining/cutting clinics and they couldnt drill it into our heads enough about how important circles were big and small alike. Also, trotting, a lot of trotting!!! The 20 meter circle has became a large part of my mares daily work out routine, we also do figure eights too and I have been slowly working on flying lead changes which is rather important when pole bending
    04-24-2012, 03:43 AM
Lol, my poor horses rarely get to make a straight line. And when they do, they are super grateful for it and hold their frames as long as they can... There's nothing like releasing that leg yield, sitting back, and just feeling the horse curl up under himself, reins bouncing off his knees. It's magic.
    04-24-2012, 11:12 AM
Everyone makes it sound like its so easy :/ I would like to say my horse is a handful or the fact that he has never put his head near the height of his withers or lower (unless he's grazing) , but like every good rider says and that I know, its not the horses fault , so I must clearly be doing something wrong.

I don't have the money for training and I myself, nor anyone in my barn (its FULL of western riders) owns an english saddle.

Also, I ride in a hackamore. So literally speaking, he doesnt have a bit to work behind.

I do have him doing tons of circle, like someone said before, he rarely goes in a straight line unless he's coming home from the third barrel . Lots of figure 8's and serpentines. I don't really have much hills but one in the area and it has a fence at the top :/

Im not trying to shoot down anyones advice (and I do agree with everything that was said) however I do feel a western horse should learn to yeild leg(as in everything) but as well as bit cues. More so than other disciplines , but I do not know everything.

Do all these things still apply with everything I had just said ?
    04-24-2012, 11:17 AM
Also, I don't want anyone reading to think im a passive rider. I WORK my horse, I don't sit in the saddle and walk around aimlessly or just "do things" in the ring. I have an exercise agenda, and im 99% sure that me and my horse get at LEAST an hour of good honest work in almost everyday. I have rode my horse since I saddle broke him a year and a half ago and he is now a well rounded horse in every way(except his self carriage I guess lol).

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