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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
  • Horse carries head to the outside
  • Picture proper topline muscle

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    04-24-2012, 12:26 PM
  #11
Started
Don't worry, I don't have a trainer either. I learned a lot of this through trial and error and by speaking with other trainers.

Exercises can be done in a hackamore, but you might lack a bit of refinement towards the end of training, but it can be done. I've gotten nice head sets all the time by wearing just a rope halter. It's all the same, you simply have to make the horse sensitive to the device. Pressure and release, hold and release. As soon as you feel the slightest slack in the rein, train yourself to drop.

Flexing side to side is easy in a halter, but if your hackamore has shanks you need to be mindful of the extra pressure. Sometimes a shanked hackamore has more pressure than a simple snaffle. However many inches the shank is, is the amount of pounds per pressure you put on. Snaffle = one pound of pressure per one pound of force. A 5" shanked hackamore = 5 pounds of pressure per one pound of force.

Your horse might also be build with a naturally higher headset, which is fine, you just need to be mindful of it. He might curl up like a Dressage horse instead of going low like a pleasure horse, but it will still get you the same muscles. Forcing a horse to put his head lower than a few degrees where he naturally holds it will create a bad look.

Think of when you're going around in a circle to make spirals. Push out with your inside leg, and work the inside rein, until he drops his head, lifts his inside, and makes the circle bigger. Then try to push him with the outside leg, keeping working the inside rein and keeping the outside rein firm, and see if he will step into the circle, making it smaller. If he braces against your rein, hold steady contact (not harder) and push the horse up. Always give a set amount of pressure, and then work from behind when the horse does not give to it. Then release.
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    04-24-2012, 05:25 PM
  #12
Foal
Thank you ! That really helps.

And about the low head set, I don't want him to carry his head low, im not into the whole western pleasure look. I want him to be comfortable. However the way he carries his head now definitely does not benefit him, I see no bulge at the base of his neck where I would see one if he was lifting and carrying through his shoulders. His head is always high, but instead of the arch im trying to achieve he holds his face up, more parallel to the floor, rather than just holding his head high and engaging from hind end to nose.

Am I too confusing ? Im trying to paint a good picture..
     
    04-24-2012, 06:04 PM
  #13
Super Moderator
I know what you are saying. He is coming above the bit. If someone put a bit in your mouth and pulled back and down, you would probably rock your head back (lift you chin) and resist this pull by tightening the muscle in the front of your neck, on either side of the esophogas. Try it.
That's what your horse is probably doing. Minus a video, this is my guess.

You have to get the horse to lower the whole neck, and break at the poll. But start with lowering the whole neck, and letting him reach forward with his nose. Eventually, you ask him to loosen the poll and "break" there. This will be helpful for him to learn how to raise the lower portion of his neck without "giraffing".

I wish I had some good pictures of this.
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    04-24-2012, 06:17 PM
  #14
Foal
I am trying to upload a video but I just can't get it, I will take pictures tomorrow and post them .
     
    04-26-2012, 05:00 PM
  #15
Weanling
I do have to agree with Tiny, that western riders do still want contact to some degree. We eventually move our finished horses to a curb, where they're riding with loose reins, but they started out ridden with contact in a snaffle.
Understand that, a well trained horse was started in a snaffle, and with pressure and release, learned to lift their back, and then their head followed their back.

I still, to this day, school my 15yo show horse, in a snaffle, on contact, every now and then just as a refresher on his self carriage.

What's your reason for the hackamore? I really don't think you will effectively achieve this without a bit.
To build a topline, you have to have a driving hind end, and that starts with some form of contact. As they become more self carried, the contact can go away.

So, if there's not a medical reason for him not to have a bit, I think you should start there. You've gotten a lot of great advice on some exercises, as well.

You don't need an english saddle to school "english" things. Exercises are exercises, doesn't matter the actual discipline. I always will be doing very dressage-y schooling on my pleasure horse, western saddle and all.
     
    05-01-2012, 10:51 AM
  #16
Weanling
A western horse is ridden up into the bridle. Just because a person isn't hanging onto their horse's face doesn't mean the horse isn't in the bridle.

It sounds like your horse is traveling hollow and has probably developed the underside of his neck rather than the muscles along the crest because he has carried himself incorrectly for a long time. He doesn't sound very broke through the body.

Why do you have him in a hackamore (I am assuming a mechanical hack)? Get his teeth checked and stick him in a snaffle or some sort of bit that you can ride him up into. Yes, you will need to hold onto his face at first but you should be driving him up from behind. You should be able to move his parts around individuallly at both the stand still and while in motion. You should be able to move his shoulders to the inside and the outside, and have the same control with his hips.

Your horse's conformation may also be limiting his ability to carry himself correctly.
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    05-01-2012, 02:04 PM
  #17
Foal
A bit may be needed but I started him on a hackamore because he is just a totally different horse, his head is much lower then it is in a bit (not low enough though) he doesnt give a pulling yank like he does every few minutes in a bit and he doesnt giraffe as much either, he backs better and stops faster also, he is much more calm, if that makes sense, he tends to speed up and slow down a bit more in a bit, I do not know why.

I will ride him in a snaffle every other day though, so perhaps as to help him link the two and use what he learns in the snaffle when he rides in a hackamore. Also to make the transition to using a bit, less drastic.

Here are some pictures, this was two days ago at a show (please don't comment on my horrible seat, it was our first show ever, both him and me, I was very nervous and he wasnt being the best either) the first picture is the worst I've ever seen him, he almost looks like a ewe neck and he is NOT at all. Like I have said he always carries his head high, even when I am not on him. But the combination of being in a bit only 4 days for the first time in months and also the new atmosphere at the show definitely makes a terrible combination.

Can someone please give me some very specific information on how I can help my horse ?

I don't want him to look "pretty" or anything, if it wasnt harming him to keep his head up , I wouldnt care at all. However I know if he does this much longer and doesnt learn how to carry himself, he will develop wrong and be like this for the rest of his life. I want to do anything I can to assist him in self carriage and benefit him in the long run.

thank you !
     
    05-01-2012, 06:51 PM
  #18
Super Moderator
Love,

First of all, your seat is NOT horrible at all and you are turned out really nicely. Once your horse gets more comfortable with his head down, you two will be a real eye catching pair.

Please don't feel hopeless about this. It is changeable, within his normal range of possible movement.

The very first thing to think about is to check and recheck the comfort concerns; teeth ok? Mouth ok? And saddle fit.

The saddle look a bit far forward in the photos, but it's very hard to judge saddel fit without clear photos, no rider, no pad. That might be a nice thing to do, if you havn'et already (I forget what you have already posted, my memory is terrible!)

If the mouth of the horse is ok, then mabe changing bits is another first line of action. If he's in a single jointed snaffle, consider a french link type. If his mouth is pretty small, consider a relatively thin mouthpiece. One of the Myler comfort snaffles might be a nice thing to try.


As for your riding, if you want to teach him to put his head down on "suggestion" (not on command, but on suggestion) you will want to learn how to really follow his mouth. This means when he raises his head, you must raise your hands , too, to maintain the straight line from elbow to bit. Also, he cannot get away from the bit by raising his head, but on the other hand, you don't try to pull him back down . I see some of that happening in the photos. The ends up putting a lot of pressure on the bars of the horse. Downward pressure. It feels unescapable to the hrose, so he just resists and braces.

If you follow him up with your hands, NOT releasing but not pulling harder , you will have a live, active contact with him . YOu can very slightly tickly his mouth with just a soft "milking" of your hands to ask him to "do something". He will either move higher, move left/right or lower his head. YOu do not give him relief until the choice he makes is "lower my head". Then, you instantly give rein and a good boy.

Work on this and pretty soon you can remind him that being up is not going to earn a release, but being down will.

If you lower your hands and try to pull him down, you will have a hard time feeling those tiny little places where he thinks about maybe lowering his head and there's a flash of looseness. You have to catch that flash of loosening and respond with a big releasse , 'yes, that's what I wanted". Hands lowered will make you blind/deaf to those places. If you miss his tiny "tries" too many times, he will stop trying and will become set in the mental space of blanket resistance without thinking about trying again.

Do all of this at the walk. Don't eve try trot until you have some success at walk. Ok?
     
    05-01-2012, 11:13 PM
  #19
Foal
Thank you so much :) the way you say things makes me feel alot better about this. I will post pictures on this thread tomorrow with that saddle, I do not ride in it much, I normally use a western saddle, ill take pictures with that too (the sweat pattern from both saddles is perfectly even, that's all I know how to look for)

Other then that I will switch up the bit for a few rides and once I find one that works well for him and I, I will then start with what you said to do about holding and releasing as a reward.

I usually wouldnt use a bit, I just had too use one becuase I didnt have an english hackamore. And if I knew how to do all of this without a bit, I definitely would much rather that. Because he is already 30% of the way there when ridden in a hackamore....but whatever works. Ill try anything. Thank you :) pix to come...

Heres a picture of the hackamore I use, just incase its important.
     
    05-01-2012, 11:50 PM
  #20
Showing
Love it is so possible!!!
Here is some encouragement

Before:
http://a2.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphot..._3120141_n.jpg

After:
http://a7.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphot...30705686_n.jpg

And it's better now now (no pics.) It can happen. Just give it some time. Work on what tinyliny advised :)
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