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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Okay, so I bought a 4 year old dressage horse with WONDERFUL hind legs activity. I was riding him for a few months, but then I had to leave him with a trainer since I had to leave the country to study. He stayed with that trainer for over a year and I visited him in every school break I had. After the summer I took him to a stable close to me, but it didn't work out with the stable, so we had to send him back to my trainer. And with that trainer he really grew a lot of muscle, learned the different movements, developed a steady rhythm and good balance. However his hind legs seems to be no where near as active as they were before, and I'm worried he's losing a lot of the natural bounce in his gaits..

So my question is, is there anything I can do to get the hind legs to be active again? Do you think the quality of his gaits have been permanently damaged at all? What kind of exercises can I do to restore his big movements and powerful hind legs activity?

Thank you for any tip! I'm freaking out (like I have been for about two years now..)
 

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What kind of training is he in??? For dressage? In what kind of balance (flexion) is he being asked to move? What tempo? Are you saying he is stepping shorter or slower or both? (Any chance for a pix?)
 

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When I bought my three year old, his hind end was around his ears and his front legs did nothing.

Now as a well rounded 5yo he has a lovely gait, but the flinging hind end has gone.
(He is also no longer mine, but my trainers)

I find it unlikely, unless he wasn't active and forward moving under saddle, that he will have lost his natural movement in the hind.

The best way for anyone to evaluate is to get a video of him under saddle, then a video free schooling to make a decent comparrison of them both.
 

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Bare in mind also, that some of that extravagant young horse movement will reduce slightly in a lot of horses while they find their feet working towards collection. It is very hard for the horse to maintain those paces whilst developing the strength to carry behind. As a result the paces may shorten and hind legs may come a little slower. A good trainer will be able to ride a horse through this phase and encourage those big, active paces again once the horse is strong and balanced enough to maintain them.
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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
He is a dressage horse, yes. And I'm not sure what you mean by balance.. of course he's trained to move as balanced as possible, and he's generally easy to collect. He's ridden at different tempos, from slow and collected to quicker and longer steps. He's very reactive and a real rider-pleaser. And yes, he's stepping shorter, he'll go quicker or slower as he's asked to. I do not have a film available, but I'll show you two pictures of his canter (the picture taken outside is the newest picture).

View attachment 349825

View attachment 349833

I hope you guys are right, and that he'll get as active when he's a bit stronger. I might just be overly nervous because I've never had such a young horse before and I'm terrified of ruining him even though I have complete trust in my trainer. The man I bought him from had several horses moving beautifully with their hind legs, they were older though.

Thank you so much for the replies! I really appreciate it :)
 

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Lovely horse, but look at the second pix...the hind leg will land after its diagonal pair. Why? Because he is too compassed in the outline, rather than taking hh and being more folded in the hind leg and still out to the hand, he has compressed his neck.. Some viewers will say, well he is uphill, but it is not, it is climbing up in the air, and with no where to go the foreleg comes down first. What happens in this outline when it is trotting, the horse will not step through from behind correctly, but more so the forelegs will appear to strut and the hind legs will be shorter and push the horse.

A horse should have the SAME tempo throughout a gait (perhaps extended trot is a smidge slower because there is longer/flatter strides with more airtime). If a horse is ridden in different tempos, it will take the same stride lengths. So we will see the typical gp kind of extensions (with little o.s. instead of feet+++). Collection is not slower, it has more amplitude (stepping higher and shorter w/o slowing).
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you! :) And yes you could be right about the climbing.. However I've never had a problem with his canter being four beat, no matter how it looks in the picture.. Also his front legs never really strut, it's always the hind legs that are noticed for being so active and for having such great overtrack in all the gaits. My trainer and I have worked more on getting him to lift his front legs really.

And if you mean tempo as in how quickly it takes to go from one side of the arena to the other, then I'm not sure I understand.. His extended canter is much faster than his collected canter, and he does indeed lengthen his stride, as well as we're moving covering more ground more quickly.. Maybe I'm misunderstanding something though..
 

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It is four beat, but not in the traditional sense because the hind leg lands after the foreleg rather than before it. It prevents proper collection, the 'neck gives'/compresses rather than the hind legs. It is easy to push a young horse beyond what should be asked. In order for the forehand to lift the hind legs must not go further under per se, but rather fold the hind legs more effectively. That makes the horse up/open/a little longer. Over track shows freedom in the stride in one way, but it can cause a horse to become wider behind if the forehand does not have room.

Tempo is the rate of repetition of the stride, not the speed you move through space (longer strides cover more ground than collected ones so there are more mph). It should be like a clock. The tempo within each gait (whether collected/med/extended) should be roughy the same. No fast and slow. Purity of gaits IS the base of the training pyramid, but it also needs absolutely the same tempo for the horse to relax the back.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Ahh now I understand what you mean with the tempo, and yes, I agree absolutely. Please forgive me, English is not my first language.

Isn't it traditionally the hind leg landing after the front leg that is the traditional four beat? At least that's what I always see in the riding schools. The other way around I really only seen in extended canter, and then it's not considered a problem. But no, he's never been four beat, one way or another.. Maybe this picture is deceiving somehow, or it was an unlucky shot, but I think my trainers and dressage judges would have noticed if his canter wasn't three beat.. Especially in the young horse classes.

I can see what you're saying, but it doesn't really add up as he's complimented for his over track and moving so narrowly with his hind legs. And I don't know whether he was pushed when he was younger, though I doubt it. He's owners were very gentle with him focusing on him being young and not pushing/collecting him too much, they also let him go forward a lot, to let him move naturally through his whole body. And so we continued that when I got him, and when he turned 6 we got more into the process of collection. We let him get time as he was growing a lot even at 6 years old.

It's true that it is easy for him to just give in with his neck, as he's very smooth and gentle in the mouth, so we warm up with letting him stretch his neck down and let the muscles in his back up, which is something they did in his previous home too. This is really effective, and when he lowers his back, it's usually because his tired, but he comes right back when asked by lowering his neck for a few rounds and going forward.
 

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In the picture taken outside, it is very clear that the canter is not "pure". That outside fore is planted completely - it is not in the air, it is on the ground. The inside hind is still in the air. For the canter to be pure, they need to be landing together, not at different times. The same goes for the picture taken inside, it is just easier to see in the outside picture that the fore is planted due to the shadows.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
It may appear that way in such a small version of the picture, but zooming in on his feet in the bigger version, it's clear that his foot has no touched the ground yet, as the sand covers a lot of the hoof on the hind leg that's actually on the ground. You can see the entire hoof (with no sand) on the front leg indicating that it has not landed yet, also you can see that the hoof appears round underneath, if it had landed it would appear straight. I will agree that there might be a possibility that the front leg lands slightly before the other one, even if I find it highly unlikely as it has never ever been commented by anyone who's ever seen him move, and as it is not possible to feel it sitting on him.

But if the problem is that his hind legs are too fast, what do I do?
 

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Traditional four beat is one hind leg, the other (broken diagonal), the foreleg,the other foreleg. The foreleg of the diagonal landing first is something that was NOT seen before because the horses were not ridden in a compressed outline until about the last 20-30 years. The picture is NOT deceiving, it is what is often seen in young fei horse classes, it 'wins' because it is said to be hh. (Times have changed from when I was younger, this would be given a lowered score because of the compressed outline...but it wins in a materiale class).

Chewing the reins from the hand, forward/down/out, is a TEST of correct balance/bearing. If the horse does not open the throat latch, then there would be a problem.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
I will let you believe whatever you wish about the pictures. I thought you were talking about the typical four beat that you see in a horse that is not going enough forward with enough energy, typically seen in riding school horses and ponies. But if you mean the one usually seen in dressage horses I understand.

If you're talking about überstreichen, then that's not something he has an issue with either.. He doesn't pull on the rein and stays uphill and balanced. To be honest I feel a bit attacked here, considering you have not even seen a video of my horse. But if you feel like actually telling me something I could do to improve whatever you feel I'm doing wrong, I would really appreciate that.. I only wish the best for my horse, and if I have done anything wrong to him, I would like to know what I can do. That was my concern when I started this thread in the first place..
 

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You are in excellent company, the top FEI young horse classes are won with this same canter reactions. That said, you asked about the hind legs, " his hind legs seems to be no where near as active as they were before, and I'm worried he's losing a lot of the natural bounce in his gaits." and I am giving you my take on it on why (given the pix you showed us). The remedy used for the horse coming the young horse classes is speeding the tempo, and this, for me, goes against traditional training.

And for what it is worth, medium level horses (learning to compress their hind leg joints more) might seem less active since they are up/open yet producing amplitude (thrust upward). They cannot yet sustain it. It is repeat, take a break. i.e. shoulder in a few strides, medium on a circle. Walk break, repeat. Lateral work on a circle, medium. Collect/energy/thrust/reward/repeat.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I see what you mean, thank you for your input. It does make a lot of sense, so I appreciate it.

If it is that he is not strong enough yet, should we just keep going like before? It's pretty clear you feel like he's been trained wrong somehow, so I would like to know if you have any ideas or tips for what could help with the four beat. Anything I could keep in mind or try? I have never noticed it before as it's not really noticeable on a video or when watching him under another rider, but on some of the pictures it could definitely look like his hind leg is landing before the front.
 

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Horses are strong enough to go correctly, they are just not able to sustain it. Hence, walk breaks. What can change the purity? Keeping the horse longer, always watching the tempo. I like that he IS open however. From his age, lots of lateral work (esp on circles). Sort bursts/active/up/open, then a partial circle of following the hand (even a little just a smidge of fdo). What is his lateral work like? Voltes? W/c? Changes yet? Work in hand (i.e. the basis for piaffe)?
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Okay, I will try to keep that in mind :)

He does really well shoulder in and has learned the halfpass in trot, however he's still not that strong in those yet, so he can't always keep the rhythm and flow. He can be a bit tricky in voltes, so it's important to watch out that he's collected enough and keep an eye on his outside shoulder, but they're really nice when I do it right as he has nice flow. He does transition from walk to canter, but not that smoothly. Back to walk from canter he does well as long as he's collected enough. He does the changes, and is very willing. We have worked him a bit in hand, but not a lot. He's been very good so far though. He always tries his best, but everything is a bit easier for him on the left hand :)
 
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