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So I know a topline develops from the horse stretching long and low. Many saddle seat horses I know have an excellent topline even though they hold their heads high. Is it possible to develop a topline like that? And if so what are some exercises I can do on my Saddlebred?
*no hate against saddleseat please, I am going to love my discipline no matter what you say*
Thanks :cowboy:
 

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I have found that different breeds have a different headset that they are comfortable with. My Paint can easily do long and low- but if you wanted a dressage headset she would have great difficulty achieving it. So don't get discouraged if your horse doesn't do long and low.

Practice hills and raised cavelleti poles.
 

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I've found that getting a horse to extend their stride and really step under themselves, move with impulsion, doing controlled and smooth downward transitions, and hill work (ride up and down hills) to be far more effective at building topline than 'long and low'. And that's coming from someone who practices dressage.

As far as the way the topline looks, some breeds actually just have tendency to keep more fat on their topline, so they look better than others even when not in work. My mom's QH could get no work at all for months and still look muscular in her topline. My horse (a mustang cross that has a saddlebred or TWH type look to her) requires hard work to keep that topline looking muscular and filled out. Even then, she won't have the topline of a QH. Basically part of it is where their individual physique has a tendency to store fat.
 

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As far as the way the topline looks, some breeds actually just have tendency to keep more fat on their topline, so they look better than others even when not in work. My mom's QH could get no work at all for months and still look muscular in her topline. My horse (a mustang cross that has a saddlebred or TWH type look to her) requires hard work to keep that topline looking muscular and filled out. Even then, she won't have the topline of a QH. Basically part of it is where their individual physique has a tendency to store fat.
I agree with this. I think it's all about keeping a decent amount of weight on the horse (doesn't have to be overweight, but definitely not thin). I have had a handful of nice trail horses over the years, Arabians, Mustang, Paint, Fox Trotters, and all have had great top lines with no arena work or dressage whatsoever! Just trail riding.

I feed a lot of high quality hay (alfalfa mostly because that's what is grown here) and ride them a fair amount. But even my retired mounts have had a good top line. I think making sure they have enough calories and quality protein helps. But some breeds may never had the top line of a Quarter Horse just because of how they are built.
 

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I also think that establishing a nice topline has less to do with going "long and low" and more to do with getting a horse to really engage its body (be that through hillwork, collection, ground poles, etc etc), which can happen at (almost!) any headset.
 

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Re. those who have already said this - It is about the horse correctly engaging his body and as they say - working through the back with his head in position that's natural for his breed.
That 'natural' rules out headsets and neck carriages that are 'false' - there because the rider/trainer has used some form of artificial aids to develop muscle memory.
The 'long and low' is very applicable to dressage horses that are being worked in high levels of collection and there's a growing emphasis now on spending a good part of your schooling session allowing the horse to stretch itself and using hacking on a normal rein as part of your fitness/conditioning routine if you can.


Saddleseat horses are shown with a very high neck set that usually goes well above what would be normal for them and that high neck can result in a hollowed out back and that will affect the muscle memory and topline appearance but that horse is only in that outline for the duration of the time its in the show ring and the time its being worked like it.
There's no reason why you can't work your horse in a 'normal' outline for a good part of the schooling and exercising time and incorporate some long and low sessions into it
 
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