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When I ride bareback, should I be able to tell when my horse is carrying me correctly - with muscles?
When we stop he will somehow 'relax' - it feels as if I'm sitting directly on his spine then and when we walk I don't feel his spine.
 

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It can be tricky, as you need to be sensitive to what you are feeling. With my horse, I can feel his top line muscles working underneath me when I am bareback, but then again I am focusing on building those up.

From what you described, I would suggest you do the same, especially if you can feel his spine when he stops. Building their top line will smooth out the area around their spine and shoulders, and give them the proper muscles to carry themselves and collect correctly. It really all around smooths the horse and even can make their gates improve through correct carriage. Mine has already smoothed out now that he has the muscles to move well.

So the answer is yes, you can feel the muscles working. But knowing if they are moving and working correctly takes a little practice.
 

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Definitely! You can also feel their shoulders open and close which always amazes me. They're so strong, yet so graceful (at least we hope :p!)

I don't know about you but when my horse cocks his hind foot into rest position, that I'm going to slide right off!
 

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Well an indicator would be that his neck is down and relaxed and his neck muscles are pumping because the neck is an extension of the spine, so if it's working, then all of the back muscles are slowly working too. You can feel him stepping under himself in the hinds and generally more push in the hindquarters. Sometimes I feel when I give my horse a loose rein, he relaxes and his back drops (at the end of a ride) and he kind of stretches along the side of a rail, where before he was more "boxed in" and in his frame.
A way to check is that when you put your legs on the horse (to ask for more) and then you add in a carefully timed half halt (I usually do it with one rein and it's opposite the inside leg) if he's using his back, he won't speed up and fall apart, he'll keep his "frame" and you'll feel more push from behind. At least that's what I've come to know as "working his back."

Here's some more tips: http://www.horseforum.com/english-riding/how-tell-if-horse-working-behind-74645/

Also it helps to try and feel every difference before and after a ride because the more you condition yourself of the FEEL of a collected horse, the easier you recognize signs it's starting to come together.

And of course it helps to have a trainer who knows what they're doing help you understand the "signs" of collection.
 
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