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Mozart
Dec. 10, 2007, 03:27 PM
What do you folks think? Born or made?
And, as a corollary question, if you have a back mover, what must you do (or not do) to maintain it?
And as a further corollary, if the horse is not so blessed, can you do something to develop it?

Opinions?

Dressage Art
Dec. 10, 2007, 03:41 PM
Loaded question, but it’s good that you are thinking in this direction. Any judge or breeder will tell you that a “back mover” is they key to success.

My opinion, that most of the back movers are naturally bred. Yes, you can definitely improve the leg mover to have more swing in the back and with collection and proper training the gaits will become more elastic and fluid.

However, most people look at the back movers tearing it out in the turn out and think :” I just want to reproduce THAT under the saddle” On contrary, with the leg mover, there is nothing to reproduce under the saddle. Even in free turn out leg moves move with a stiff backs and choppy gaits - then add a rider to that and it’ll usually even more choppier. From nothing, comes nothing ;)

It also doesn't matter what breed the horse is - natural swing in the back is similar to people who have natural talent for gymnastics or dancing. They just move with a born groove :lol: Others have to take years and years of lessons to just get where talented people started.

~ signed
a rider with a natural leg mover. My next horse will be a natural born back mover ;)

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 10, 2007, 03:45 PM
Born.

It has to do with conformation, but not just conformation. No matter how hard I try, I could never do the ballet move known as a "split." Horses are the same way, they do not all have the same amount of natural flexibility, balance, and coordination.

The best equine athletes today, are not just back movers either. They are back movers that are also pretty amazing leg movers as well. Things like diagonal advanced placement (DAP) and ambidexterity are also genetic and cannot be trained in.

merrygoround
Dec. 10, 2007, 03:49 PM
I think back movers are bred, and maintaining and improving that ability is what good dressage is all about. Encouraging free forward movement and strengthening and elasticising the horse before even thinking about "collection".

Leg movers can be improved but will never have that wonderful swing and soft floaty carrying power.

QHLisa
Dec. 10, 2007, 03:57 PM
Could you explain....
What is a "back mover?"
I've never heard that term used before...

Robyn
Dec. 10, 2007, 04:20 PM
I've heard and read about back movers versus leg movers, but a video SHOWING the difference would be much appreciated :)

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 10, 2007, 04:28 PM
I've heard and read about back movers versus leg movers, but a video SHOWING the difference would be much appreciated :)

It is mostly a "feel" thing. Although you can usually identify a leg mover. The leg mover flings his front legs around extravagantly, sometimes flipping his toes up in the air with a big reach of stride and lots of articulation of the joints. But these horses are often not using their hindquarters at all or their hindquarters are trailing out behind them. They may have quite a lot of suspension in the trot but it is caused by a horizontal stretching of the frame, not by collection. They often hollow their backs, but they just do not engage their back muscles even if they are not hollow. Since they are not moving through and over their backs, it is very easy for a leg mover's gaits to become impure (lateral or not the right sequence or number of beats) when they are collected.

A back mover is simply the opposite. The back and the abdominal muscles are engaged and lifted. The reach, articulation and elevation of the back legs matches the front legs and they move the same way. The horse steps well underneath himself with his hind legs and rounds his back under the rider. Hard to see, but you can definitely feel it.

fannie mae
Dec. 10, 2007, 04:46 PM
the ultimate abillity of a horse making use of his back is set by genetic features.
the maximum extension you enable it to make use if his back within its genetically given limits is set by training.

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 10, 2007, 04:49 PM
the ultimate abillity of a horse making use of his back is set by genetic features.
the maximum extension you enable it to make use if his back within its genetically given limits is set by training.

Very well put, Fannie Mae.

Equibrit
Dec. 10, 2007, 05:00 PM
Back mover - courtesy of his sire!
http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2600075882032810362&q=rambo+danish+warmblood&total=2&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

grayarabpony
Dec. 10, 2007, 05:13 PM
Short of injury I think almost any decently athletic horse can be ridden so that he uses his back. In fact I thought that's what dressage training was all about.

Equibrit
Dec. 10, 2007, 05:41 PM
Indeed an athletic horse can be taught to use his back, but he will not do it in the same way as a "back mover".

Woodland
Dec. 10, 2007, 05:52 PM
I never post here-just lurk :) But this is a subject near and dear to my heart. Back movers are born to it! Its breeding like to like to produce the best. It's an inherited suspension that cannot be man made.

However have improved movement using caveletti at a trot on the lunge line. I am not a fan of rolkur or trapping down as this is a pure movement from the "motor". However i have used a "xando pull" to help develop the back muscles on the lunge over the cavaletti.

Important to develop slowly and methodically to prevent over use injury and promote a willing attitude.

I have an INCREDIBLE "back mover" here in my stables. Sadly he has a permanent back injury from over use in the rolkur prior to my ownership. But a shear joy to watch him move at liberty!!!! One day with a great dealof work I MAY be able to ride him!

Leena
Dec. 10, 2007, 06:34 PM
I bought once a filly who I thought was an incredible back mover. I was right ! I raise, start her as usual but the feeling on her was terrible !

I am sure everything is easier with such horses.

Dressage Art
Dec. 10, 2007, 07:10 PM
I've heard and read about back movers versus leg movers, but a video SHOWING the difference would be much appreciated :)There are variations of severity of the leg movers. But all of them simply do not use their backs when they move. They "lock" their backs and tense their back muscles. If you can closely watch only their backs, their backs don't move up/down with every step. It's only their whole body that quite stiffly moves up/down with the locked back.

Oh-ah, I guess for educational purposes, I can post some old videos of my mare. She is a leg mover. She is not a back mover at all. She has an amazingly stiff back:
1. My leg mover when I bought her, ridden by her previous owner: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=2440656980930042007
2. My leg mover 2 years latter with me: http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3593823054633666750

Look at the stiffness of her back that goes directly to the stiffness of her legs and when leg lands on the ground, there is no buoyancy, no springing feeling - it looks like a horse is almost hammering her legs in to the ground. Instead of picking her legs up, then forward, then down - she picks her legs and brings then down right away. Even she got better with dressage training, you still can see that she is NOT a back mover.

You need this extra swing in the back to have this extra air time and expressive gaits.

grayarabpony
Dec. 10, 2007, 07:23 PM
I see not a "leg mover" but a horse that's not through her back.

Dressage Art
Dec. 10, 2007, 07:28 PM
I see not a "leg mover" but a horse that's not through her back.
Well that horse in not thru her back even when she is running in the tunt out. That IS the point: she doesn't use her back. She never used her back. She was born with not using her back. She is NOT a back mover (even with out a rider)

Caecilius
Dec. 10, 2007, 07:30 PM
Thank you Dressage Art - when the back muscles are "tensed and locked" they are "on" (contracted). A good "back mover" relaxes the back muscles (and uses more of the psoas and abdominal muscles, closing the hip angle). It amazes me how many times people want to "develop" and "build up" the back muscles when in reality it is usually the opposite - back muscles need to be relaxed - the muscles need to "turn off" for "the ring of muscles" to operate in concert. A great resource is the article "true collection" available at www.equinestudies.org that depicts the ring of muscles and back function. As Dr. Bennett is noted for saying (and many other great horsemen) "axial body (the back) governs limb dynamics."

Understanding the biomechanics, not confusing relaxation and contraction of muscles, and applying this to training can improve any horse regardless of conformation. Obviously, the conformation/bone structure of the horse has something to do with the relative ability to "back move" - but all horses can and should "back move" when educated to use their backs/ring of muscles correctly.

Daydream Believer
Dec. 10, 2007, 08:21 PM
Understanding the biomechanics, not confusing relaxation and contraction of muscles, and applying this to training can improve any horse regardless of conformation. Obviously, the conformation/bone structure of the horse has something to do with the relative ability to "back move" - but all horses can and should "back move" when educated to use their backs/ring of muscles correctly.

Thank you and my feelings also. Any horse depending on how it is trained and ridden can be a back or a leg mover. Certainly some find it easier than others but you can take the most talented horse and make a hollow back leg mover out of it.

EqTrainer
Dec. 10, 2007, 09:47 PM
The natural elasticity of a back mover is such a joy to watch at liberty and to train undersaddle. I am glad to hear this being discussed; because I think the understanding of this is being lost. Certainly I have to suspect that, when the back movers are harder to sell than the leg movers :no:

Kcisawesome
Dec. 10, 2007, 10:07 PM
hmm, I'm a bit confused. My mare used to be very tense and tight in her back. She would take tiny, choppy "sewing machine" strides and was very "up and down" with her hind legs but kind of plain with her front legs.

With 2 years of work she now tracks up very nicley, has nice gaits and her back certainly is relaxed and swings very well.

so where would she fall? She is definatly not a natural "back mover" as he moves like above when she is turned out. But it comes quite easily under saddle now.

grayarabpony
Dec. 10, 2007, 10:33 PM
It means your riding has improved your mare's movement, which is what dressage is supposed to do. :yes:

Two most striking examples in my mind were two QH's I knew that moved like old-timey QH's -- flat, not much swing or reach. Once they were started into dressage their movement changed dramatically. I swear their stride length doubled and their movement really flowed. Lovely to see.

Dressage Art
Dec. 10, 2007, 10:43 PM
Choppy, not tracking up gaits can be also produced by a natural "back mover" with incorrect, hollow training or simply not enough training. You really need to look at the back, not legs. From what I saw on your short video, your horse's back looks pliable and does move up and down in a springy manner.

"Leg movers" also can truck up and produce quite fancy gaits, but their back is still stiff and not moving. You really need to look at the back to see if it’s moving or locked. It’s much easier to look at the legs and concentrate most of the attention on them – may be that’s the reason why it’s easier to sell a fancy leg mover than a not yet developed back mover?

We need more various videos of "back moves" and "leg movers" It’s not a black and white subject, but rather has many shades of gray of "leg movers" and "back movers". What’s interesting personally to me, that ANY horse breed has “back movers” and “leg movers”.

lstevenson
Dec. 11, 2007, 12:23 AM
Horses are born to be naturally a back or leg mover, but natural leg movers can be changed/improved somewhat with good training.

My last OTTB was very much a leg mover. Even loose in the field, he would shuffle along holding his back still. Many years of training later, he now moves significantly more through his back when running free, even though he has little muscle because he is now retired. Correct dressage training 'taught' him how to use his body better. And when he was in work, he went from being super smooth to sit (because there was no back movement), to having plenty of movement to sit after the first couple of years of training.

Carol Ames
Dec. 11, 2007, 12:28 AM
Born,hough they can be discouraged by bad :cry:riding, lso encouraged by goodr :yes:iding, and saddle fit!

pony grandma
Dec. 11, 2007, 12:40 AM
It is mostly a "feel" thing. Although you can usually identify a leg mover. The leg mover flings his front legs around extravagantly, sometimes flipping his toes up in the air with a big reach of stride and lots of articulation of the joints. But these horses are often not using their hindquarters at all or their hindquarters are trailing out behind them. They may have quite a lot of suspension in the trot but it is caused by a horizontal stretching of the frame, not by collection. They often hollow their backs, but they just do not engage their back muscles even if they are not hollow. Since they are not moving through and over their backs, it is very easy for a leg mover's gaits to become impure (lateral or not the right sequence or number of beats) when they are collected.

A back mover is simply the opposite. The back and the abdominal muscles are engaged and lifted. The reach, articulation and elevation of the back legs matches the front legs and they move the same way. The horse steps well underneath himself with his hind legs and rounds his back under the rider. Hard to see, but you can definitely feel it.

Or - as I've asked people, to help them learn to 'see' and develop an eye -- when you are watching a horse move (especially free lunged) where does your eye want to go? Are you looking at his feet or is your eye immediately drawn to his topline??? Kind of like when you KNOW that a band has a really good drummer or lead guitar!

egontoast
Dec. 11, 2007, 09:31 AM
I think the answer is "both".

You can have a fabulous back mover but for the first few months under saddle the horse may appear to be a leg mover because he is holding in his back, weak , tense or not through. That's normal for some. A good trainer can tease this out so eventually the back mover comes out again.

On the other hand you can have a young horse who is awkward and weak and appears to be a leg mover until he is 'shown' how to use himself and conditioned to use himself better. Of course, unfortunately, wrong or unskilled training can also easily turn a back mover into a leg mover.

So , some born, some made, some both, some not born and can't be made.:)

There was an interesting article in Dressage Today one or two years ago about this topic. It was a letter from a trainer to a student (written many years ago) and addressed the issue of training your horse to be a back mover. I'll see if I can find it.

rebecca yount
Dec. 11, 2007, 09:45 AM
Here's a baby (3 yo) back mover, not very long under saddle. If you scroll a bit down the page you can click to see a video.

http://www.littlebitfarminc.com/id47.html

mbamissaz
Dec. 11, 2007, 09:57 AM
Here's a baby (3 yo) back mover, not very long under saddle. If you scroll a bit down the page you can click to see a video.

http://www.littlebitfarminc.com/id47.html

Wow Rebecca, what a cutie pie!

cicily
Dec. 11, 2007, 10:05 AM
It's not a matter of either/or. Certainly genetics plays a role in impulsion, elastisicity, and stride length, but an average mover can become a good mover if trained correctly.

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 11, 2007, 10:09 AM
It's not a matter of either/or. Certainly genetics plays a role in impulsion, elastisicity, and stride length, but an average mover can become a good mover if trained correctly.

Average to good--hmmmm, maybe. But not average to fabulous or even good to fabulous. That's what is commanding the 100,000 euros and up at the auctions---FABULOUS. :yes:

grayarabpony
Dec. 11, 2007, 10:15 AM
There's no maybe about it.

Snort -- there are many "FABULOUS" movers who are leg movers. In fact when I read this my first thought was -- many of those expensive warmbloods are leg movers. Farbenfroh comes to mind -- he'd throw those front legs around while moving his hind legs half as much.

Leena
Dec. 11, 2007, 10:18 AM
One image I have when comparing leg movers is a duck; on the surface nothing move while little legs are moving in the water.

Also a back mover legs movement tend to improve as training goes while the legs mover will shorten his stride as his back won't be capable of.

Here is I think a nice stong back movement you may see in a foal:

http://i63.photobucket.com/albums/h148/Leena_photos/Photo009-1.jpg

Her mare is a fabulous back mover.

egontoast
Dec. 11, 2007, 11:01 AM
there are many "FABULOUS" movers who are leg movers. In fact when I read this my first thought was -- many of those expensive warmbloods are leg movers. Farbenfroh comes to mind -- he'd throw those front legs around while moving his hind legs half as much.

The fact that a horse appears to have more or flashier movement in front than behind at times does not mean it must therefore be a 'leg mover'. I think that is the wrong interpretation of 'leg mover'. If the horse employs his whole body, rippling through the back, it's a back mover even if it has a very free shoulder and even if sometimes the front end is flashier than the hind end. A leg mover is often a very flat earthbound mover .

Farbenfroh did not appear to be a leg mover (JMO).

http://www.dressageunltd.com/tribute/2004/1220farbenfroh.htm

editing to add--To the OP, an article called Train Your Horse to be a Back Mover and it was printed in the March 2007 issue of DT. It was from a book by Helene von Rheiffen (1907!) translated by Abelshause. others may have a broader definition but here is the definition of leg mover from that article:

" 'Leg movers', Holleufer continues 'move without using their spines. Their movements are hard or tense. They do not have a ground-covering stride but move in either a rushed or too lazy manner. These horses ruin not only their own legs but also their riders. They are either behind the bit or they lean on the bit with a dead mouth and are not reliably obedient."

retrofit
Dec. 11, 2007, 11:10 AM
He was sooo gorgeous. Wish I could have seen him in person.
(Sorry, off topic.)

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 11, 2007, 11:15 AM
The fact that a horse appears to have more or flashier movement in front than behind at times does not mean it must therefore be a 'leg mover'. I think that is the wrong interpretation of 'leg mover'. If the horse employs his whole body, rippling through the back, it's a back mover even if it has a very free shoulder and even if sometimes the front end is flashier than the hind end. A leg mover is often a very flat earthbound mover .

Farbenfroh did not appear to be a leg mover (JMO).

http://www.dressageunltd.com/tribute/2004/1220farbenfroh.htm

I agree. I think, as I said above, that the super horses use their backs AND have extravagant leg movement.

These terms (leg mover versus back mover) are not technical terms for which there is a well established definition. They are just descriptive terms that people use. I think that they came about to explain to people why a certain horse, although he looks like a flashy mover, may not be as good as what the uneducated observer may think. I don't think that horses are necessarily one or the other. Sometimes it is a matter of degree. And although the terms may be mutally exclusive in the sense that a horse either uses its back well or it does not, other characteristics are not mutually exclusive regarding whether the horse has a lot of extravagant leg movement. Note that the back mover is not apt to move disjointedly, however, unless ruined by bad training or unsoundness.

Don't forget while discussing back movers and leg movers that there are also mostly just plain below average movers, and downhill movers etc. This is usually due to unsuitable conformation or unsoundness and it doesn't matter whether they use their backs or not.

grayarabpony
Dec. 11, 2007, 11:22 AM
There is a lack of engagement if there is less movement behind than in front. Frankly I was puzzled by all of the buzz over Farbenfroh. Often he did not appear to move back to front to me.

egontoast
Dec. 11, 2007, 12:11 PM
Farbenfroh had knee action but he had plenty of engagement from behind and tons of talent and expression . One in a million (again, just my opinion , of course). :)

Dressage Art
Dec. 11, 2007, 12:40 PM
These terms (leg mover versus back mover) are not technical terms for which there is a well established definition. They are just descriptive terms that people use.

While I agree with most of your post, that part may be a little off. In the USEF Dressage Tests the very first thing that is being judged IS the "suppleness of the back" in the Training Tests. Supple back is a MAJOR requirement of the dressage training basics as well. This is the very first thing that judges are taught to look at. Thus, I do think that there is an established definition about the back mover. It's a difficult concept and some people do mix it with reach, articulation of legs, length of the strides or back to front connection, throughness. (and no Farbenfroh wasn't a leg mover)

I like the duck comparison - you really do need to look at the back, not at the legs when trying to see if the horse is a back mover and if the horse uses his back to his full potential. Those things can be easily mixed, so even in the dressage tests, judges are suppose to look at the current moment in time and take what is affront of them as "developed gaits". That does 2 things:
*First, it rewards the horses that are ridden and trained correctly using their supple, swinging back. Also it rewards the horses that are natural born back movers
*Second, it punishes horses that are not correctly ridden and locked in their backs. Also it punishes natural born leg movers who don't even use their backs when free in the pasture.

There can be several combinations:
*natural back mover with correct training
*natural back mover with incorrect training
*natural back mover whose back is temporarily locked at the moment b/c of spook for example, or extra energy boiling over or an unbalanced rider.
*natural leg mover with correct training
*natural leg mover with incorrect training
*natural leg mover whose back is temporarily frozen at the moment b/c of spook for example, or extra energy boiling over or an unbalanced rider.

Plus all of those have degrees of severity. The understanding WHY the back is locked, give a judge a chance to give appropriate collective marks and further remarks. It does take a time to make the difference between the finer points of "frozen back to supple back palette".

I see the same people complaining that dressage tests are too much about the gaits and that their average or off breed horses will never be able to score high, b/c they don't have the natural born gaits as good as some WB. Yet, the same people can not see that the suppleness of the back is a MAJOR part of the natural born gaits. It IS the basics, the fundamental part of the horse’s natural gaits.

Yes, with correct training, patience and time, all horses will benefit from dressage training and all horses will develop better gaits. BUT, you can't take a supper jarring sitting trot and make it to sit as easy as a carousel horse - not matter what kind of training and for how long. Horses are athletes; all athletes can improve what God gave them. Yes, the 6 mover can become a 7 mover with the supple back. But can a natural born 6 mover become an 8 or 9 or 10 mover with correct training? Very rarely.

Mozart
Dec. 11, 2007, 12:48 PM
I like the duck comparison too. When I took my mare to a breeding inspection the inspector commented to the spectators that she was a good example of a "back mover". It was the first time I heard that term and I'm thinking to myself "gee I hope that's good..."

The inspector encouraged the spectators to watch her back muscles move as she went around the triangle

Thanks egontoast for looking that up for me, I will try to find that article.

grayarabpony
Dec. 11, 2007, 01:17 PM
Not to pick a fight, really :) --- I have seen horses that sometimes moved a 5 and sometimes a 9 -- mostly depended on the amount of tension. This is very common in hot horses.

Dressage Art
Dec. 11, 2007, 01:41 PM
I actually agree with you on this one and did mention this scenario in my earlier post:

*natural back mover whose back is temporarily locked at the moment b/c of spook for example, or extra energy boiling over or an unbalanced rider.

Lemon Zest
Dec. 11, 2007, 01:51 PM
Not to pick a fight, really :) --- I have seen horses that sometimes moved a 5 and sometimes a 9 -- mostly depended on the amount of tension. This is very common in hot horses.

I think this is most common in back movers. Many natural leg movers I've seen can maintain their movement regardless of balance or carriage because they don't use much of their body to begin with. Back movers, because they do move with their entire body, more obviously project tension, rider error, etc.

The duck analogy was absolutely fabulous.

I also agree with the person who stated that many "fabulous" high-$$$ movers are leg movers. But I also think they're more prevalent among lower level ammies who can't look past the "wow" factor of their extravagant movement. Horses do change their way of going as a result of training. Unfortunately, what I've noticed is that the "wow" factor in fancy leg swingers diminishes considerably when the horse does begin to supple.

Valentina_32926
Dec. 11, 2007, 01:56 PM
Bred - hence why I like jumping bloodlines in my dressage horses - they tend to really use their hind end. :D

Mozart
Dec. 11, 2007, 02:09 PM
Bred - hence why I like jumping bloodlines in my dressage horses - they tend to really use their hind end. :D

I don't think you are alone in that. When I look at the bloodlines of the recent WEG , WC and Olympic horses (dressage) I find a heck of a lot of jumping blood.

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 11, 2007, 02:27 PM
I think this is most common in back movers. Many natural leg movers I've seen can maintain their movement regardless of balance or carriage because they don't use much of their body to begin with. Back movers, because they do move with their entire body, more obviously project tension, rider error, etc.

The duck analogy was absolutely fabulous.

I also agree with the person who stated that many "fabulous" high-$$$ movers are leg movers. But I also think they're more prevalent among lower level ammies who can't look past the "wow" factor of their extravagant movement. Horses do change their way of going as a result of training. Unfortunately, what I've noticed is that the "wow" factor in fancy leg swingers diminishes considerably when the horse does begin to supple.

I don't think that the high end horses are "leg movers" in the pejorative sense, in other words saying that they are NOT back movers. The horses that command the big bucks are back movers that also happen to have extravagant gaits. I wouldn't call them "leg movers" like a duck not moving the water around him as he paddles.

The "wow" factor with the young leg movers becomes a real detriment when the horse starts training in collection. That's when the impurities in the gaits seem to occur with leg movers (meaning horses that do not use their backs)--they can get all discombobulated very easily because they are disunited.

Lemon Zest
Dec. 11, 2007, 02:53 PM
I don't think that the high end horses are "leg movers" in the pejorative sense....

Please note I didn't say "all" or even "most". ;)

egontoast
Dec. 11, 2007, 03:37 PM
also agree with the person who stated that many "fabulous" high-$$$ movers are leg movers.


I disagree. As discussed above, I think this shows a misunderstanding of the term.

RhythmTempo
Dec. 11, 2007, 05:51 PM
Robyn wrote:


I've heard and read about back movers versus leg movers, but a video SHOWING the difference would be much appreciated

If I remember correctly (& it's been awhile since I've watched it) the video 'Selecting Your Dressage Horse' with Hilda Gurney had some video comparisions of a back mover vs. a leg mover.

Touchstone Farm
Dec. 11, 2007, 10:50 PM
Born...and UNmade!

While I do believe a horse's gaits can be improved, it's born with what it has and we can only shape or take away.

ESG
Dec. 11, 2007, 11:24 PM
Indeed an athletic horse can be taught to use his back, but he will not do it in the same way as a "back mover".

Agreed. Having owned some leg movers, some some somewhat-back movers, and some who can't get out of their own way, I now finally have a back mover. I can't take credit for it - he came that way. And I don't think that, short of beating his SI joint until it's sore, that I could stop him being that way. He's not a great leg mover, but hey, who cares! :lol:

Velvet
Dec. 12, 2007, 12:16 PM
It's a lot less work to ride a leg mover vs a horse that is free through the back. So, they are more in demand because people want something easier to sit, and the judges reward the flipping feet these days. (I have friends who wonder if we're moving toward a saddleseat type horse rather than a true dressage horse.) Whatever will happen will happen. Fashion and fads influence everything--even what is called "classical" dressage by most people. That was influenced by the time in which it was created/defined. Just as competitive dressage was once defined differently in the early 1900s.

Sorry, I digress. Horse are all born with a certain amount of natural ability, and many can learn to have more--or less. :)

millerra
Dec. 12, 2007, 01:07 PM
Interesting discussion - I will add my 2 cents about what I "know" - my own ponies.

I have one tighter than a drum, lots of suspension but bounce up/not across leg mover [some people think he is a "good mover" - me, not so much]. He holds himself stiff through his body. He is just a naturally tight horse, as demonstrated by himself at liberty. I have to work hard/consistently/every day to work on looseness and swing. I have to work hard to get over 60% on him (tense/stiff the primary "complaint" - yes judge, I KNOW). Why do I ride him - because he is a good jumper who is very good at getting us out of trouble because he is tight and quick.

I have another who was described (not by me) as having "elastic holding is joints together" and is relatively supple in his back. He is now a dressage horse. He rarely (if ever) gets the comment about tenseness. I changed his career because he just couldn't figure out how to be quick and sharp jumping. He couldn't handle the fast thinking footwork required for eventing above training level.

Interestingly, for me, the back mover is easier to sit because he gives me a spot to sit. The leg mover is like riding a bouncing steel ball (ACK!) until he relaxes and starts to swing.

That's my definition of a leg mover vs a back mover - based on my own ponies and how they feel. And, yes, I do know there are some fantastic back movers who are excellent jumpers...

Velvet
Dec. 12, 2007, 01:26 PM
Leg movers need to be soft in the back, but they don't have the same amont of motion that goes through the back. I consider a back mover one who has a LOT of movement in the back. It's just how they move. Posting the trot is easy because they are like an ejection seat, but sitting takes a lot more effort because you have a lot more motion to follow. Leg movers must be soft if they are doing dressage correctly, but they just don't have the same amount of energy transferring through their back and to the rider, especially when collect. When collected they are feel like a softly bouncing ball. A back mover needs to be collected to sit, and even then it's still not simple.

We're talking about motion in the back here, not a horse that has more suspension in the stride. That changes the dynamics even more. They can be like they are on springs and there is hardly any concussion from the legs connecting with the ground, so they are lofty things to ride. A horse with a lot of suspension is not always a huge mover through their back.

There are a lot of dynamics involved with riding and with all horses. You can generalize certain pieces, but the whole will always be a bit different, just as each horse is completely unique. :)

millerra
Dec. 12, 2007, 01:39 PM
Leg movers need to be soft in the back, but they don't have the same amont of motion that goes through the back. I consider a back mover one who has a LOT of movement in the back.

So, is that why my pelvis/lower back feels like it has been stretched in parts that "don't stretch" now that I am finally learning how to sit the trot???

Is that why my coach yells "let your hips swing!"? :)

Questions: what is the difference between "back mover" and "supple in the back"?

What is the difference between a horse being supple and loose and powering from behind/swinging, and being a back mover? How does that differentiate from a leg mover?

How can YOU tell? What do you look at?

Equibrit
Dec. 12, 2007, 04:01 PM
You can feel every ripple of a "back movers" muscles beneath your butt and some of those can be BIG. When they spook, duck and run, they tend to "suck" you into their backs, and when they tense up it feels like you're sitting on another horse entirely. When they are "on" relaxed, even, straight, forward and balanced it is ABSOLUTE MAGIC ! Everything in the world is in harmony!

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 12, 2007, 04:49 PM
So, is that why my pelvis/lower back feels like it has been stretched in parts that "don't stretch" now that I am finally learning how to sit the trot???

Is that why my coach yells "let your hips swing!"? :)

Questions: what is the difference between "back mover" and "supple in the back"?

What is the difference between a horse being supple and loose and powering from behind/swinging, and being a back mover? How does that differentiate from a leg mover?

How can YOU tell? What do you look at?

To me. "supple in the back" is more about flexibility in the back, particularly laterally--in other words the horse can really bend.

I think this is a different quality entirely from being a back mover or a leg mover. Either one can be laterally loose and supple (think spaghetti), or not, as the case may be.

petitefilly
Dec. 12, 2007, 11:27 PM
I also agree with the person who stated that many "fabulous" high-$$$ movers are leg movers. But I also think they're more prevalent among lower level ammies who can't look past the "wow" factor of their extravagant movement. Horses do change their way of going as a result of training. Unfortunately, what I've noticed is that the "wow" factor in fancy leg swingers diminishes considerably when the horse does begin to supple.


I also agree with this wholeheartedly. Young horses tend to move more with the legs due to their green-ness. Once the horse is taught to move over his back it becomes more expressive and has more ultimate movement. Granted the horse has to have some "talent" for this; but once you find a fantastic leg mover they can be trained over the back pretty much most of the time. <MHO> The *wow* of the leg diminishes, but the ultimate goal is through the back.

crthunder
Dec. 13, 2007, 12:02 AM
This is a great discussion and I'm learning a lot. Here is my question...

Can a horse be a back mover (naturally) but go through a tense-back leg-mover type phase as they develop? My horse over the last month has gone from free and forward to fumbling legs everywhere! His back gets tight and I can actually see his legs randomly flipping hither and yon as circle (he has lots of chrome so it catches your eye even when you do look up!) I measured him last week and it looks like his grown (even though we are five going on six), but I'm hoping we aren't losing the back movement...

What exercises has everyone found successful to keep back movement correct?

Becky & the boys

Lemon Zest
Dec. 13, 2007, 01:46 AM
When a back-mover gives its back, you have a place to sit. There may still be considerable spring, but it's not necessarily like sitting on an ejection seat. Because the back moves up and down to meet you (or sometimes collide with you ;)), there is a place to be in sync, which creates a type of softness... some horses being softer than others. I would descibe the sensation as more bouncy/springy than jarring.

With regard to softness in leg movers, I've sat leg movers that felt almost like gliders. A mild shuffling feel beneath the seat was all they offered. On the other hand, I used to have a leg mover whose trot was akin to a concrete trampoline. The ejection force did not originate in the back. He sproinged around like an equine pogo-stick contraption, pushing off from behind and propelling himself forward. His back only moved because his body did... like a rigid beam suspended between two rubber balls. If you ever sat on a see-saw opposite someone who double-bounced you, that hard jarring effect was similar to the sensation of his trot. I developed tremendous nerve pain in my neck and upper-back as a result of riding that horse, which is why I no longer have him.

Anyway, the point I'm after in mentioning that horse is that a leg mover with big gaits can be quite "lofty" and that's not to be mistaken for big back movement. A back mover with big gaits can launch just as well but you land on a pulsing spring (mostly) without the sudden, bone crunching stop. It's a bit difficult to express in words, but you will understand IMMEDIATELY if you have an opportunity to ride the two types.

ideayoda
Dec. 13, 2007, 02:53 AM
Imho most horses are back movers, but they usually have to be ridden well to sustain it. Many horses become leg movers because their necks are compressed/manipulated, and they fear the (excessive use) of the hands. (Poor hunters are an example of leg movers.)

Sabine
Dec. 13, 2007, 03:19 AM
although I do respect the 'concept ' of back mover and leg mover- I really always question the overall health and fitness and 'availability' of the horse and thus have to say- that to me back mover and leg mover are more results of the way the horses where kept and raised and started than anything else. A horse is as capable as any other- unless its mind or body tells it not to. I usually go for the body first and clean up issues there- then go for the mind- next you know there is really just a horse to train properly....I guess I am not for categorizing and am a strong believer in repairing minor issues before work starts...which would otherwise throw the horse into a category- as described....

just my 5 cents...

Sabine
Dec. 13, 2007, 03:24 AM
Imho most horses are back movers, but they usually have to be ridden well to sustain it. Many horses become leg movers because their necks are compressed/manipulated, and they fear the (excessive use) of the hands. (Poor hunters are an example of leg movers.)

interesting view and tend to agree- a healthy horse to me is always a back mover- with great movement and reach-in other words- the whole thing just vibrates and moves and is loose and supple- and waiting for a mere earthly rider to !@$!@#$ it up!!

True health in all parts is really rare to find- that's why I have become a Sherlock Holmes at identifying the spot and curing it and moving on from there- which has proven to be a good concept!

Training before it's identified has proven to be treacherous!

Eclectic Horseman
Dec. 13, 2007, 09:47 AM
interesting view and tend to agree- a healthy horse to me is always a back mover- with great movement and reach-in other words- the whole thing just vibrates and moves and is loose and supple- and waiting for a mere earthly rider to !@$!@#$ it up!!

True health in all parts is really rare to find- that's why I have become a Sherlock Holmes at identifying the spot and curing it and moving on from there- which has proven to be a good concept!

Training before it's identified has proven to be treacherous!

Oh I'm really not sure about that. In my experience I've run across very few Arabians, Thoroughbreds, and Quarter Horses that were natural back movers. I think that there are a lot of breeds that tend to carry themselves in a long, naturally extended flat (or hollow) frame with their haunches out behind and their hocks bending somewhere up high out in back of them. These horses do not tend to engage their backs at all. Gaited horses such as Paso Finos also do not use their backs.

Nothing wrong with that--these horses are extremely healthy and athletic, but they are bred to do something different--usually something that dressage horses would be lousy at!

grayarabpony
Dec. 13, 2007, 10:53 AM
I agree sabine and ideayoda. There is absolutely no doubt that some horses are better movers than others and more athletic, but I don't at all believe that movers can be divided so neatly into camps (either they have it or they don't).

Edited to add: dressage horses aren't the only horses that use their backs -- so do jumpers, of which there are a great many excellent TB and QH jumpers. Even the Arab that is like riding an ironing board when he's tense can engage those circle of muscles if he's straight and relaxed. One of my most memorable dressage rides was connecting with a horse like that.

slc2
Dec. 15, 2007, 11:39 AM
Summary. Back mover = moves the back as well as shoulders, hips, legs, everything, freely. Leg mover = moves the back inadequately, whatever he does with his legs. Not so simple to identify. Common assumptions are incorrect. A horse that has problems in this area can be improved with skilled training. A horse that is a good back mover naturally is going to wind up better than the more limited horse.

A 'leg mover' doesn't mean to everyone that the horse is throwing its legs around, but that it moves its legs, either a lot or a little, but does not move its back adequately.

A 'back mover' should probably be short hand for 'a horse that moves all its joints through their full range of motion, moving its back, shoulders, hips, knees, hocks and all joints actively and fluidly'. that's what it usually means to most people.

It's not so easy to say that every horse that's going like Farbenfroh is wrong and every one that is not showing a high motion is correct or 'classical', though it often seems we believe that here on the bb. We often see photos posted here of very inferior trot work that is commended because the cannons are parallel. Anyone who questions this is called 'unclassical' or branded 'competitive rider'.

It is not so simple to say all such horses are 'leg movers and not back movers'. If the forehand is properly lightened by correct training and ability of the horse then the foreleg can have a very high, even non-parallel gesture in the trot work and in the flying changes, with still being correct and through from behind; one can not judge this with a ruler, it needs an experienced eye that can see more than just a single foreleg and stare endlessly at that one foreleg, but also judge if the hind leg is driving through correctly and the back is correct, something not so easy to judge from a still photo.

There is a tendency here to say that any time the legs are not parallel in trot, even when it's due to the correct training and balance and lightening of the forehand, that it must be wrong. Even the great classicist judge Niggli praised Farbenfroh, so the horse can not be so terrible.

It is easy to see an 'All hat and no cattle' type dressage horse, that throws its forelegs around and its hind legs are dragging along behind with no engagement or activity. 'All generals up front and no soldiers bringing up the rear' is another common way of referring to it. The dead give away is that the prints of the hind feet are not tracking up - are 18" or more behind the prints of the forefeet. A wonderful trainer I know got a very talented horse that had been trained that way, to retrain. She really struggled with it, and she did improve it, but the skill it took - the effort, unbelievable, and it didn't come out as well as it would have otherwise, and it was terribly difficult to do. So that happens, OF COURSE. OBVIOUSLY.

But this is not always what is happening. Some horses are perfectly capable of lightening their forehand and lifting their forelegs in trot and canter work, this is part of the principle of collection, that the forehand is lightened, and made more active and free. One has to look at the whole horse and see everything that is going on with an experienced eye. If the forehand can lighten correctly, a hind leg still cannot follow its motion exactly. A horse has a belly and a body and that gets in the way unless the motion is incorrect, all in the hock, it will not come close. The engagement has to be from all the hind quarter joints. There is nothing in the way of the foreleg if it is lightened and the foreleg is free to move all the way from the shoulder.

It would be about impossible to find a sound horse that moved its back well and didn't move its shoulders, hips, and all joints of its legs well. it's almost as if the back is the center, and alll the suppleness, activity and range of motion radiates from the back.

It can't, for sure, spread out from the legs, though paradoxically challenging the horse to swing foreward and move actively can free up the back and help it be more correct. It has to start from the back. That's where all activity and suppleness comes from. If my horse is moving correctly and freely in his back chances are everything else is going to be pretty great too.

Horses have different amounts of potential to be correct in this area. Both conformation and movement are a factor, and both are inherited.

Most will never be really great 'whole body-back-and-everything-else' movers.

No matter how well they are trained, no matter what effort is put into them. They certainly can be made to move BETTER, and move more fully, but most horses will never master this to the degree a really super horse will. For a time Hubertus Schmidt had a video on his website of the most wonderful horse, who, compared to some of the top horses in the world, seemed limited and stiff, with small changes. Yet the horse had the best trainer in the world (by many people's point of view) and the best management and care that could be had in the world today. And it was STILL not as good as other horses on the website. I think Hubertus is a wonderful guy for putting that horse on the website. It showed what wonderful training can do, how happy and correct the horse was, and how much joy he could bring his rider, and also what training CANNOT do. You can't get out what God didn't put in.

A top horse is like a slinkie. Connie Oosting had a horse years ago that was not very big and was a compact, modern looking young horse. When free, would leap in the air, twist around and bite his own tail up by his body. He could do ANYTHING - any sort of trot, any sort of canter. He was like a gumby horse. He could walk like a tiger slinking around. He could canter like a hover craft, do a leaping passage like trot, shuffle along, or hop on his hind legs. He was a riot to watch. He was joyous to watch. It was obvious that he could move his back, his shoulders, hips, with perfection; naturally.

To an amazing degree, every part of a horse like that moves freely and actively with suppleness. Naturally, from the start. Even so, it is still up to a trainer with a great deal of knowledge and self control to preserve and further develop that. Just riding a horse on a long rein won't preserve it; it takes real skill to make a horse as nice under saddle as he is when free.

No one can get out what God did not put in; Reiner Klimke said that many times.

With a horse that is not as naturally endowed, or has parts of his body that are stiff, a trainer can target these things and work diligently on them. I've never seen that turn out as good as the naturally supple, back moving, free motion type of horse. And the rider is looking at working on that same issue for the rest of the time he has the horse. But it can be improved. How much varies with each horse.

A horse that is heavy in front, with heavy shoulders, a long heavy neck and slight hind quarters, he cannot balance naturally; he tenses up his back just in an effort to balance, he is fighting himself every stride he takes. He cannot loosen up his back and stretch like a horse with natural balance. He may be very powerful and still be very hard to ride with a back that is very hard to sit on.

It is not just innately how the muscles or legs move, but the horse's overall proportions and balance that makes a horse able to move correctly thru the back.

That's how I think of it.

Donella
Dec. 15, 2007, 11:55 AM
Perfect example of a back mover is Quaterback. The stallion is three in this video and there is no way C. Flamm created that HUGE swing in 6 months under saddle. The amazing thing about this horse is not the way the legs move in particular but the way the horse uses his whole body, just like an elastic band.

And I think when his video was first posted on this board we got to see that alot of member are not able to see a back mover for what it is and appreciate that. The critics kept comparing him to a saddlebred in his movement ect, that it was extreme yada yada. But its the fact that the horse is SO wow over his entire body that makes him one of a kind, not the fact that he picks his legs up. LOTS of nice wb's pick their legs up, but not many use their bodies like he does.

THIS is a back mover!:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EPa7cTjlvA8

Leena
Dec. 15, 2007, 12:24 PM
I lile SLC comments as well as others.

While I have a lot of respect for Quaterback and yes, his trot is really swinging and upward but can someone imagine how very few people can sit this trot !
I don't like his canter and I would like to see his walk.

I have been riding a mare who was a legs mover and this thread help me to understand a few things. While she was a big mare, 16.3 hands, it was clearly impossible to do any collected gaits with her and that was really frustrating at that time.

When I bought my mare, it was clear in my mind I was looking for a horse who has no back problem and luckily I found her but it really took me a good couple of months to sit her trot. That we have to take in account too !

slc2
Dec. 15, 2007, 12:39 PM
Agree with Donnella.

Years ago, most of the people who came into dressage came there from hunt seat and there was a real abhorrence of any horse that lifted its legs or bent its knees or hocks, and the most desired horse for dressage was a classic English style Thoroughbred that moved exactly like a hunter. It's been very difficult to move away from that.

Equibrit
Dec. 15, 2007, 01:12 PM
If Quarterback was a back mover he would not go wide behind.

grayarabpony
Dec. 15, 2007, 01:29 PM
I don't think Farbenfroh was terrible; in truth I think he was a horse with a great deal of natural talent that wasn't fully utilized under saddle. But the same could be said of most horses! Dressage is very difficult.

lstevenson
Dec. 15, 2007, 04:32 PM
If Quarterback was a back mover he would not go wide behind.


Back movers go wide behind just as easily as leg movers, if not more so.

The more movement they have, the more they will have that tendency until they are trained to be straight and carrying more weight behind. He obviously has tremendous push from behind, but with training he will learn how to carry that weight on his hind legs properly.

ESG
Dec. 15, 2007, 09:21 PM
If Quarterback was a back mover he would not go wide behind.

Back movement and engagement don't naturally go hand in hand, any more than engagement and collection go naturally hand in hand. My Oldenburg gelding has been a back mover from day one, as a long 3 year old; I don't think this guy could be stiff if you made him. That does not, however, mean that he engages and brings his hind legs underneath him, rather than kicking out (or, occasionally going wide) behind. He's very short backed, uphill, and long legged. Add these to the fact that he'd get in a hurry only if you set his tail on fire (:rolleyes: ), and you get a horse that might engage and travel appropriately close behind, if the spirit happens to move him. :sigh:

slc2
Dec. 16, 2007, 07:22 AM
I don't think what ESG is describing is a general rule, though I do think if a horse really has that ability to be loose and supple and work through his back, he can go wrong in more blantant and just - MORE ways than the little stick horsie that can't move.

The stick horsie, just like the rider with the short little stiff back and arms, can look very nice and controlled, but not be athletic as the more supple and loose rider. The back mover horse can be compared to the rider with the long torso, long arms and legs, or the very supple loose rider where that long proportion means that the slightest mistake of that sort of rider is magnified 1000 times.

There are better videos than that one to show people a swinging back. Showing them a horse that uses its back well but doesn't lift its legs as much can help them to see what 'back mover' means; too, because the horse is excited and also somewhat because it is encouraged in demonstrations, he is having a little too much cadence in his trot, and you're going to mix people up and that's all they're going to see. This video doesn't really do the job of trying to explain this particular concept.

A horse that has real natural suppleness and can use his back well is sort of like a German Expressionist painting. It's all over the place, and when it has a problem, even a sort of 'good problem' that a lesser horse would never even GET TO because he's just a little stick horsie, it's a little bit - obvious. Weltal was a little like that, so was Farbenfroh and it mixed people up. They didn't get what was really going on because they were drawn to only one detail.

Why is that really supple youngster with the great potential all over the place? Because IT CAN BE ALL OVER THE PLACE. I think it takes more skill and ability on the trainer to shape this properly. Kinda like the Dan Jansen of dressage, the back mover has so much more range of motion and so much more natural suppleness, well, you saw Jansen skate, I assume. Lesser skaters would not even GET to where he got, they couldn't. Weltal was a gumby horse, he was just like he was able to do things with his body no other horse could, it's something like a really good cutting horse in a way (in a very indirect comparison), who can follow that cow in a way a horse with a less perfect body and balance just cannot. And he can get into positions that a lesser horse just cannot.

I rode a horse like this a couple weeks ago, where you are always teetering on the edge of greatness, as the rider said, 'It's not such a bad problem to have', LOL. I'd rather be teetering on the edge of greatness, myself, than not be even near it in any sense of the word; it is the training process that makes that greatness more consistent and preserves it.

These horses aren't easy to ride in that sense, but I don't think people try to breed horses like because they're going to be easy to ride, but because for the right sort of trainer, they can reach to not just correct movements, like a lesser horse, but correct movements with so much more range of motion, grace and athleticism - which is what dressage means.