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onelove
Jul. 4, 2011, 08:52 PM
I am hoping the Dressage Gods and Goddess can help me as I do not have a trainer right now nor will I be able to afford one in the immediate future. I am looking for some exercises that I can use to help re-build my guy's topline.
My horse is a 13 year old TB who I bought last year as an event prospect. He was a stallion when I bought him and had not been used in years. I had him gelded and began working with him on the very basics. He had some issues with being cold-backed and would buck or crow hop when it suited him. I had him vetted and there was no pain issues causing him to buck. It was something he learned to do to get out of being ridden, I later found out. So we worked on that and got that pretty much out of his system. I had some health issues last year and so I our training was not as consistent as it should have been. We thankfully switched barns and are now in a much nicer place with a much nicer ring. He has been able to find his balance with me on him and is more confident now, which was also an issue at our old barn. At our old barn, he wasn't getting properly fed and lost weight.(No teeth issues,btw. The weight loss was because of the lack of nutrition at the old place .)At the new place he is on a much better feed, getting pulp and oil, plus a few supplements and is picking up weight nicely. Now I need to help him build his topline. He is responsive to my cues and seeks contact with my hands so he is learning to accept being a riding horse as opposed to being a studly pasture puff.
Currently under saddle, we school only at the trot, working on straightness and rhythm. I ride him in a 3 ring continental (aka ga/elevator/french)which so far is the bit he prefers. He also prefers the figure 8 to a flash or crank noseband. I still have some issues with my health that I am working on so until my balance is more secure, I work only at the walk or trots (sitting, working and extended). We do a lot of exercises to work on suppleness and yielding to my legs, serpentines and 8's, transitions and poles etc. But I am not seeing the muscle in his back I would like to. I occasionally ask him to lower his head and since switching to the 3 ring, I have seen him bring it down more. (I do wonder though if using the 3 ring is a bit confusing with using the figure 8 since the 3 ring is an elevator and the figure 8 puts pressure on the poll and nose differently than a crank. I have been consider a baucher so thoughts on this combo would also be appreciated too.)
What can I do to help build his topline? I know collecting him will help but I think it might still be too early in his training to ask for it, although I do often lunge in the pessoa or ride in side reins just not cranked down. (I hate to say this but they helped to get him to stop the crowhopping. He would try to then catch himself and so he quickly realized he shouldn't do that. I know I know, it's not what they are meant for but it worked so I won't complain!) I do this to help him figure out that stretching long and low is much more comfortable than riding high. I just don't crank them tight because I want to ask him to do it so he figures it out without me demanding he does it.
He may be 13 but he is a baby in an adult's body so it is like we are starting him all over. He doesn't know much beyond WTC and can't even back up under saddle, which we are working on. I have doubts that he will ever be my competition horse but for now, until things get back to normal he is the horse I have even if he isn't the horse I want him to be. I won't sell him but until I can afford another horse, he is who I have to work with. Of course after things get better (I lost my job earlier this year on top of everything else.) he may very well be my LL eventer. For now, all I care about is getting him back in shape and seeing just how far we can go.

So I will appreciate any suggestions you all may have to offer. I know getting a trainer is important but I can not afford one right now. Hopefully soon I will be able to but for now, it's just me working with him. I know that this has been a little long to read but I wanted to make sure you had enough info to go on before giving us suggestions.

Thanks!

Tamara in TN
Jul. 4, 2011, 08:56 PM
So I will appreciate any suggestions you all may have to offer. I know getting a trainer is important but I can not afford one right now. Hopefully soon I will be able to but for now, it's just me working with him. I know that this has been a little long to read but I wanted to make sure you had enough info to go on before giving us suggestions.

Thanks!

when I see a mucky topline I look at the feet first...

Tamara

onelove
Jul. 4, 2011, 09:19 PM
No his feet are great despite everything. Our old barn was owned by a farrier so we had to use him but we switched to a new farrier and despite everything, his feet still look great.
His weight loss was quick because he hated the feed the old barn switched to when they lost their sponsor. They went from a high quality feed to an all stock sweet feed so my horse wasn't getting the nutrients he needed. Our new barn is gradually increasing his feed and he is picking up weight slowly but we still have a ways to go.
I am an eq vet tech and I know his weight loss was nutritional and not from some sort of infection or parasite. He needs to muscle up now. He is bulking up in the front but not as much in the hind or through his topline. He did have it and I know he can have it again, it's just a matter of time and exercise.

Vesper Sparrow
Jul. 4, 2011, 09:39 PM
Lots of walk-trot transitions did it for my TB gelding. It took a long time, but all of a sudden, he had a topline.

netg
Jul. 5, 2011, 12:28 AM
Obviously, we don't see you and can only go from what you typed out. From your description, it sounds to me like his current lack of topline is due to asking him to lower his head from the wrong end.

It should come from suppleness and correct work, using his back end, carrying his body properly and reaching into contact. It should not come from a 3-ring bit asking for it. Yes, in some cases (none that I've encountered personally) I've heard a 3-ring bit can be useful. However, asking a horse to lower its head with one isn't one of those times.

My horse has a naturally higher head carriage, and he drops his head and stretches when we do circles and transitions which get him soft in the body. Sometimes I have to "invite" him to stretch by widening my hands a bit - which essentially makes them softer and more responsive to him so he feels less resistance to lowering and stretching. But it takes getting his body where it needs to be for the head to go down, not a bit or gadget. I will use very loose sidereins to ask for downward stretch, but still have to ask him to use his body properly for them to be useful. I ask him to keep his body properly bent, and ask him to move forward from behind. At times that means we have to spiral in and out on the longe line to get him engaging his back end while moving forward, but the sidereins are just a gadget to set the head if not used in conjunction with work asking him to carry himself.

I would be starting to teach him proper lateral work. Starting with asking for proper bend on circles, and changes of bend over and over again in combination with transitions. I would build up to asking for shoulder fore and baby leg yields on the circles. If he's properly circling, and increase of inside leg while continuing to support with your outside hand will get him reaching under himself better with his inside hind and get him doing leg yields on the circle.

Sorry you have had health problems - I was going stir crazy after 8 weeks of not riding due to health problems, so I can at least understand a bit of what you felt. I hope you have them all under control and can get back to full strength soon!

MelanieC
Jul. 5, 2011, 01:11 AM
My horse was off for a long time, completely out of shape and had a very dropped back (I realize that the back is only part of the topline, but it was the most obvious "symptom" of his lack of fitness). In March we moved to a barn where he started getting ample daily turnout in a large pasture that is basically one long, low hill so he is moving around (he is quite active) and going up and down this hill all day. His back is a completely different shape now than it was when we moved, mostly not due to anything I did other than moving him somewhere with lots of hilly turnout. He's also just better muscled all over. I have worked on clicker training him to lunge long and low instead of up and sassy (he is an Arab, enough said) but honestly his daily self-imposed activity has made the biggest difference.

onelove
Jul. 5, 2011, 01:21 AM
Here is a picture the photog took of us recently. You can definitely see how sunken he is and needs to "shelf up." http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y289/greeneyelioness/kris.jpg

Here are some of us riding at the sitting and posting trots (sorry no video yet)
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150284021765622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1 (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150284021765622&set=a.1015028399407 5622.386366.595030621&type=1)

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150284022135622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150284022555622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1

These pics of me are horrible and I cringe at what might be said of my posture and weight, both of which I am working on. I posted these so you all could have some visual reference to our workouts. Please be kind. I know I am not in very good shape or form right now!

One of us either just getting ready to lunge or just finishing. This one shows his nonexistent hind end. Wish I could somehow give him some of mine. I do believe that I have more than enough to share!

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150284021410622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150283994185622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1
Lunging:
https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150283994495622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150283994810622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10150283994235622&set=a.10150283994075622.386366.595030621&type=1

On the day these pics were done, it was unbearably hot and we were all suffering. When I got on him, he was very tense and irritated. Before she started photographing us, he threw a fit kicking and bucking but once he realized he had to work, this is what she was able to capture. I have a ton more but these pics are pretty indicative of him.

Netq~ Last summer I came down with Bell's Palsy and while I have recovered about 90% of the way, I had to take time off from riding because my equilibrium was off. It was hard, having just bought him only a few months before it happened. I still have some balance issues myself but I try not to ride on those days when I feel off. Some days my face reverts back to being about 50% healed and some days you can't even tell but the hardest part was that I have some hearing damage to my left ear which was the side of my face that got affected so when it happened, I couldn't hear. I still have trouble blinking properly so on the days when it is bad, I don't ride. I do take therapeutic lessons to help me and when I do, I ride a steady eddy school horse. It hasn't been easy but eventually we will get there!

The Hobbit
Jul. 5, 2011, 01:58 AM
I'm afraid your links don't work. :( try making the album(s) public.

onelove
Jul. 5, 2011, 02:11 AM
Hmmmm I will check into that in the morning. Thanks. I'm on my android now so when I go to the computer ill check it out.

netg
Jul. 5, 2011, 02:23 AM
Wow - I hope your recovery keeps up well!

He's actually very cute. Seeing your pics, one thing I would say is don't try to sit the trot. He doesn't have the strength that I would sit it - just like you don't sit a horse who has just been started. He needs to build up his strength first.

Do you ever see a line of muscle along his belly/flank area while longeing? It's a sign he has started to use his core - he'll be lifting his back and using his hind end better. It doesn't generally show well in photos even if a horse does it a lot. The only pic I found is actually my horse dropping on his forehand and not using his hind end well, so then curling behind the vertical... but if you look between tip of the whip and tip of the shadow of the whip you see a line which is where ab muscles are engaged. You want to work him toward learning to use those muscles.
http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5121/5252156085_65d745521b.jpg

I would really, really work on suppleness. The other thing he has developed (whether with you or at liberty on his own) is muscle on the underside of the neck. I'd be doing a whole lot of bending (whole body, not just neck) and changes of direction as I mentioned earlier, to work on teaching him to change how he carries himself. You'll start to see him lifting right in front of the saddle, where right now he's hollowed there. It's a matter of his having to learn how to carry himself and reshaping his muscles - which can be hard for him, since he has been moving one way his whole life! Nothing in those pics suggests to me he doesn't have potential to improve, but it does suggest it may be best for him that you are only walking and trotting right now so he can learn to carry himself and build the correct muscles. Just walking and trotting can actually be very good for them to avoid soreness.

Good luck - he is cute with a build I like, so I hope he works out well for you, and that you keep getting better!

onelove
Jul. 5, 2011, 02:43 AM
We have been doing lots of direction changes to keep him focused on me mostly . The mares pasture next to the ring and being that he still thinks he is a stallion we have to constantly redirect his focus. He came to me with a crest stallion neck and now his gelding body needs to fill out to catch up with his neck lol. I will ease off sitting the trot for now. It's been hard on me too but I had wanted to try cantering him soon so I was preparing him for it. But I never sit it for long and I do pad up. He has a gel pad under his saddle pad, which is fleece and thick. I tried a baby pad one day thinking the regular pad was too hot for summer and he HATED the baby pad. I guess it was too close for now. I really appreciate your support and advice. It's been hard but we are a lot better now than where we were last year so I am happy.

CatPS
Jul. 5, 2011, 10:22 AM
I wouldn't sit the trot on him at all... his back is not strong enough for it yet. Do you have access to any fields where you could ride, or even a pasture with rolling terrain? If you can get him trotting up hills while stretching forward and down, it can really help his overall muscling, but especially the hind end and topline.

Maude
Jul. 5, 2011, 10:22 AM
I haven't had the time to read through all of the posts or look at pictures, but all the correct exercises in the world won't build a topline without protein. Your horse should be getting (IMHP) protein to develop muscle. Protein builds muscle. I would suggest consulting with a good nutritionist. I use Progressive Nutrition's ProAdvantage Grass Diet Balancer. It's 30% protein and loaded with vitamins and minerals. Pennfield also makes a ration balancer "All Phase". Most feed companies have jumped on the bandwagon and offer these RB's. Each of my 3 horses (4, 18 and 24 year olds) get 2 pounds a day of the Progressive. This would equal 6 pounds a day of a 10% protein feed so don't be scared off by the protein content. Also have the hay analyzed if possible. Insuring that your horse has adequate protein and correct exercise should develop his topline nicely. For more information on topline and body condition scoring you can check out Progressive Nutrition's website at www.prognutrition.com. I have consulted with Don Kapper on numerous occasions. And, no, I don't work for the company, I just believe in and use the product. :) Good Luck!

onelove
Jul. 5, 2011, 11:11 AM
Hi Maude,
Thanks for the advice but I do believe we have a difference of opinion lol Adding more protein to a diet of a stressed body can add more stress to the liver and kidneys which have a harder time processing proteins. What you wrote about is almost an Atkins type of diet for horses. However, horses need carbs and sugars more than they need proteins so when I found out about the all stock the old barn was feeding, I consulted a nutritionist I have worked with for years on several cases in the clinics I worked for. (I'm an eq vet tech.) She works for a major feed company and so when I have to ask about nutrition, she is my go to gal. In some cases, she will say that you don't need to purchase these so called specialty feeds and supplements because they cause the weight gain too rapidly, which can stress the liver and kidneys even more. She says that the better way to add weight is slowly and by adding pulp and oil to the diet. She doesn't always feel the need to push her products on us, which I really respect her for because it's her job to do so. One time she suggested using another company's feed over her company's and I thought that was awesome. It showed that she really cares about the individual animal and not just making profits.
So in my horse's case, she suggested going to a 10 or 12% feed and adding beet and oil because he wasn't so bad off as some of the other cases we had discussed, She, like me, isn't into supplements and advised putting him on a probiotic, which he already was and electrolytes, which he was also on. And having followed this, he has gained nicely, even if it isn't as quick as I would like it. But he does get ample turn out and hay every day plus grain so he is picking up and filling out. Now he just needs to build muscle, which was the reason I posted.
But thank you for the advice. i am going to check out the stuff you suggested in cases we need a higher protein diet for someone in the future!

Tiger Horse
Jul. 5, 2011, 01:54 PM
No his feet are great despite everything. Our old barn was owned by a farrier so we had to use him but we switched to a new farrier and despite everything, his feet still look great.


I recently learned (the hard way) that good looking feet don't necessarily mean comfy feet . . .

Maude
Jul. 5, 2011, 02:07 PM
Onelove,
Best of luck to you. I've been feeding a ration balancer to all of my horses for 3 1/2 years including my 24 year old TB/QH, my 4 yr. old dutch filly and my 18 year old Cushings/IR dutch mare. I feed excellent quality hay therefore my horses get the required nutrients in addition to the protein the ration balancer provides without dumping alot of concentrates into them. All have excellent toplines (the 18 year old and 24 year old are retired) and are in excellent health with wonderful feet and get NO supplements other than e'lytes. The cost is $1.40/a day per horse plus hay. Nutritionists are like veterinarians and all have differences of opinions. The important thing is to educate yourself and find someone you trust for advice as you have. In addition to Don Kapper from Progressive, I have consulted with Dr. Kathleen Crandall and Larry Lawrence (now deceased, RIP) of Kentucky Equine Research and also Dr. Sarah Ralston. I hope your horse develops to his full potential. :)

Bogie
Jul. 5, 2011, 02:32 PM
What a handsome boy!

After reading your post and look at the photos, it looks to me like he goes around inverted much of the time and behind the bit. The underside of his neck is more built up than his topline.

To fix this you need to encourage him to stretch down and forward into your hand and also engage his abdominal muscles. In the photos you've shown, he's floating behind the bit most of the time. To get him to build his topline you have to be riding him into contact and concentrating on activating his hind end.

Do you have him in the gag because he gets strong? I would try him in a softer bit that encourages him to accept contact, especially when you are just walking and trotting. Right now if he comes into contact there is always some leverage from the gag. Try riding him on the snaffle ring and see how it goes. I'd also work on keeping your hands very, very still and pushing him toward the bit. In several photos you have your inside hand way out to the side and down. Keep them in front of you and more centered over his withers, almost like side reins, so he can feel secure in the contact. Use half halts on your outside rein to control his shoulder rather than the inside rein to control his head. I had a trainer once tell me to steer the withers (using your outside rein and your seat), it helped me visualize where the horse should be turning. I've also found it helpful with a horse who floats behind the bit to bridge my reins as it's basically impossible to fuss with your hands that way.


A couple of exercises to build topline:
Transitions, transitions and more transitions. Not just walk/trot but also transitions within the gaits. You want to feel a "surge" as he steps under himself and then uses his hind end more. When you are trotting, asking him to take smaller, slower steps (but still active!) until you are almost at a walk and then surge forward.
Work over ground poles at the walk and trot. Start with just one or two set 3.5-4' feet apart and then when he's comfortable with that, you can add more. Or, set two poles at a distance of 30 feet or so. Trot through it once and count your strides. Then add a stride, then drop a stride, drop another stride. The poles help make sure you are collecting/lengthening without just getting quick.
Hill work and lots of it! You can do most of it at a walk if that's where you're most comfortable.
Don't sit the trot. He's not ready for it.
Start cantering him. TBs are often most comfortable at the canter and that will encourage him to engage his back more. If you're not ready to canter him under saddle, then I'd put him on the lunge line with side reins.
Lots of breaks when he works correctly. He doesn't have the muscles in place to carry himself for long so when he's good, let him walk on a long rein and rest. As he gets stronger, you can do more.
Be careful about too much walk work on the bit as it's easy to overly restrict the walk.If you ride him so that he's carrying himself correctly, he will start to muscle up correctly. Partly this will involve retraining him because he wants to go with his head up, hollow his back and pull himself along by his forehand. Not an unusual scenario for an OTTB and certainly something that can be fixed.

Good luck!

ETA: Check your saddle fit. You wrote that you are using a gel pad and a regular pad and that when you take the gel pad off, he "hated it." This could mean that the saddle is bothering him. if there's pain from the saddle, he will not be able to use his back properly.

lstevenson
Jul. 6, 2011, 01:03 AM
Obviously, we don't see you and can only go from what you typed out. From your description, it sounds to me like his current lack of topline is due to asking him to lower his head from the wrong end.

It should come from suppleness and correct work, using his back end, carrying his body properly and reaching into contact. It should not come from a 3-ring bit asking for it. Yes, in some cases (none that I've encountered personally) I've heard a 3-ring bit can be useful. However, asking a horse to lower its head with one isn't one of those times.

My horse has a naturally higher head carriage, and he drops his head and stretches when we do circles and transitions which get him soft in the body. Sometimes I have to "invite" him to stretch by widening my hands a bit - which essentially makes them softer and more responsive to him so he feels less resistance to lowering and stretching. But it takes getting his body where it needs to be for the head to go down, not a bit or gadget.



This. Horses will only build up topline muscle when working correctly through their entire topline.




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onelove
Jul. 6, 2011, 02:01 AM
Thank you Bogie! This is the kind of advice I was hoping for. Let me answer your questions as best as I can- my eye is acting up so I have a bit of a headache so please excuse me if I don't spell correctly tonight lol

What a handsome boy! Thank you. I think so too!

After reading your post and look at the photos, it looks to me like he goes around inverted much of the time and behind the bit. The underside of his neck is more built up than his topline.

To fix this you need to encourage him to stretch down and forward into your hand and also engage his abdominal muscles. In the photos you've shown, he's floating behind the bit most of the time. To get him to build his topline you have to be riding him into contact and concentrating on activating his hind end.

Do you have him in the gag because he gets strong? Yes. He tends to get very heavy on my hands and can be very strong. I would try him in a softer bit that encourages him to accept contact, especially when you are just walking and trotting. Right now if he comes into contact there is always some leverage from the gag. Try riding him on the snaffle ring and see how it goes.
We have been experimenting with different bits. The 3 ring seems to be the bit where I have the most brakes with him and have leverage. However, I believe it is that he is more comfortable in the single jointed heavier mouthpiece. I am going to try a full cheek with the same mouthpiece to see how he does. At first he was doing good in a french link O ring then he backed off of that so we tried a D Ring copper roller mouth but then that stopped working so we moved onto the 3 ring. As I said before he falls heavy on my hands at times and gets so strong that I feel like I have had an upper body workout!
I'd also work on keeping your hands very, very still and pushing him toward the bit. In several photos you have your inside hand way out to the side and down. Yes I saw that. I didn't realize how busy my hands were until these pics. The videos I have of us show my hands very quiet but lately I have been struggling with him being so strong/heavy my hands have become all over the place. I am going to work on them now thanks to these pictures.
Keep them in front of you and more centered over his withers, almost like side reins, so he can feel secure in the contact. Use half halts on your outside rein to control his shoulder rather than the inside rein to control his head. I had a trainer once tell me to steer the withers (using your outside rein and your seat), it helped me visualize where the horse should be turning. I've also found it helpful with a horse who floats behind the bit to bridge my reins as it's basically impossible to fuss with your hands that way. I have been trying to bridge lately and it does help some. I probably should have that day too.

A couple of exercises to build topline:
Transitions, transitions and more transitions. Not just walk/trot but also transitions within the gaits. You want to feel a "surge" as he steps under himself and then uses his hind end more. When you are trotting, asking him to take smaller, slower steps (but still active!) until you are almost at a walk and then surge forward.
Work over ground poles at the walk and trot. Start with just one or two set 3.5-4' feet apart and then when he's comfortable with that, you can add more. Or, set two poles at a distance of 30 feet or so. Trot through it once and count your strides. Then add a stride, then drop a stride, drop another stride. The poles help make sure you are collecting/lengthening without just getting quick.
Hill work and lots of it! You can do most of it at a walk if that's where you're most comfortable.
Don't sit the trot. He's not ready for it.
Start cantering him. TBs are often most comfortable at the canter and that will encourage him to engage his back more. If you're not ready to canter him under saddle, then I'd put him on the lunge line with side reins. We do canter on the lunge. He didn't know how to lunge when I bought him so he just recently learned how to canter on the lunge.
Lots of breaks when he works correctly. He doesn't have the muscles in place to carry himself for long so when he's good, let him walk on a long rein and rest. As he gets stronger, you can do more. Yes, this is what we do now. I lunge longer than I ride and always always always end our sessions on a happy note.
Be careful about too much walk work on the bit as it's easy to overly restrict the walk.If you ride him so that he's carrying himself correctly, he will start to muscle up correctly. Partly this will involve retraining him because he wants to go with his head up, hollow his back and pull himself along by his forehand. Not an unusual scenario for an OTTB and certainly something that can be fixed.

Good luck!

ETA: Check your saddle fit. You wrote that you are using a gel pad and a regular pad and that when you take the gel pad off, he "hated it." This could mean that the saddle is bothering him. if there's pain from the saddle, he will not be able to use his back properly.[/QUOTE]
I started using the gel pad when I first bought him because he was deemed "coldbacked". I had him vetted and there was no reason for the silly bucking. So I started using the gel pad and found he was happier with it. He doesn't tense up like he used to when I first got him. I have tried other saddle on him and he just tenses. I personally don't like the Wintec we ride in but he seems to like this the best so it is what we use. I keep using the gel pad now because he has no topline. I tried to use a baby pad and the gel pad one day figuring the fleece lined Moxie was too hot for the summer, but he did not like it at all. I think it was too close for comfort. I regularly check the saddle as it is an adjustable gullet so I keep checking so I know when we need to move up to the next gullet. I have been thinking about changing it because we are just about ready to go to the next size up but not 100% yet. I think if we do it now it may sit too low on his withers so in the next few days/weeks we will.

Again everyone's advice is very much appreciated. I am going to try these exercises Bogie starting tomorrow. I'll post an update soon with some pics. Thank you thank you thank you!

Beentheredonethat
Jul. 6, 2011, 03:04 AM
I can't see any photos, either.

Do you have trails and hills? The easiest, best way to build correct strength is walking up and down hills, even for a horse that's out of shape. There's no way a horse can walk down a hill and essentially not fall down if they do not sit behind and work over the topline. Take a picture of a horse walking down hill, put the ground level, and you have an amazing start to piaffe. And going up hill you can get him round and through. If you can't hold him round on your own, I use a chambon that I modify by putting it over the ears, through the bit, and back to the chest so it's really mild, but gives them some support and allows you to keep him in a correct frame.

I've been through this with a lot of horses and it's really hard to strengthen a horse in just an arena because you are having to do a lot of the work because they are so weak. With your health issues especially, you want to find a way he has to strengthen himself. On a trail they HAVE to do the work themselves.

Also, if he can live in a pasture with hills that really helped. My horses were in great shape and I moved to a barn with a pasture that has some super hills in it where they really have to work, and they have to go up and down all day long. They have both put a huge amount of muscle on and I almost don't need to ride to get them in condition.

GreyStreet
Jul. 6, 2011, 08:40 AM
You really need to have a qualified saddle fitter check the fit. Speaking from experience, the adjustable gullet saddles do not fit all horses. Additionally, just because you can adjust the gullet up front does not mean the saddle fits properly through the channel and that the panel shape is correct. This is the problem I ran into with the adjustable gullet saddle I was using as my horse filled out. The fit should not be so "close" that taking one of your pads out causes that kind of discomfort.

I learned very quickly that playing the saddle guessing game is no fun - it's ultimately better IMO to suck it up and have a qualified fitter check it out. It's money well spent not only for adjusting the saddle fit if needed but for peace of mind.

As someone else noted, if he's not ultimately comfortable through his back, truly building his topline is going to be difficult.

jcotton
Jul. 6, 2011, 08:52 AM
The topline suggestions you have been given are excellent.
Personally, I would stay with your feeding program and the advise of your nutritionist friend. I nam not a fan of Progressive feed products.

I think a bit change is needed. Even if you go to the snaffle ring on your dutch elevator, you are still in leverage mode. He may not need a leverage bit as much as he needs your trust and retraining. Racehorses are taught to grab and run to the finish line. You have to untrain" the grab the bit". Grab the bit is not acceptance of the bit.
I would try to find a loose ring that he is happy in, whether it be a kk ultra or french link, or a single joint. It may take awhile to find a bit, that he likes for now, as he is developing. You may need to develop your hands to keep the "bit alive" in his mouth but not see-sawing or wagging his head.

Bogie
Jul. 6, 2011, 09:01 AM
T
Do you have him in the gag because he gets strong? Yes. He tends to get very heavy on my hands and can be very strong.

Based on this my guess is he's either strong or behind the bit. I had a horse like this and getting them to accept light contact is tough. My trainer told me that getting a bit heavy in my horse's case was preferable to having him float behind the bit. She encouraged me to get him lighter by using more transitions.



However, I believe it is that he is more comfortable in the single jointed heavier mouthpiece. I am going to try a full cheek with the same mouthpiece to see how he does. At first he was doing good in a french link O ring then he backed off of that so we tried a D Ring copper roller mouth but then that stopped working so we moved onto the 3 ring. As I said before he falls heavy on my hands at times and gets so strong that I feel like I have had an upper body workout! Unfortunately, horses haven't read the literature that explains why some bits are more comfortable than others! My TB also prefers a single jointed bit to a double jointed one.

To a certain extent, finding the right bit is trial and error. I might suggest that you try a pelham on your horse -- I use it on my TB out hunting because he can get strong, but a lot of the time I can ride him off the snaffle rein. I use the curb rein only as needed.


Yes I saw that. I didn't realize how busy my hands were until these pics. The videos I have of us show my hands very quiet but lately I have been struggling with him being so strong/heavy my hands have become all over the place. I am going to work on them now thanks to these pictures. Your horse isn't making it easy for you to keep your hands quiet. He's likely "baiting you" to move your hands because then he's changed the question from what you're asking. What helped me was putting a neck strap (or a breast plate) and then hooking my fingers through it. It's oh so tempting to pull back and if your hands are in a fixed location it forces you to ride your horse into the bridle.

I started using the gel pad when I first bought him because he was deemed "coldbacked". I had him vetted and there was no reason for the silly bucking. So I started using the gel pad and found he was happier with it. He doesn't tense up like he used to when I first got him.

Then, if it's not broke, don't fix it!


I personally don't like the Wintec we ride in but he seems to like this the best so it is what we use. I think the flexibility of the Wintec tree appeals to some horses. I have a Wintec pro jump that I use in the rain and find it surprisingly balanced. My TB seems very happy in it.

Good luck with him, I think he'll turn out to be a very fancy horse.

sketcher
Jul. 6, 2011, 09:22 AM
I have a mare who is cold backed and also would not build topline. I've had her home from a lease gone bad since April. She sort of looked unthrifty, just NQR. I was able to get weight on her fairly easily but no topline. Her hooves also did not look great - lots of small, very shallow cracks. Exercise did not make any difference. I adjusted her diet when I got her back and she had a nice shiny coat but no topline and just the slightest amount of wasting all over.

I've started her on selenium yeast and vitamin E.

I started her on 20,000 IU of vitamin E. When I didn't see any appreciable change, I switched her to 1 mg of yeast selenium a day and 10,000 IU of vitamin E. I did not see a difference with just supplementing her with Vit E but do see a rather quick and definite difference with the addition of the selenium - although admittedly the difference could now just be showing up from the Vit E and the selenium might have nothing to do with it. I plan on having my mares selenium level tested in a month to see where she stands with it. In the northeast, on a diet of mostly grass hay with some carb guard and ground flax, selenium deficiency is a definite possibility and I figure 1 mg is a safe bet toxicity wise.

You might try adding a decent amount of Vitamin E and see if that helps. I wouldn't typically add selenium without bloodwork first but in the case of this mare it seemed so obvious and I have seen a striking difference.

onelove
Jul. 6, 2011, 02:04 PM
Thank you all for the support. It's so nice to be able to come here and get good advice and support. Today I found out that we can school on the hay hill by the stallion's paddock, provided the stallion is not turned out so we did. The hill is a great slope, the kind you can sled down but not too step and because it is partially grass hay and the dirt path, plus sloped on one side and flat on another, he had the best of all worlds.
I changed his bit to a Korsteel full cheek snaffle that has a smaller french link mouth piece but also has a copper roller ball. We had tried this bit when I first got him but he didn't like it then so we are re-visiting its possibilities. He seemed okay with it, a bit chompy but that was expected since it was a whole new set up. I also didn't use any side reins or the lunge system as I wanted him to have full use of his head and back, which was good because he stumbled about a bit while he worked it.
I didn't ask him to work but let him pace himself. If he wanted to canter, I let him as I knew going up the slope he'd need to find his balance anyway he could. He trotted on his own accord and was able to find his own footing quite well.
I didn't work him long as it was hot and this was hard work.. I think in total we worked maybe 15-20 minutes in total.
I didn't ride him as I knew lunging on the hill was going to be more than enough for his back and body. We cooled off on the flat and by that time, the greenheads were making it impossible so we went for a bath. I could tell he was tired so there was no reason for me to get on him and work him further. The hill work was enough.
So that's my plan for now. On the days my BO's stud is not in his paddock we will work the hill. I do plan to eventually ride him on it but I think just lunging on it for now is most important. He'll benefit more from it without me making it worse. I figure let him get comfortable with being there and let his body get used to working like that, then we can ride it. I'm not going to rush his fitness, but do it gradually like you are supposed to yourself. I can't expect over-night miracles for myself so why should I demand them of him?
On the days we can't work on the hill, we will go back in the ring. Last year we tried ground poles but he was literally falling over them. Now that we are at a better facility with better footing in their ring, I don't think we will have much of an issue anymore. We do occasionally use the flower boxes as small cavelettis and he does good with those so the change of footing really has helped his confidence.
So thank you all again. I will keep reporting our progress and please feel free to offer suggestions as they are very much appreciated. I am going to look for another saddle and will get it fitted for us both. I really don't like my Wintec. It's great for horses like him that have no topline so it isn't heavy but even though they are the same company, I really want a Bates Caprilli AP. These pictures also showed me that I need a bigger saddle myself so we are going to look for a used inexpensive AP until I can get the saddle I want.

stryder
Jul. 6, 2011, 02:30 PM
Be careful not to overwork him. Muscles build on rest days after hard work. Others here have much more experience in this area, but perhaps you do the hillwork every other day, a couple days of flatwork, then a rest day or two thrown in. You'll make faster progress with some rest, than with none.

good luck!

Bogie
Jul. 6, 2011, 02:37 PM
Ditto on not overworking him.

I also think you'd see a lot of benefits from just riding him at a walk up and down the hill.

Every spring when I start to condition I do tons of walking rides that include a big hill (also a sledding hill).

After I worked my horse this morning I took him for an hour walk and went up our big hill. The added bonus was that I found the sled my daughter left up there over the winter :D.

Long, relaxed walks on hills and some hard surfaces are great for conditioning.

lstevenson
Jul. 7, 2011, 12:51 AM
Be careful not to overwork him. Muscles build on rest days after hard work.


This is a very important point. I think of hillwork as strength training, and do hill repeats no more than twice a week to allow for muscle recovery.

Make sure your horse works correctly through his topline as he's doing the hillwork, pushing from behind, rather than being strung out and pulling himself up with his front legs.




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aWp
Jul. 8, 2011, 12:09 AM
Just want to chime in and say that I also think he's very cute, and that with lots of patience and the suggestions you've been given here, I think you'll be very happy with your guy. He's got a sweet eye, and seems like a try-er, which is great. From some of the pictures I saw, it looks like there's a whole lot of bit hanging out of the side of his mouth. While you're trying out different bits, perhaps make sure the size is correct. If the bit is too long for him, it will move too much from side to side, and make it hard for him to settle into it, even on the lunge.

Good luck, and enjoy your boy!

jigskoppy
Jul. 8, 2011, 11:13 AM
I make and sell this product and have received a lot of positive feedback from trainers on how it helps to engage the hind end and build topline. You have gotten great advice here - and this product can be used within your training program to emphasize engagement of the hind end. Please feel free to PM me with any questions!
www.horsehugger.net

Karosel
Jul. 8, 2011, 12:35 PM
I have a mare who is cold backed and also would not build topline. I've had her home from a lease gone bad since April. She sort of looked unthrifty, just NQR. I was able to get weight on her fairly easily but no topline. Her hooves also did not look great - lots of small, very shallow cracks. Exercise did not make any difference. I adjusted her diet when I got her back and she had a nice shiny coat but no topline and just the slightest amount of wasting all over.

I've started her on selenium yeast and vitamin E.

I started her on 20,000 IU of vitamin E. When I didn't see any appreciable change, I switched her to 1 mg of yeast selenium a day and 10,000 IU of vitamin E. I did not see a difference with just supplementing her with Vit E but do see a rather quick and definite difference with the addition of the selenium - although admittedly the difference could now just be showing up from the Vit E and the selenium might have nothing to do with it. I plan on having my mares selenium level tested in a month to see where she stands with it. In the northeast, on a diet of mostly grass hay with some carb guard and ground flax, selenium deficiency is a definite possibility and I figure 1 mg is a safe bet toxicity wise.

You might try adding a decent amount of Vitamin E and see if that helps. I wouldn't typically add selenium without bloodwork first but in the case of this mare it seemed so obvious and I have seen a striking difference.

You just described my mare. Easy to put weight on, but no topline, and her feet some some thin cracks. I'm going to put her on at vit. E and selenium supplement. I've never heard of yeast selenium though. Do you have any particular brands of supplement to suggest?

joiedevie99
Jul. 8, 2011, 12:55 PM
I can only see the first bath picture- not the others...

I would ride up and down hills 2-3 times per week at a walk, maybe 15 minutes per session. Walking is the hardest for the horse since he doesn't have momentum to push himself up. Trot and canter are easier for him.

Honestly, skip lounging on the hill until he is further along. You need to be able to keep him at the walk, and reaching down and forward and he needs to learn to go straight and push up the hill. Shorten your stirrups an extra hole so you can get up out of the tack a little- it will help your muscles too.

On the other days, do lots of walk/trot transitions in the ring and walk or trot over single poles. If he takes to that, you can build up to lines of cavaletti at the walk, then the trot. Make sure your transitions are active- he can't just fall into the walk, that first walk step after the down transition has to be big and powerful. Similarly, he has to push from his hind legs into the trot- with a big, powerful first trot step.

Definitely no sitting trot at all. It's not a question of pads, but rather a question of whether his stomach muscles and core are strong enough to stay lifted while you are sitting.

Good for you for finding a snaffle that he can work in. Don't be afraid to correct him if he is hanging on you. It's his job to carry his own body.

onelove
Jul. 8, 2011, 02:18 PM
I make and sell this product and have received a lot of positive feedback from trainers on how it helps to engage the hind end and build topline. You have gotten great advice here - and this product can be used within your training program to emphasize engagement of the hind end. Please feel free to PM me with any questions!
www.horsehugger.net

I was actually trying to think of something like this because I like the way he uses his hind end with the Pessoa lunging system but I can't ride him in that. This horsehugger is the same concept basically and I suppose you could add side reins or a Chambon to set the head while using this too. It's a little pricey for me right now as I lost my job at the beginning of the year but I do have a birthday coming up.....;)

onelove
Jul. 8, 2011, 02:38 PM
Today we worked under saddle while a group lesson was going on. We didn't do much just some walking and a few trotting circles as he was a bit sore. I am sure that the hill work had a lot to do with it, plus they were in all day thanks to the thunderstorms we had and the farrier was out to trim yesterday so I really wasn't surprised that he was sore. Just being in the ring with the lesson kids was good for him as he needs the exposure to ring commotion for when/if we show.

I rode him in the full cheek today and while I had contact, he wasn't as responsive as he was in the 3 ring. We mostly walked, me pushing him forward and working off of my leg and seat. I did try to keep my hands at his withers and I did think his head was lower than it was in the 3 ring. (I do know that the 3 ring was a bit big for him and have one on order that is smaller.)

We trotted just to stretch and keep up with the lessons kids (and avoid the silly bird who built a nest in the ring!) I kept him mostly to a working walk.

We won't do the hills every day- I guess my post about the hills was a bit misleading. Back in my skinny days when I played soccer, I used to have to run the bleachers and Good God Almighty that was so friggin hard and I was in shape so I wouldn't expect him to do it every day. We wouldn't be able to if we wanted to because of the BO's stud. Being that my horse still acts like a stallion, there are too many what-ifs that none of us want to investigate.

So all in all we had a good day. :) One question I do have is about cantering him. I do canter him on the lunge line and last year before the Bell's Palsy, I had started cantering him under saddle but lately, I have been wanting to again. While I do have some fear because of my balance, that my be all in my head and I just need to get over it. So with not having a topline, I am thinking I should ride the canter in 2 point if I do it. It's a big step for us. If I do canter him, how long and how often should I do it? It's a part of our lunge work and we often do trot-canter-trot transitions: trot 5-7 strides, canter for 10, downward back to trot a few strides etc. When I started cantering him last year, we mainly cantered the short ends and trotted the length of the ring and I was thinking of doing this again. Any thoughts?

Bogie
Jul. 8, 2011, 03:05 PM
TOne question I do have is about cantering him. I do canter him on the lunge line and last year before the Bell's Palsy, I had started cantering him under saddle but lately, I have been wanting to again. While I do have some fear because of my balance, that my be all in my head and I just need to get over it. So with not having a topline, I am thinking I should ride the canter in 2 point if I do it. It's a big step for us. If I do canter him, how long and how often should I do it? It's a part of our lunge work and we often do trot-canter-trot transitions: trot 5-7 strides, canter for 10, downward back to trot a few strides etc. When I started cantering him last year, we mainly cantered the short ends and trotted the length of the ring and I was thinking of doing this again. Any thoughts?

Riding the canter in 2-point is probably a good idea. If you are concerned about your balance, I'd suggest adding a neck strap (a stirrup leather will do) so you can keep yourself more secure.

I, personally, start cantering a young horse on longer, straight stretches before asking them to hold the canter on a circle or on the small ends of the ring. I concentrate first on STRAIGHT and don't worry too much about which lead we get, either.

Keep in mind that cantering will not be difficult for an x-racehorse! I wouldn't worry about him getting too tired or sore from it. Sometimes the most difficult part is a calm transition up from the trot but it sounds like you have him well trained on the lunge so it's probably not an issue. If I have a horse that wants to get quick, I sometimes let them trot over a pole or a x-rail to pop them into the canter at first.

I remember when I first got my OTTB. He was very "hot" and anxious so I took him out to a very large field and decided I would hand gallop him around it until he was tired, then make him go a bit further so he got the idea that I was driving the train. After we'd circled that field 12 times I thought I'd fall off with exhaustion; he was still having fun. These guys are bred to run.

Canter as much as you feel comfortable with and remember: if you're in an arena, you don't need to really worry about him getting away from you :D.

TickleFight
Jul. 8, 2011, 03:39 PM
Since you do a lot of lunging my suggestion is to purchase a set of Vienna reins. Make sure you set them so your horse can poke his nose a little ahead of vertical. The Viennas will encourage him to work over his back and engage his hind legs while allowing him to stretch toward the bit. They also help horses who lack balance while on the bit.

It sounds like your boy is a bit dull in the mouth. My suggestion is not to change bits (as long as his current bit fits him.) Instead, focus on riding almost completely with your seat and legs. A firm and steady contact with the bit is fine for now, but do not move it around in his mouth. Trust me, the less you use your hands the more sensitive his mouth will become.

Also, in terms of his nutrition, sometimes a less-is-more approach works really well. Turn him out 24/7 or at least all day (preferably in a large grassy pasture) and feed him a simple combination of oats and beet pulp. Find a quality vitamin/mineral supplement or block and call it good. Over management of nutrition can result in weight loss in some horses.

onelove
Jul. 8, 2011, 04:03 PM
Vienna reins? A quick Google image search showed me what looked like draw reins, something I was taught never to use on a horse that had bucking issues like he does. I was told they could cause you to flip your horse so I have used side reins instead. I don't use them every day now just when I know he may not be focusing or may be a little tense. The Pessoa I use maybe once in awhile...its such a pain to unravel and i would rather spend time on him than arguing with some rope monster! I am off to work :cry: but I will check back tonight and post what our typical workouts are through the week.
Thanks everyone!

stryder
Jul. 8, 2011, 04:06 PM
You don't need any of the gadgets to build his topline.

Bogie
Jul. 8, 2011, 04:09 PM
You don't need any of the gadgets to build his topline.

:D

TickleFight
Jul. 8, 2011, 05:09 PM
You don't need any of the gadgets to build his topline.

Not if you are a good rider.

However, allowing a horse to run around on a lunge with his nose sticking out will not help him correctly develop his muscles or balance. "Gadgets" have their place, and I have seen Vienna reins used effectively many times.

Of course, any suggestions should be used or not at the discretion of the owner.

stryder
Jul. 8, 2011, 05:43 PM
Not if you are a good rider.

... "Gadgets" have their place, and I have seen Vienna reins used effectively many times.



However, I think improper use of gadgets does more harm than not using them. Yes, they can be used properly. But by the time one has the knowledge to use them correctly, they aren't needed.

I have read posts in which an owner or trainer, in a particular circumstance with a particular horse, uses a device for a specific period of time to fix a particular problem. But unfortunately, I have also seen the indiscriminate use of devices by people with little knowledge. I don't think that's a good idea.

Just sayin'

TickleFight
Jul. 8, 2011, 06:06 PM
However, I think improper use of gadgets does more harm than not using them. Yes, they can be used properly. But by the time one has the knowledge to use them correctly, they aren't needed.

I have read posts in which an owner or trainer, in a particular circumstance with a particular horse, uses a device for a specific period of time to fix a particular problem. But unfortunately, I have also seen the indiscriminate use of devices by people with little knowledge. I don't think that's a good idea.

Just sayin'

Certainly auxiliary reins are not for every horse or every problem. But I have used Viennas to help several horses who were very badly ridden for years before they came to me. For certain animals these reins help them to release tension, find their balance, and develop the beginnings of proper musculature without being burdened by a rider. After a month of being lunged in Vienna reins they were much better prepared for the work ahead.

With one mare in particular C. Haddad herself recommended a month in Viennas.

aWp
Jul. 9, 2011, 11:35 AM
When you get to that point, you could use a simple polo wrap to act in the same way as the much more expensive Horsehugger gadget.....

jigskoppy
Jul. 12, 2011, 06:41 PM
The problem with using polo wraps is that they are so stretchy and have so much give, horses tend to ignore them after the first few minutes. The HorseHugger is made from a firm canvas webbing that makes the point a little more clear and consistent to the horse. Another aspect is safety, and I believe it is better to have a leather/canvas sewn product than polos that are tied together.