View Full Version : Engaging the hind end

Cat Tap
May. 1, 2012, 02:51 PM
I m currently schooling a Clyde x. He is very well behaved and I have him happily motoring long and low. We are now at the stage where I need him to carry more from behind and raising the front end. He finds lateral work difficult but with the help of spurs we are progressing. I recently had a trainer help me but the only advice she gave was to shorten my reins and hold a stronger and steadier contact. When I do that I find it difficult to keep our impulsion.

What exercises do you recommend would be helpful at this stage. Unfortunately I forgot to ask the trainer for advice.

May. 1, 2012, 03:06 PM
I'd start by solidifying his half-halt.

On a 20m circle, trot half the circle and walk half the circle. Try to make your transitions crisp. He must reacty immediately to the forward aid, and immediately to the walk aid.

When that's good, try to make your transitions closer together. Walk four steps, trot four steps, etc. Depending on the horse, you can do trot-halt-trot-halt at this point also.

Then, you're really ready to deal with the half-halt. Start by trotting, then walking for one step, then right back to trot. After a couple of those- do some almost-walks, i.e. trot, give walk aid, feel his balance shift back and his haunches come under, then give trot aid before he actually walks.

The same aid, to a less exaggerated degree, will bring his hind legs under and his balance back without creating a downward transition. When the hind legs are taking more weight and the horse is balanced, he'll be able to left his shoulders.

May. 1, 2012, 03:30 PM
Before you attempt the above make sure that your horse understands what bend is and how you ask for it.If you have a horse nicely bent on your circle he is a lot more relaxed, probably lighter in the contact and more willing to give you nice transitions, starting from the back end.The last thing you need is a stiff straight horse bracing against you. I have my youngsters doing shoulder-in and haunches-in at walk on a circle before asking for what you want. It helps them stretch the back end before having to reach under and carry more.

May. 1, 2012, 06:31 PM
I think (granted I'm not a trainer, just an owner of a draft cross) that shortening the reins is a short cut to making the horse look like his hind end is engaged. In reality you'll just get a horse with a very compressed front end. And in addition, with cold horses the last thing you want to do is apply the brakes right?

Lunge work, relaxing the top line, and hill work are in the cards for Fella. Hind ends are engaged from the rear not the front, IMO.


May. 1, 2012, 06:38 PM
If you've got good, soft contact going on and he's reaching for the bit...lots of transitions. Best done on a circle. Walk half, trot half. Trot a quarter, walk a quarter, repeat. Mix it up, add in canter if he's strong enough. Will sharpen him and engage the back end.

Another idea would be cavaletti or ground poles.

May. 1, 2012, 09:51 PM
What a timely posted thread. I am riding my 4 yr old, who is 1/2 arab & 1/4 holst/1/4SF. Transition, transition, transition..... And sort out which bit best fits his need now--in a week or two -it may change......

May. 1, 2012, 09:56 PM
probably the long and low isnt doing you any favors. horses built a bit heavier in front shouldn't be worked low.

the first thing is forward activity and even contact. dont let him get low. then you will need to add in lateral work aka TOF and LY which will help with bend etc.

at some point you will have to shorten your reins and ride him forward into eh contact. but that wont work if he is trotting along nose down and on the forehand.

May. 1, 2012, 10:14 PM
Mbm has it right. Most heavier horses need to learn to work off of the outside and bend correctly without too much low if any.

Carol Ames
May. 1, 2012, 10:22 PM
I've found it helps to ask/ teach both from the ground; With riders dismounted make sure the horse is able to raise his back; if not, loosen the girth, then remove the saddle; you would be surprised how many:eek: horses cannot raise their backs with the saddles where they were; once this has been resolved, try a pelvic tilt, put your hands on the rider and allow them to feel a pelvic tilt as the horse does; at the same;) time

Carol Ames
May. 1, 2012, 10:47 PM
The neck rope has been nowrenamed "promise rope" The original rope was a climbing rope I am told; actually, any rope or rein, a martingale ring is especially good;place it around the neck at, in front of the withers It can be held like a second rein When closing the hand to halt:yes: also activate by pullingit "up once that is understood; use it in transitions up and down In my experience nothing works but, trot walk halt on a circle; that was how I spent my mornings;) in my last year of riding, it became like doing my scales exercises:cool: in the morning and soon became how I started a, teach them to a new horse from the start, :cool: No?

Cat Tap
May. 2, 2012, 07:35 PM
Thank you for responding. Your posts have been helpful.

joidevie99 your post made me realize that I never taught this horse how to respond to a half halt. I am used to TBs and they seemed to understand the half halt without too much preparation. I have been doing transitions but not quite to the degree you suggested. I also realized that I do not work enough on circles.

I wore my spurs today and followed your instructions precisely and it did not have to repeat this exercise too many times for him to understand what I wanted.

Equibrit he does bend quite well so the above exercise was very productive.

mbm you advise against working him long and low. I allow this part way through our school as a break and again in our cool down trot. I can feel his back coming up and all his joints seem to loosen up. It does not feel like he is on the forehand. I use it as a reward and he seems to enjoy it. It also feels good for me as he feels light and forward.

CarolAmes I am sorry but did not understand your advice.

I am quite happy how much we achieved today. The spurs were very helpful. At some point I was worried about being too aggressive with the spurs but I did not leave any marks on him nor did he seem to mind.

Now the canter is another story. He is very happy cantering about on a light feel. The canter is never four beat but there is no power to it. I have tried to open him up by doing a hand gallop in two point with lots of vocals on my part to liven him up. Doesn't work. Neither does the whip. He just throws his hind end in the air stalling in the process. So today again working on the circle with lots of canter/trot/canter transitions and lots and lots of spur I did feel some improvement.

Any further helpful suggestions will be appreciated. I do want to mention that he is not sour or nappy, always trustworthy, well mannered and quite enjoyable to work with.

May. 2, 2012, 09:04 PM
If you can ride a little haunches in at the canter it will help lift the front and improve the quality of the canter. With the heavy guys its all about FITNESS training---a bit of hill work or some working trail rides would help improve his aerobic capacity and general strength.

May. 2, 2012, 11:48 PM
Not sure how long you have been at it or how old he is - but I would not fret about the canter until you have taught him half halts. Remember it is a journey!

My big guy is not half draft but some think he is. He is half Hann and half appy and he got all the bone from both and since he is 'almost' a dun - he is a chestnut with flaxen and grey in the mane and tail and a VERY faint grey dorsel stripe - my vet said he is a chestnut but looks like a dun gene might run amok somewhere faintly - well, he looks hald Belgian but even though he can be a little heavy and all - he doesnt move like he is half Belgian.

Point is - half halts are really key and transition work key. Not sure how your horse is built but I prayed for 6s in his canter and now, I get 8s on his canter and could just canter all day - his is so great because he is SO powerful. The half halt was key and transitions key. And enjoy the small victories.

May. 3, 2012, 12:10 AM
Once again I think if you post video you might be more profitable info.

As for long and low: if done as you say for a few strides, then fine. If you are riding with his head lowered all the time or the majority of the time - I think you will find it isn’t helpful.

Can he go evenly into the contact both direction and all 3 gaits? Does he bend well - i.e. can he do a fairly decent 20 meter circle without falling in or out?

Is he reactive to your leg? Is he happily forward and reaching for the bit?

These are all basics and engagement is something I would not worry about until all the basics are solid, the most important being forward and even contact.

Also, re: HI in canter - I would be very careful about doing this since horses are generally very crooked in the canter anyway.... I would only do this under tutelage of a good trainer because it is very easy to teach evasion then you will end up creating a problem that wasn't there.

May. 3, 2012, 12:18 AM
With a big heavy horse and an anvil head (Ive ridden plenty so no judging!), you want to make sure that outside shoulder is for SURE staying with you and attempt to get your canter departure straight straight STRAIGHT.

I would NOT do long and low hardly ever being that it can create more weight but DO learn to give that inside rein and half halts that give even on the outside.

The give is your strength with the biguns otherwise you are doing a weightlifting routine that will never end :lol:

May. 3, 2012, 08:24 PM
mbm you advise against working him long and low. I allow this part way through our school as a break and again in our cool down trot. I can feel his back coming up and all his joints seem to loosen up. It does not feel like he is on the forehand. I use it as a reward and he seems to enjoy it. It also feels good for me as he feels light and forward.

Do not ignore this feeling.

Carol Ames
May. 5, 2012, 12:06 PM
What you describe is fine:yes:, and importan:yes:t in engaging the hindquarters; it tells you you are on your way;):cool:

Do not ignore this feeling.

May. 6, 2012, 11:31 AM
re: long and low and it feeling good.

fwiw, i have had several trainers (good ones too) tell me that even tho it felt "good" the fact was that i was riding my horse on the forehand and that for that particular type of horse it wasn't the most positive thing to be doing *if my goal was to progress in my training up the levels*

i think what a rider feels and what it is actually can be very different - which is why we need excellent eyes on the ground.

of course, i am just going off what was written here - which might be very different that the reality once a vid is posted.

May. 6, 2012, 12:58 PM
In a true stretch, the horse is not on the forehand. As long as the hind legs are engaged and the horse is forward, it's probably fine.

May. 6, 2012, 03:38 PM
If the hind end isn't engaged, the horse is by definition on its forehand, especially without a half halt. So mbm is correct about long and low, it is counterproductive at the moment.

In my experience, the key to engaging the hind end is straightness and controlling the shoulders, particularly the outside shoulder as NOMIOMI1 suggests. None of this can be accomplished without a well established half halt.

I would suggest rethinking the order and priorities in your training program.

Cat Tap
May. 7, 2012, 08:21 PM
Just to clarify, our long and low sessions are brief. He is pushing from behind, on a steady but soft contact, bending nicely through the turns. Again we only do this during a short break and at the end of the session. He is a very kind horse. Because of the way he is built and his breeding carrying from behind is difficult for him but he tries hard.

Even though following the rider's commands is his job I do want him to be able to enjoy some of it.

Which brings me to another completely different problem. One of my own horses is a Dutch Warmblood with absolutely no work ethic. His favorite gate is halt. He has been a big disappointment.

May. 7, 2012, 11:08 PM
He sounds like a nice willing partner but it shouldn't change much about your training strategy.
A horse that is pushing from behind but isn't engaged is just being run onto its forehand. And if he isn't really carrying weight on his inside hind, he isn't truly bending either.

I wouldn't worry too much about his enjoyment. If he has a willing nature and is being properly prepared for what is asked of him that won't change.

All of this goes back to an established half halt. You need to have a way to guide him to rebalance himself instead of allowing him to roll himself downhill.

Cat Tap
May. 8, 2012, 08:53 PM
I think I have been trying too hard to change his way of going too quickly and forcefully. I shortened the reins as recommended by my trainer, doing lots of crisp transitions, had him obey to the half halts at the trot, using my spurs for instant response and I think he told me today to lay off. He started throwing his head, which he used to do in the past when he was not fit and tired easily. When I asked him to move forward he curled his back up and remained stuck in low gear.

I tried to push him through softly but did not pursue it. The last time I tried to forcefully straighten out a crooked horse I broke my collar bone. Turned out the horse had a problem with one of his vertebraes.

It was most unfortunate as today his owner came to see our progress. Since he was fine during the warm up and he looked sound on the lunge we decided to give him a day off and then proceed a little slower.

May. 9, 2012, 10:02 AM
You are getting lots of great advice - just wanted to add my concerns about you using your spurs for forward. I've always been taught that spurs are for refinement of the aid, not for forward. If you are having to resort to spurs for "instant response", your horse is not respecting your leg and seat ... which means he's probably note engaging his hind ... which was your original question if I recall correctly.

May. 9, 2012, 12:29 PM
Seat and effective leg aids. Reins have nothing to do with engaging the hind end!!!!