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Short comings of short-backed horses?

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  • Short comings of short-backed horses?

    So I am horse shopping officially now, and after weeding through tons and tons of internet ads and videos, I found a 4yo that was just started 90 days ago (I think it's a plus that he was started not until 4). I really liked him from his pics and videos and tried him out over the weekend. He was comfy to ride, very smooth trot while still very expressive with good reach, excellent walk, good canter (but he's a little butt high right now so it was pretty unbalanced and I think it will improve), and although he is young and green, he was started by a trainer that I know and respect and he has a GREAT brain! No naughty stuff whatsoever, in fact he was tried out by a RANK beginner (which I am not) last week and was a SAINT. The rider got out of balance on him at one point and instead of panicking, bolting, bucking, or something else gawdawful, he SLOWED DOWN for her to catch her balance! He's got really good bloodlines on both sides known for trainability and rideability, and even though he's a little on the tall side for me (16.2 with maybe another inch to grow) I still felt comfortable riding him and was confident he wouldn't do anything BAD like my old horse used to do.

    So, here's the thing. He is very LEGGY and tall right now, and he is proportionally short-backed. He's got a HUGE overtrack because of that, but what I want to know is what training challenges can a short-backed horse present? He has a full brother built very similarly that's doing 2nd/3rd level, and from what I saw his lateral work left something to be desired. However he was being ridden overbent 70% of the time so that may have been a contributing factor more than his conformation. Can lateral work be a problem for short backed horses? Or are there any other training challenges with short backed horses?

  • #2
    In my experience, the biggest thing is a tendency to carry tension. I've heard different opinions on whether a shorter back can affect lateral movement or lengthenings as well, but find it's more my horse's hind end and shoulder conformation which affect that than his back.

    Personally, I prefer short-backed. The feel of a longer, springy back is awesome because it's something I am not used to, so it's neat to feel, but I prefer having the power of the hind end RIGHT THERE that I tend to get more from shorter backed horses. I also love the excessive overtrack.
    Originally posted by Silverbridge
    If you get anything on your Facebook feed about who is going to the Olympics in 2012 or guessing the outcome of Bush v Gore please start threads about those, too.


    • #3
      Do realize that at 4 years old, he can grow for 3 more years.
      Tranquility Farm - Proud breeder of Born in the USA Sport Horses, and Cob-sized Warmbloods
      Now apparently completely invisible!


      • Original Poster

        I realize that, but his full brother topped out at 16.3 and he looked about the same as this guy at 4yo. I've never seen a horse get much taller after 5yo, I know people say they can, but I've had 3 young WB's before this one (an Oldenburg, Hanoverian, and Friesian/WB cross) and they all stopped growing height-wise sometime in their 4th year, but continued to fill out into their 5th year. I usually watch for the withers to "pop", once that happens I haven't seen them get much taller, but sometimes the neck muscles fill out in front of the wither to give them a taller appearance. I would be okay if this guy got to 17H anyways, but that's the top end of my height limit. I'm 5'5" so not extremely short. Ideally I'd like him to be a few inches shorter, but sometimes you just can't have it all and the right horse may be in a taller or shorter package.


        • #5
          I can tell you mine grew a smidge at 7. He definitely grew at 5 and 6.

          He's also short-backed, and it is hard to get him loose and supple through his back, going to what netg said.
          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


          • #6
            The lateral work is more difficult. Short backed horses really have to bend through the ribcage to clearly show the lateral movements.

            Collection can be easier with a short backed horse, however.
            "Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain" ~Friedrich Schiller


            • #7
              Granted I haven't been doing dressage long, but my horse is short backed and our main issue so far had been tension. But it isn't something we haven't been able to deal with. We just have to really focus on suppling quite a bit more than some other people I know at a similar point in their training.

              We have started very basic lateral work and it seems easy for him and he does well with it, but, as I said, we aren't very far in training yet- it may yet be more difficult for him.
              My blog:



              • #8
                In sporthorse breeding, the ideal model is a rectangular built horse. From the KWPN Linear Score Sheet http://kwpn-na.org/display/files/LinearScoring.pdf :
                Horses need a rectangular conformation
                in order to be athletic and
                For dressage, the shorter backed horse has less back and less body to bend around your leg (fulcrum point), versus the horse with more real estate. Shorter = less flexible. Longer = more flexible.

                Having trained both types, I found it much easier to train the longer backed horse. Shorter backed horses had a harder time moving the shoulder or haunches over. Again, less bend through the spine, because there WAS less spine.

                I also have to wonder about the shorter backed horse and his front and hind legs being closer together, and if this made it more difficult for the horse to get organized. Some short backed horses look like they want to have a really active hind leg but don't because there is nowhere for that stride to go - it runs into the front.


                • #9
                  bar.ka here

                  problem eye fin.d is not enti.re fam.ily of 4 children can sit on hors.e @ 1 time. this sad for hor.se and family.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by barka.lounger View Post
                    bar.ka here

                    problem eye fin.d is not enti.re fam.ily of 4 children can sit on hors.e @ 1 time. this sad for hor.se and family.
                    Ha! Very sad indeed.

                    I like shortbacked horses. Yes, they may need additional suppling work/long and low work. But, they have lots of power, can often sit well, and I find it easier to work with their canter. I hate having to "put together" a horse at the canter who's hind end is miles behind my saddle. I like the powder keg feel of a short coupled horse.
                    2007 Welsh Cob C X TB GG Eragon
                    Our training journal.
                    1989-2008 French TB Shamus Fancy
                    I owned him for fifteen years, but he was his own horse.


                    • #11
                      I have to second what Sister said about both the canter and the power of a short backed horse. My current main competition horse is a very small (15.3 if he stands up tall) and VERY compact gelding, currently doing 4th level and about to start PSG. Yes, we do have issues with lateral suppleness and some tension in the back, but by keeping him really strong and uphill in his work we do pretty well with most things. The canter is a blast to ride - quick responses to extension and collection, very uphill. Collection in the canter has come pretty easily. Changes took a while for exactly the reason one poster stated that his stride was huge in the changes and he didn't know how to manage it.

                      Unless you have the "perfect" horse, all of them present challenges and I happen to love a very powerful, quick horse so a short back does great for me. If you love the horse as he is, then he should be fun to work with whatever his body type.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Fantastic View Post
                        In sporthorse breeding, the ideal model is a rectangular built horse.
                        Long rectangle, as opposed to the tall rectangle I know you imply that in your description, but just in case anyone skims...

                        Even a tall rectangle could have a long enough back, and just overly-long legs. Theoretically LOL

                        I think it's less about the shape (tall rectangle, long rectangle, square) than about the back length relative to the whole length.
                        The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                        • #13
                          I have a short backed horse, and he does require a "unique" warm up. I can't tell you if that's because he has a short back, or the myriad of other reasons why my horse is unique.
                          things that help him are
                          in hand ground work on TOF, TOH, SI, HI
                          hills as a warmup in many configurations. I love to do SI and HI on hills. 5 minutes of that and he's putty to mold however i want.
                          straight line work

                          a short back is a strong back, so while it may pose a few suppling challenges to work uniquely with, you'll probably get more riding years of of him if you treat him well.

                          saddle fit can be a beeyotch too depending on how short a back you are talkin. My horse is 15.2 with a short back and i'm 5'9" with a 36" inseam. God Bless my saddle fitter
                          chaque pas est fait ensemble


                          • Original Poster

                            OK, well I'm just going to post a link to pics of him and see what you all think. The shorter back was the one thing that jumped out at my trainer, but she thought it was more of a positive (for collection) than negative.



                            • #15
                              He is very pretty with good bone and good length of neck. I don't see a problem with his back - doesn't look OVERLY short-backed to me. If you like him, I say buy him. If you wait to find the perfect horse, you will most likely never buy one.


                              • #16
                                Every horse poses training issues. It depends on what you prefer to deal with, what you should buy.

                                I am not crazy about very short backed horses and would not buy one for myself. However, I ride many of them and enjoy them very much. Lateral work is harder and the fact that a long back is usually combined with a long neck, true straightness and self carriage can be challenging.. They fake it easier than other horses do. You do have to really watch them for tension in the top line and there is the added negative bonus that they often jerk their front shoes off with their back feet LOL.

                                The horse in your pic is very attractive. He is tho, I think from this pic, not only short backed but short coupled. There is a very good chance he will get some length there, if he does not you will have to be very careful in saddle fit (if you need a particularly large saddle, forget it) and he may have a tendency to get sore on his lower back. I Like his length of neck for his body at this time and he stands over a lot of ground.

                                There is some debate that the modern shape dressage horse is more prone to spine issues, such as kissing spines. I don't know how true that is, but my take on it is that good dressage's like good yoga and that the facets in the horsesmspine should be opening and realigning when ridden correctly... I might keep that in mind, particularly with a horse built like this.
                                "Kindness is free" ~ Eurofoal
                                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances.


                                • #17
                                  Just saw the pic. Wow. That's short LOL You have the lovely added bonus of a long wither. I agree with ET - if you need a big saddle, it's just not going to work. Upswept panels are just about a must for these guys to stay off their loin.

                                  At 4, I'm not convinced he'll lengthen to any significant degree, but as the spine IS among the last things to finish (around 5, with the hocks), he may lengthen a little. He's not going to suddenly be not-short in his back though.
                                  The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                  • #18
                                    yes he does have a short back, but so what. the rest of him is very nice, and it sounds like he has a nice demeanor.
                                    snatch him up. worst case you learn different ways of dealing with this conformational element.
                                    chaque pas est fait ensemble


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Petstorejunkie View Post
                                      saddle fit can be a beeyotch too depending on how short a back you are talkin. My horse is 15.2 with a short back and i'm 5'9" with a 36" inseam. God Bless my saddle fitter
                                      haha---I have to say I had a similar issue....my horse is a bit taller but I am 5'8" with about that inseam and saddle fitting has been difficult to say the least....

                                      But OP...looks like a nice horse. My .02, from someone who took a horse that was handed to me because I liked his personality, is if you like him why not? I guess I feel it may be more about personality fit than conformation since it is a rare horse that has perfect conformation. But I am really really not an expert by any stretch....
                                      My blog:



                                      • Original Poster

                                        Well I do take an 18" saddle, but it didn't sit as far back as you would think on him. If you look at the top plane of his back, his withers go back pretty far, but then if you look at his length of back from his shoulder to stifle, he doesn't look so short. So maybe the withers are giving an illusion of a really short back? Yes, it's still short, but maybe not extremely so?

                                        I just have to make sure that the saddle is going to clear those withers so it can sit where it should and not sit so far back onto his loins. We did check my saddle on him, and it really wasn't all that bad, in fact the "well respected" BNT trainer evaluated it for me and thought it would be fine, and I do trust his judgement. I actually bought one of my previous horses from him many years back, it's such a small world! But it's definitely something I need to watch and I appreciate everyone's input.