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Improving topline for horse with longback

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  • Improving topline for horse with longback

    I'm wondering what exercises people have found super helpful to improve toplines, especially in a horse with a naturally long back. My guy is 9, and is a SUPERB jumper. I'd really like to improve his flatwork, but he is really difficult to collect and struggles to be soft over his topline. I've been working a lot on long & low, trying to get him to stretch and soften that way. I'd like to be able to pick him up and ask him to come through from behind without getting tense and hollow.

    Suggestions? I'll include a picture so you can see what I mean (please disregard his filth and fuzziness..)


  • #2
    My horse is somewhat similar to yours just not as extreme.
    I found that if im soft with my hands and maintain the contact he will stretch down into the contact(without leaning!) and come through the back. You can try carrot stretches(taking a carrot or fav. treat and go through his 2 front legs asking him to put his head in between his legs to get the treat. You can also do it to the sides by putting the treat next to the barrel and asking them to bend the neck without moving to get the treat. This is just a stretch on the ground.
    Do lots and lots of flat work and never never never let him get away with being strung out.

    Something that i learned about 1 year ago was to take your legs(thy, calf, etc.) and lift your seat and kind of squeeze with your legs up toward your seat just a little bit while lifting your seat. If you constantly do this (start at walk!) you will definitely feel a difference under you!! Its great!!
    Not sure if i explained that well but hope all this helped!
    Why walk when you can ride?


    • #3
      It also so helps to work them on a lunge line with side reins (I love my leather doughnut side reins,they are wonderful), for a quick warm up before a ride or just substitute that for a ride twice a week. It will teach him not to pull against the reins- because he will just be pulling against him self, and tat it is a lot easier to carry himself this way in the long run. Always warm them up on both sides at the walk trot and canter with out side reins so they can loosen up and relax their muscles. Always let them walk for at least 10 mins on each side before you ask for a trot, again do both sides before you start to canter- this will make him even, supple, and relaxed on both sides. When you first start using side reins with you horse always let them be loose and dont put them up more than 2 wholes the first 4-6 times or so. Then you can gradually work them up to a comfortable position for you horse. Also always start them loose in every work out and gradually put them up, and then do both sides in that length. Hope I helped!
      I would also suggest the carrot stretches they will help and they will think it is fun! Do lots and lots of flat work, dont worry about where your horse's head is, just keep on asking him to pick up his belly instead of dragging it on the ground and not using his back. He will only be able to hold it for a while, dont expect him to do it at the trot for a while, and then once that is "perfect" at the walk and trot it will be much easier for both of you at the canter. Good luck!


      • #4
        I like the Pessoa system when lunging. It really helped my guy develop his back and hind end. For my guy it helped him to figure out how to use himself properly without me on his balance. So when I rode him there was a noticeable difference in how he went. He has a forward issue and so I was also able to really get him moving forward and have him settle into a nice rhythem at all three gates which again helped when I rode him. Just make sure you read the directions and follow them carefully. Like a lot of training tools if used improperly it can cause more damage than good.


        • #5
          Making certain that your saddle fits him well is always a good start. My dressage instructor noticed that my saddle was not fitting well behind the shoulder. As soon as we fixed the saddle fit, my mare's back started to improve.

          An exercise that I like to use is done with trotting poles. Start with one on the ground, then one elevated off ( I use a set of blocks), one on the ground, one elevated and one on the ground. Then, you can come from either direction. Before going through at the trot, I always walk through on the buckle, so that my mare can stretch down at the walk. Because of the elevated poles, you need to make certain that you rise with the motion and not get left behind. Your hands should follow forward to allow him to stretch. By letting your horse stretch his neck down, it will also raise/strenghten his back. This exercise works great on strenghtening the hind end, too.

          The distance between the poles will vary according to your horses' stride. My horse goes with them 4 1/2 feet apart, while my BO's horse needs them to be closer together.

          Remember to give your horse the time that he needs to figure out the exercise, without help from you.
          When in Doubt, let your horse do the Thinking!


          • #6
            Try to make sure he is stepping into your soft hand and making a connection while you work, that alone will make a huge difference. I have just started using a great tool someone loaned me. I would never have used it otherwise, I have never used gadgets before but, it works wonders with the right horse. I have been using the "neck stretcher" with great success. Helps the horse stay straight and soft and round and because it's elastic, it's pretty forgiving too. I use it with trot poles once they have gotten comfortable with it, just make sure it's not too tight. Well worth to $20 and a good try.
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