I am talking about the horse’s back from a practical perspective.
The horse's back is the truss that joins all the foundations and thus supports the whole structure. From a physical standpoint, if the horse does not engage his back correctly; he will break down, eventually. Having his back engaged you will assist him in his youthening programme.
I remember Nuno telling me that an Australian rider/teacher had asked Nuno to give him a certificate and Nuno had declined and his reply was: “The back is your certificate.”
In How to Identify if the Horse’s Back is Locked or Engaged, I talk about discussing the symptoms which allow us to recognise if the horse is using his back correctly or not. Here I talk about the importance of the horse's back for correct health and training.
Ruthless Rule of Reality.
- If a Horse’s Back is Up His Head is Down;
- If His Back is Down His Head is Up
UNDERSTAND THE MYTH.
Pulling, twiddling, sawing, fiddling, chains over the nose, ANYTHING you are doing with the reins along those lines is NOT getting your horse closer to proper posture and movement – pulling a horse’s head down (or in) will not raise his back.
During this demonstration at Somerby U.K. gave the riders a greater understanding of why we should not twiddle the reins, etc above, or use gadgets or gimmicks to give a false position of the horse's head and neck. If you PAUSE the slides below and hold a ruler under the stomach you will see that it not just the spine lifting, the stomach also lifts.
Gillian and Missy had already achieved things that others dream about. However, this demonstration helped Gillian have, yet another, huge breakthrough. This understanding assisted her to catapult into another dimension of horse training and success.
So if you want your horse to have his head down in a correct frame, you first have to get the horse’s back (spine) up and unlocked. Using a whip I explained to the students with the effect of back lowering and lifting.
If you poke the horse under the belly with your finger he will lift his back, stretch his neck and lower his poll. In the early stages of training the poll may actually be lower than the withers. As the training progresses the poll will be higher than the withers. However, if the posture is correct, the head will be relaxed at the poll at the end of an optimally stretched and arched neck. The rider should always remain attentive to the position of the poll in relation to the horse’s neck and that the peak of the arched neck does not peak at some vertebrae further down.
There is a simple test to determine if your horse has an engaged back: a horse cannot do a correct, straight rein-back with bascule unless he has an engaged back.He also needs to have a true diagonal step.
Horses never lie.
Their physical development will tell you at a glance if your training is correct. By applying a logical and progressive system of rider/handler training we allow the horse to be the evidence of whether we have got it right. On a separate page I have made a list (and some photos) How to Identify if the Horse’s Back is Locked or Engaged,
In my experience, many of the leg and lameness problems start in the back of the horse. It rarely shows in the back, as the symptoms are in the legs but it is through the incorrect posture and incorrect use of the back that can initially start the lameness. The good news is: that many issues can be prevented or corrected when you start to strengthen the horse's back.
After hundreds of thousands of dollars looking for lameness and other issues, I have discovered that it is normally within our own grasp. Just like our own body. Some things we can't change; but what do we have to lose if we try to strengthen our body and fail? Nothing! We tried! It did not work. I have health issues, the only things I can fix is to take pain killers, lose weight and exercise. (and have a passion certainly helps.) Others can help, but I have to do the hard work. All medicine will not help me, if I do not take responsibility for myself. I see, that it is the same with the horse. We have to take responsibility for the stuff that only we can do.
Yes, I know. We should look at the saddle, the shoes, the bit, the rider, the vet, the chiropractor, the massage, the teeth. Any or all of these will help and make the horse more comfort, but if the horse does not use his back correctly all these things will be to no avail.
Xenophon gave the following advice “He who has a weak constitution becomes stronger by manual exercise than a robust man without it.”
Over and Out
P.S. I have a question I would like you to share.
Are you still having trouble to find a diagnosis that fits your horse's lameness?
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