By JOAN WILLIAMS – Developing your horses topline is an important part of keeping him healthy sound and strong. There are many exercises both on and off your horse you can use to develop your horses topline. Keeping him relaxed mentally and physically will help him as well making sure he has a proper diet and the appropriate amount of weight to build muscle. I also like to include a multi vitamin supplement.
Stretching down by asking the poll to go lower than the withers, lifting his back, stepping underneath himself from behind and bending his body are all good ways to help build topline muscle. Trotting poles and hillwork can also be beneficial for building the topline.
Longeing with an appropriate length of sidereins to allow him stretch down long and low is a wonderful way to start the stretch over the back. Riding in a shoulder fore on a circle, asking his inner hind to step under his midline time, your inner calf should be timed when the inner hind is in the air, using your inner leading rein to guide him around the circle and suppling him on the outer rein til he stretches downwards forwards, then follow his head and neck as he seeks the bit and follows it down.
Bending in hand, teach your horse horse to move forwards and sideways away from a light tap of round thick handle of a dressage whip, a small piece of bamboo or even your hand. Eventually he can learn to move away from your body stepping towards him or by pointing the whip towards his girth. You can touch at the girth and ask his shoulder to step over, slightly behind the girth to ask both inner legs to step over or behind the girth to ask the inner hind to step over. Once he can do this, ask him to bend under saddle on a circle by placing your legs inner leg on the girth, outer leg as a support behind the girth, inner wrist flexing and giving, outer rein allowing the bend with the elbow but able to still soften him with the outer fingers.
A very important part that is often missed is the riders arms must ALLOW the horse to stretch down. Free walk requires that the horse is allowed complete freedom to stretch downwards forwards, and stretchy trot is a demonstration that the horse is on the aids, seeking contact with the bit, following the bit downwards forwards while the rider keeps a light contact, but allows the horses head and neck to stretch maintaining the same tempo and speed.
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