Thursday, January 9, 2014

A Pain In Your Horse's Back?

Howdy Folks, 

In the past few days I've had several folks email me with questions about their horses' backs. Specifically these were questions about dropped backs, or toplines. Working with my mentor, Diane Sept, it was not uncommon to hear her say, "There's no reason a horse can't have a straight, firm topline into their 30's." Of course, as always, there may be exceptions, but for most of our horses, that's true.

What causes a horse to lose its firm, straight topline? A lot of things, mostly all in our control. Everything from saddle fit, to teeth and mouth care, hoof care, to how we sit in the saddle, to how we lead our horse. And a bunch of other things too, injuries, conformation and even nutrition.

Working with Diane I learned much about biomechanics of horses, and the tremendous help a few things we can do as care givers for our horses to keep them moving freely in a posture and body carriage that maintains a correct, comfortable and healthy topline. Everything I learned from Diane, a senior certified Connected Riding Instructor, is from Peggy Cummings, Linda Tellington-Jones and Sally Swift.

For me, I think the single biggest thing we can do is to be sure our horse is, off her forehand and has an engaged hind end. There is a very simple way to accomplish this by the two of you mastering the "The Rock Back" exercise. You can check it out in my blog post  "Reconnecting Your Horse To Her Feet"Have look, master it together, and you'll see remarkable changes in health, politeness, body carriage, and responsiveness.
Kessy and me demonstrating the "Rock Back"
Off the forehand (rock back) is first, because it ties into everything else we do. And we can learn to lead, and ride, our horse off the forehand, and be sure to lead from both sides – this is so important for overall health and posture of your horse. And don't always walk in a straight line. Mix in long, soft sweeping zig-zags as you go along. Engage that hind end!

Next, let's mix in a few easy to learn exercises to do regularly, and certainly before we mount up. I've described them in just the order I do them in my blog post "Pre-Ride Exercises For Your Horse"These selected exercises, done in a regular routine that fits your schedule, will make a tremendous difference in the health of your horse. After you and your horse master them, this routine will take about 5-10 minutes. Remember though, slow and easy, soft hands, and wait for the responses.

Another very important exercise to help your horse master correct posture is the "One Step." You can learn to do it from my post - "Seeing With Her Feet - One Step Exercise"

Learn more of these wonderful exercises by buying Peggy and Linda's books. If you can, take their courses. You can contact Diane for instruction, too. Her number is -717-336-6346.

Oh, what about hoofcare? – Have a look at my post "Why Barefoot?""

Please feel free to email me,, or contact me on facebook.

You can also have a look at these and other exercises on my Facebook album "Therapy For Therapy Horses"

Taking care of your horse's topline can be easy, fun and oh so good for your horse. Even if there are other things going on, mastering, and employing these techniques will greatly help your horse maintain a firm, straight topline, and comfortable, pain free body carriage.

Just to learn a few treats, check out - "Easy Exercises to Relax and Release"

Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

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