Which starts with the the hind end: impulsion, engagement, "stepping under".

In case you haven't seen this video yet on my Facebook page, I thought I'd post it here.

This has to be one of the most informative videos I have seen about how riding affects the horse's back. There are visuals, radiographs, an instructor's perspective, as well as veterinarian explanations. The video is 18 minutes long, so save it for when you have enough time to sit and really watch.

One of the riding recommendations is to use the stretch as a way to help the horse develop his topline and strength over the back. I've written quite a bit about this over the years, and I'll attach links below. Needless to say, I'm a "stretchy fan" - if you're familiar with my writing (and riding) - so I am thrilled to see this information presented so clearly. 

Of course, I'm not saying that you should go around in a stretchy all the time - just as a way to develop strength, suppleness, "forward", and comfort for the horse - especially in the early years of training. You can start with a stretch, take a break with a stretch, finish with a stretch. Intersperse it through your whole ride.

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I'm hoping you'll find some nuggets of useful information here. Enjoy!

From the blog archives:

How To Stretch Your Horse Over The Topline

stretchy walk

Why An Active Stretch Is Nothing Like A Neck Down

Stretchy Walk

An Awesome Over-The-Back Suppling Warm-Up At The Walk

Stretch 1

Ode To The Stretchy Trot

stretchy trot

How You Can See A Horse's Active Back - And What To Do When It Happens

active back







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  1. LOL, I just watched this last night, I follow Art2Ride, so glad to see it posted here!

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this excellent, informative video. This video is a great demonstration of the science of having the horse use its rounded back.

  3. this video starts with a lot of jargon to wow you (the number of vertebrae is neither here nor there… for instance)

    second it just throws a bunch of things at you as fact that you tend to assume because many other facts were mentioned before…

    like… the x-ray test showed that the spine was drastically improved by the engagement of the top of the croup, and more importantly lowering of the croup… NOT by any head position.

    this is then later taken as granted

    also a ‘high’ head is taken as not possible to bend sideways.. which is just untrue… it does not mean that a over the back topline would not be important, but the long and low position is just plainly not necessary to achieve that.

    in fact this approach is clearly post- Caprilli. up until then pretty much all riding treatises strongly claim that with a low head the croup cannot drop enough to have a meaningful outline (!)

    this WOULD be congruent with the earlier x-ray testing.

    the example of the photo’s about the stretch is also actually showing less engagement with the long and low position…

    at 10:13 odd you get this rubbish that the pressure on the bit somehow is inherently necessary for ‘connection’ which it isn’t and in fact creates measurable tension in the under neck and tongue and loads of other structures…

    ‘connected’ is never defined… and remains this arcane thing that you cannot logically follow because it is not defined.

    I agree it is an important issue to have the horse in the correct outline, but the notion that this can only be achieved through long and low for TWO YEARS is blatant rubbish.

    in fact that causes serious stresses on the animal in terms of the load on the front legs and could contribute to such serious conditions as ‘Hoefkatrol’. sideways bending and side movements can solve all the above problems in shorter space of time, with less rein interference, with more control, more lightness and softness and yet yield much greater results… THAT is the ‘classical’ way if you will, which is mentioned from Xenophon to Grisone to Pluvinel to Newcastle to Guérinière to Ridinger to Andrade to Karl

    only maybe after Steinbrecht do we see an inkling of this.

    even Müseler has the nose in front and not too low! and that is 1936.

    all the while we see that there is quite convincing evidence that riding horses actually had a longer life expectancy BEFORE long and low (and antibiotics)… the correlation is hard to connect to causality, but at least it correlates quite dramatically.

    at 10:20 they are talking about some magical ‘circle of energy’ which is just not there… because there might be a feedback system, but not actual energy flowing through the reins… this is really misleading!

    kinetic energy is essentially entirely flowing through the horses body in oscillations pertaining to actual movement and spring tension, however, the reins mostly represent a function of reflex where they are used as a guiding influence, not as an actual conduit of potential or kinetic energy.

    the searching for the bit is lamented as in-congruent with self carriage by general Descarpentry in 1949, and it can be shown that constant and usually quite significant pressure on the bit is going to cause serious tension in the jaw, tongue and poll without fail. if the rider is not giving to the mouth of the horse we cannot have a truly soft and tensionless horse… measurably

    at 10:45 they hit the nail on the head that in order to have a real back coming up you need haunches flexion and that until then we only have a overloading of the system… this however DOES NOT HAPPEN (enough) in a long and low frame! so we need to engage the hind leg meaningfully and for that we need space in the back ligaments (that they so convolutedly introduce at the beginning) to be able to drop the hips sufficiently… hence.. head needs to be up and usually it is easiest to achieve hind leg engagement and impulsion through side movements.

    they then claim that haunch flexion can only be achieved by long and low which they simply claim… none of the previous evidence shows that… at all…it is simply claimed and is actually biomechanical rubbish.

    the TENDENCY that a horse should exhibit to lengthen the neck is important but there is no reason why a competent rider4 should not take the wither up between the shoulder blades within the time frame of the very same stride and ride in relative elevation.

    we ee muscles being activated on the top of the croup to tip the hips…not take the head down.

    the wither will drop between the shoulder blades when the head is down, thereby not allowing the horse to be uphill.

    it would be better to show how seat and bend and side movements are way more important than long and low to engagement, hock flexion and collection and spinal alignement through carriage over the stomache muscles, iliospsoasis etc.

    at 16:35 or so they AGAIN flasely claim that ‘this method’ is prescribed by the ‘old masters’ which is plainly untrue.. (they clearly never read them). they even dra lines to show that the horses nose should not come under the level of the top of the croupe (!) and say that ‘the horses head should be up because if it is taken down the croupe will come up and this is against the art and will destroy the art’ (paraphrasing)

    they are really quite adamant that the rider should always strive for poll up, croupe down…. for about 2400 years or more… until from about 1900 there is this idea of long and low… and it overrides historical equitation after wwii. (when most riding teachers and their mounts had perished at the front)

    you know. i agree that the horse should be ridden collected and with impulsion for its’ sake… and that it is entitled to be ridden that well… but the long and low rubbish just gets in the way of that… big time.