Know the Correct Frame for Your Horse
BY Leigh Webber
Western Dressage judges consider the horse’s confirmation while judging gaits and movements. If the horse has a very high neck set, (notice image of the black galloping horse), the judge still wants to see signs of it moving from the hind end, up, through a soft, rounded, (instead of hollow or stiff) back, relaxed and rhythmic for that individual. If the horse has a low set on neck, same thing, instead of being on the forehand, western dressage teaches that horse to work from the hind quarter, up, through a round back in a relaxed rhythmic, forward manner.
Many riders learn to ride the horse’s head. By that I mean, a lot of the rider’s attention is on the horse’s head and what the horse is or isn’t doing. Sometimes it is out of fear. When some horses lift their head up to look at something far away, or in a distraction, the next thing they may do is move quicker than the rider is comfortable with. So, the rider learns, for safety, to control the height of the horse’s head. What often happens is depicted in the drawing of the horse “behind the vertical, or bit”.
The primary problem with this is that it takes our attention off the part of the body we really need to affect, the horse’s hind quarters. If the hind quarters are working properly, the front end can relax and stretch because the back has come up. Consider a teeter-totter, one end is up, the other down.
Notice the image of the grazing horse. When the horse is relaxed with the head down, it stretches the back muscles, tones the abdominal muscles and the back lifts. Notice that this horse’s back looks level from the wither all the way to its tail. Please refer to the drawing of the horse “on the bit or slightly in front of vertical”.
Please remember that relaxation is the foundation of the western dressage training scale.
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