How deep should the horse stretch?
When the horse goes with a lowered back.
When a rider get up on a horse, the horse's natural reaction will be to lower the back. When the horse lowers its back, the vertebraes will come closer to each other. If this happens, the horse will not be able to work properly.
The horse will then find it difficult to step under himself. It may be difficult for the horse to bend. The fore and hind end do not work in harmony with each other, that is, the horse is struggling to keep the rhythm. The body's "shock absorbers" are put out of service and the horse's joints are put under heavy load, which can cause lameness, unnecessary wear and kissing spine. It goes without saying that this can not be particularly pleasant for the horse.
The horse must learn to work with the back lifted.
If you want to avoid hurting your horse, the horse must learn to work over his back / with a raised back. Throughout the training, it will eventually develop a strong top line. If the horse works in this way, instead of lowering the back, we will have a riding horse that can last for many years.
You teach the horse to work over the back by letting it stretch down and out towards the contact while at the same time working relaxed but actively and rhythmically forward. First from the ground and later under the rider.
This is actually the basis of training scale as most people are familiar with, but which unfortunately seems to have been misunderstood or neglected.
This basic part of the horse's education, ie the first part of the training scale (rhythm, relaxation / suppleness, contact/Connection) must be in place. It is in this phase the horse learns to work over the back. But you also use it for the trained horse in every training lesson, in the warm up phase, during training to return oxygen to the muscles and in the end of a training session.
During this process, the horse will start to step deeper under himself and take more weight on the hind and we will reach the next point of the training scale - impulsion. As the horse grows stronger in this phase it will begin to carry and push evenly with both hind legs and when it does, we have a horse that is straight.
During the training, the horse will take more weight on the hindquarters, it will step deeper under itself and its body will develop so that the forequarters will begin to appear higher than the hindquarters. So when we get to assembly on the training scale, it has nothing to do with us being able to keep the horse's head in a higher position with the reins. This means that the horse has developed so much that it can now close its joints (hips, knees and hocks) and sit more at the back. The horse can now hold this lowered position in all three gaits. But it is not this image we see in the real world. And why do not we do it.
There is one reason: people do not teach their horses to work over their backs.
There are so many misunderstandings of classical foundation theory that it prevents us from developing our horses properly. One of them is the perception of how deep the horse must stretch. Some say the horse is only allowed to stretch to the level with the other people say the knees. But why not all the way to the ground? If you can see that the horse can step deeper under himself by stretching down to the ground, why not take advantage of this.
It is not the position of the head that determines whether the horse is on the forehand.
Those who put these restrictions up are those who are afraid that their horses will then be too much on the forehand. Whether the horse goes high or low with its neck, has nothing to do with it being on the forehand.
A horse that is working over its back and steps deeply under itself can stretch to the ground and still have weight on its hind. A horse at grand prix level with a high neck frame can and is most often on the forehand. Why? Because the horse is not working over its back.
Most young horses and wrongly trained horses will actually need to stretch almost down to the ground in order to make their hind legs swing deep enough underneath them to start lifting their backs. If the horse is not allowed to stretch as much as he needs, he will never learn to work with a lifted back.
All horses who do not work over their back will be on the forehand. All horses who are learning to work over their back will initially be on the forehand.
Under no circumstances can you move the horse's weight to the rear by lifting its head up. It is only correct training over time that can lead to this.
It takes time to strengthen the horse.
All horses, regardless of type, must learn to work over their back so they can last for a long time. They need time to develop their muscles properly. If you have a young horse who has never been wrongly trained and has had the opportunity for lots of free movement, then it will take about 2 years of continuous work before the horse is ready for collection. And that's if you completely control what you do.
If you have a horse that has been trained incorrectly, it will often take longer. But that does not mean that you only can ride the horse in a deep position. Once you have got the horse to work over its back, you can try to bring the horse up in a slightly higher position. If the horse loses its back, then you know that it has been brought up too high to what it can handle at the moment and you let it stretch again. So you try to find out how high you can bring the horse up. And in the beginning, you only ride a few steps before you let the horse stretch again. And in this way, the horse develops little steps at a time.
Horses that have kissing spines or horses that tend to be lame or the like can for a long time only work optimally under the rider when they are allowed to stretch deep. But even if your horse needs to be in a deep position for a long time, you will definitely not be bored. To strengthen and develop the horse, you work on the lateral movements. And these can easily be done while the horse stretches. It's actually a very effective way to strengthen the horse's top line and that's the way we teach the horse to step deeper under himself. And, of course, you are working towards doing this in all three gaits.
Have you first experienced how your horse can move when it is stretching optimal, then you almost do not want to bring it up in a higher position anyway. And the satisfaction it gives when you can see how the horse's body changes is worth all the time and patience.