It is not correct when the horse is behind the vertical.
I have a horse that tends to go behind the vertical. It hurts me, it gives me gray hair and it makes the training extremely difficult.
We all know that it is not correct when the horse goes behind the vertical, avoids the bit and are curling. But what is it in the training that causes this to happen? There are a lot of horses working like this.
We often see really good horses in the championships for young horses doing it. We see the jumpers do it and we see horses do it for the Olympics and World Cup dressage. But it is still not correct and we all know that.
Often it happens with hot, very forward going and nervous horses. Many times the horse begins to do this because the rider holds back with a hard hand. Or the young horse has been trained with tight side reins. It can also happen for horses who are ridden with draw reins. Or for horses that are being ridden with leverage bits or very thin bits. But it can also happen because people do not understand the importance of getting the horse to work over its back. In the beginning of the training the horse must learn to stretch down and out.
Look at the horse's neck.
However, my horse has never had tight side reins on or draw reins. And I never held him back with a hard hand. But yet he does curl back. If I had the knowledge I have today, it would never have happened. And I think many others have it in the same way as me.
What made me wake up and think "This is not right" was a picture of my horse Noller, where I could see an irregular break in his neck. It is such that horses wich are going behind the vertical, do not have the point just behind the ears as the highest point. The Highest point is, however, an area of the neck about one and a half hand wide behind the ears. The ligaments in this area are being pulled too much apart. There will often be a clear break in the muscles in this area. And once you can see this break, you will have trouble.
It does not fix itself.
I had always been told that the stronger he became, the less he would go behind the vertical. Nothing could be further from the truth. And I know that now. It is not possible to lift the horse's head from this position and just think that it's going to be right now. Most horses who go behind the vertical is not strong enough to work over their backs if you try to get them up in a higher position.
This was the reason I found Art2Ride. And now I also know that if the horse has this break in the neck, it will take a really long time before I have a horse that can work properly.
The muscles in the neck must have time to develop so that this break disappears and it takes a long time. I'll probably spend more than 2 years before this break can no longer be seen.
It takes a long time to correct the error.
Unfortunately, as I have mentioned, it is often hot, nervous horses that has this tendency, and so often you get relapses when the weather changes, by environmental change or other things that can make the horse begin to stress. And every time the horse curl back, you train the wrong muscles and can therefore spend even more time than the approximately 2 years. It is really depressing and strenuous.
It is at least something to be aware of if you are going out and buying a horse. However, I do not doubt that Noller and I will succeed, but it will take a lot longer than I thought. Had I just known what I know now?
In case of relapse, go one step back.
The reason I am writing about this topic now is that Noller and I have had a relapse. He was so good in the fall, but when it got colder he suddenly became more tense and then he returned to his old man. Tense, should look at everything, I find it difficult to keep a relaxed uniform rhythm. I have problems controlling his shoulders and he momentarily curls back.
I have no other options but to go back to the lunging, work in hand and a little ridden walk work. There is no need to try to trot him for now.
So how do you train these horses.
First of all, as far as possible, you must avoid getting them behind the vertical even though it is almost impossible to avoid this. In many cases, they will curl back, even without any contact on the reins. You have to train them for some time from the ground, so that they start stretching their neck completely when they are lunged and possibly they should be worked in hand as well.
When you lunge, it would be best if you can do it without side reins. If the horse is tense and tends to lift its head high, you can use an old-fashioned chambon to remedy this and gain a little more control over the horse.
Often these horses will be very awake and will tend to run a little to much. Try as far as possible if you can make them trot relaxed. Sometimes they will run in the beginning when they are asked to trot, and maybe they will turn into canter. Try giving the horse a couple of minutes and see if it settles down. If it continues to run around with its head in the air and you do not feel like you have any contact/control. Then you have to get the horse back into walk. You may have to walk close to the horse on the circle where it only has a few meters of line. Or you may have to take it by hand instead.
When I train Noller at the moment he is VERY awake. He will rather canter than trot and as long as he canter relaxed and is stretching, I'm fine. But last year at this time I would have had to get him back into walk and possibly just work him in hand. But after all, he is a lot stronger now and a bit more relaxed.
One has to assess whether it is so hectic or wild, so it is harmful to the horse's joints. Or if it is a pace at which the horse works over the back and moves rhythmically, although you may well have wanted it a bit quieter than what you get today. Read your horse and get the best out of the situation right now.
Nervous and hot horses are difficult.
I think the hot horses are the hardest, but there are also horses that go behind the vertical for the simple reason they are not moving enough. They jog around with their heads between the forelegs and here it is just about asking them to be a bit more active. What is difficult with the hot horses is that they also have to have some activity in order to stretch their throats out of the body, step underneath themselves and start working over their backs. But these horses just cam over so easily and start running instead and then they lose their ability to work over their back.
There is no doubt that Noller is the hardest task I have ever had. If I had not found Art2Ride and if I continued with the jumping, I would have used this energy to get power in the jumps and I would have ignored that he was curling back. No doubt he would have had power enough to do that. But I would not have had a horse that had lasted for many years. And this is the problem with these power horses. They do not say they just break.
I have never tried to force Noller into a particular frame. He worked from the beginning in a "nice" frame with his neck high. My mistake was that I let him do it and did not train him to stretch down and forth. Horses like him require a little more time from the ground when they start up in relationships with more phlegmatic horses. There has to be done a lot of work to get them relaxed and they must learn to stretch their necks out of the body. It's only when they really relax that they can start to use themselves properly.
It is important that the horse does not go behind the vertical.
And it's really important that the horse does not go behind the vertical. The neck is an extension of the spine. If the horse should be able to start working uphill and start to step deeper under himself, then it requires it to work over the back. The horse that curls back and avoids the contact from the bit does not do this and will not develop a strong topline. One can just try to look at the dressage horses who are exposed to roll kur. They can lift their legs high and perform all exercises, but try to look at their back. It hangs markedly between the hips and the wither. None of these horses work properly and it should not have been possible that they could have won so much in international competitions.
So to sum up, it's always the one who train the horse who is to blame. Either due to excessive influence from the rein. Or because you have not done the basic training well enough. You have not learned the horse to relax or you have not learned it to work well enough forward. You will never be able to correct the mistake by getting the horse into a higher position using the reins. The mistake must be directed from hind and by building the right muscles.
The video below shows Noller in October 2017. It's a video I sent to William Faerber from Art2Ride to get his advice and guidance for the training of Noller.
So I'm working on correcting the mistakes I've made and yes, somewhere I think it's embarrassing, but I think it's more embarrassing if you do not mind it.