Why should the horse be ridden with his back lifted
The horse's nature is to go around and seek food. It spends hours wandering around with the mule in the ground and feeding grass if there is enough space and grass to do so. It is slowly moving around with most of its weight on the forehand, but it is not something that is harmful to the horse because most of the time it takes place in walk and it does not carry the weight of a rider.
The horse is a flight animal.
As the horse is a fligt animal, it is also constantly aware of its surroundings. When it dares to lower it´s head and graze it is because it feels safe. If it becomes scared, it will lift its head high and tighten up throughout the body. If the horse wants to get away from something that seems a little dangerous, it will run of with head and tail high lifted. It looks great because it lifts the legs high with tremendous activity. One can hardly help but think, could I just transfer it to the riding. So why wouldn't it be good to do so? It is the horse's nature. If you look properly when the horse runs around, you will see that the hind legs do not enter the gravitational point. There will be a powerful hock movement, but the hind legs move like its behind the horse. The back hangs down and the horse has a lot of weight on the forehand. The horse's topline looks shorter than the horse's subline (abdominal muscles).
Unnatural for the horse to carry a rider.
When we decide to ride the horse, we also decide to do something that is not natural for the horse. The horse should now learn to walk around with an extra weight placed on the back.
If we try to compare with ourselves, then it will be a bit like we are used to bending over and picking something up if we lose something. There are no problems with that. But if we are to lift heavy things, then we must remember to bend at the knees and lift with the thighs and abdominal muscles instead of having all the weight in the back. If we do not do that, we end up with teams in the back or the like. If we often lift something without doing it correctly, it can cause permanent back injuries. If you often lift heavy things, it is important that you are put into doing it in the correct way. The same goes for the horse.
It is our duty to teach the horse to use it self properly
If we decide that the horse should be ridden, it is our duty to teach it to bear our weight in the correct way. Try to imagine having to run around with a sack of horse feed on the arms for an hour. I think I would get pain somewhere in the body if it weren't something I trained well and thoroughly to do. But that's the same thing we expose our horses for. Therefore, we must teach them to carry us in the most practical way.
Pain can cause the horse to become dangerous for his rider
When we set ourselves up on a horse that is not accustomed to wearing weight, the back will give in to the weight. The horse will tightens its back muscles, but if it has not learned to lift with the abdominal muscles, then we will have a tense and lowered spine on the horse. When this happens, the vertebraes in the horse's spine will get closer to each other and over time or with horses with vertebraes that from birth is sitting close, these will start to touch each other and give the horse tremendous pain. And we certainly do not want that. Horses that experience this can become quite violent and dangerous for their riders.
The horse must learn to use himself correctly
The problem, therefore, is that we need to learn the horse, to be used in a way that nature had not planned for it. If it is to handle our weight, it must learn to work with a lifted back so that the vertebraes are spread. It is the abdominal muscle who must cope with this task because we do not want the horse to tighten up in the back muscles and try to carry our weight with this alone.
Just as we learn to lift with thighs and abdominal muscles instead of the back muscles, so as we do not get hurt in the back. We also know that if the horse gets agitated, stressed or frightened, it tightens all the muscles and the hind legs will be moving/hanging behind the horse. It does not work for so is the back muscles still tense and we will have too much weight on the forehand, especially when we add extra weight from a rider. Therefore, the horse needs to learn to work in a relaxed state. We know the horse is relaxed when it goes with head and neck down and grasses, so that is the starting point.
When the horse walk forward out on the field with the mule in the grass, then it thightens the abdominal muscles a little bit so that's what we should try to get out during the riding. When the horses lower their heads to eat grass or hay, it also lifts the back a bit, unless it is very tense in its topline, so it is these two things we should try to exploit.
We will have to combine some natural instincts in an "unnatural" way. Understood in the way that we want the horse to lower the head and neck, as it lifts the back, but it must also learn to go forward, because then it thightens the abdominal muscles and will eventually begin to bear more weight on the hind end.
The horse is learning this during work in hand and in the lunge line. When it looks like the horse has developed enough topline then you can start riding a little. The horse has to learn this without having the weight from a rider on his back. When we first set ourselves up on the horse, it will automatically lower/tighten in the back and it is therefore important that it has built a reasonably strong topline before that time.
A tense topline can cause lameness.
If you do not learn your horse to use itself in a proper way during the riding, then you will have a horse that has tight muscles all around in the body. When the horse does so, it could eventually be the cause of different kinds of lameness. Wear on joints around the body which could also become visible on x-rays. This will cause the vets to recommend injections, which is OK, but if you do not change your way of training the horse, the problems will often come back again.
Assign you knowledge on the Internet
I will in some of the next posts describe how to make the horse work over its back and how to see/feel if the horse is working over its back. Because there is no doubt that this is one of the biggest problems we have in equestrian sport today and that is what causes so many horses to leave life too early. Unfortunately, this is not a new problem, but we have every opportunity today to give us knowledge about the subject. The internet is full of pictures and videos. Just 10 years ago it was a lot harder to assimilate knowledge. But today there are no excuses.