TIGHT OVER BACK
DRESSAGE JUDGE COMMENTS
Tight over back
This comment is in the family of comments which talk about how the horse works over it’s back. Other versions of this are ‘hollow’, ‘needs to work over back’, ‘stiff over back’, ‘not through the back’ etc.
If your horse is tight over the back, it is likely to find stretching difficult and the problem will also attract other comments such as ‘needs to move more freely forwards’, or ‘needs more ground cover’ or ‘stiff’.
Understanding the horses back.
When the horse is stretching, the back will be at its most lifted. As the horse brings it’s hindlegs underneath it and reaches forwards and down with the head and neck then the back is drawn up.
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The back and the head/neck in general have a symbiotic relationship. The head and neck goes up, the back goes down. The head and neck goes down, the back comes up. This relationship often causes people to think that the solution is to get the horses head down. However forcing this leads to a horse which is too short in the neck and still tense over the back.
The key to solving this problem is to have the rider bring their focus away from the horse’s head and neck and towards its back. When you next ride, you can ask yourself ‘What is the shape of my horse’s back underneath my seat. Is it like sitting in a hollow, or sitting on a flat surface or is more like sitting on top of a mound. Is there anything I am doing as a rider that could be causing the horse to protect its back?
At Dressage Training TV we use the term, ‘The Seeking Reflexes’ to describe the horse in correct movement. The horse's head and neck reaches out to seek the riders hand, the horse's back lifts up seeking contact with the riders seat, and the horse’s sides fill out against the rider's leg.
What could be causing my horse to be tight over the back?
There are many things that could be causing the horse to be tight over the back. It would be best to first eliminate such issues as existing back pain, badly fitting saddles etc. You could make all the changes you like as a rider but if your horse is in pain due to tack or physical issues then your progress will be very limited.
Horses are often tight over the back as a defensive mechanism. The are trying to protect themselves from the riders insensibilities. One of the first things we teach is to get the rider into the correct alignment. Many riders sit too far back in the saddle and do not sufficiently support their own weight. If your horse is especially tight in rising trot you could ask yourself where you are landing in the saddle. Are you landing heavy when you come down in the sit phase? Can you land as if landing on an egg? You want to make contact with the egg but not crush it.
It is a fallacy to think you should allow gravity to bring yourself from the top of the rise to the bottom. Your thigh muscles must be in complete control of the descent so that you place your seat exactly in the right place with the exact amount of pressure. I am sure that as a rider you have experienced the feeling of being left behind in trot, landing further back and heavier. The further back you go in the saddle, the less support via ribs and spine the horse has to support your weight and the more likely you will cause hollowing.
If you want to transform your horse and your riding, so that you positively influence your horse’s back then we have several courses ranging from basic to more advanced. These courses show you how you need to sit, ride and train so that your horse moves in its most expressive way. 90% of issues written about by dressage judges can be directly attributed to the way you ride and train your horse.
Two of our courses which could help you with this problem are ‘The How of Riding’ ( foundational ) and ‘The Seeking Reflexes’ ( Focussed on influencing the horses way of going ). These courses could can change your life and change your horse’s way of going forever!
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