Let’s talk about “Collection” and “Up in the bridle” a bit.
Many, Many gaited riders are under the false assumption that they need big bits, that they need to hold the horse’s head up to get them to gait. Folks act like the Gaited Horse is a foreign species, that there is some magic cue or technique to get them to gait. NOPE… It’s natural, and riding can simply enhance good or bad gait. If you ride a pacey horse hollow, they’re going to pace and you’ll never fix it. Pace is the biggest complaint that gaited riders have.
There are plenty of trainers that teach low, long and not hollow, so I will skip the lesson on how to achieve this. But what I do want to show you is a video of a horse we recently evaluated in the rescue. There is marked and obvious improvement when he relaxes, stops bracing and is allowed to lower his head and relax in the bit. It’s almost like magic, but it’s not magic!
A little background first…
This horse has NO topline right now, and we’re going to have to spend a bit of time helping him develop that for him to carry a good head shaking walk. This video was shot after him not being ridden for at least a month and spending who knows how long in the auction pipleline. It was our first time on the horse and he has some back soreness and crookedness which is being addressed by a chiropractor. This is causing some of the tension you will see.
As you watch this video
When this horse is outside, you’ll see a tense “upside down” frame, and a hard pace that is very rough to ride. Note the “u” shape to the underside of his neck when he’s “up in the bridle” – this is bad, it is NOT what you ever want to see on your own horse. It is tension, bracing and hollowing and the pace is the result.
Once we slow him down, ask him to relax (which is his natural instinct anyway, he’s a super quiet boy) and let him soften and come down, you see a marked improvement in the gait almost instantly. You start to see head shake, ears flopping, relaxation in the jaw with licking and chewing and a softening of the underside of the neck.
Yes, he’s still got a long way to go
BUT it’s amazing the improvement you can see in just minutes. Yes, he’s short striding on one side, that will be an easy fix for the chiropractor. Yes, he’s week in the topline, that will take riding and more food to fix. I’m including a couple pictures too so you can see the visible manifestation of being ridden “up in the bridle” and hollow and what it does to their top line too. In the picture you can see the lack of muscle around the top of the tail head and behind the shoulders at the withers. He doesn’t have “knife” withers like many would describe, he has a lack of muscle where there should be muscle. Fix the body, relax the mind, give him the tools to walk in the form of proper muscle development and this horse is going to walk a hole in the ground.
I share this to show a perfect example, in real life, of a horse that has a marked improvement in gait with ZERO training on our part and about 10 minutes of quiet relaxation work. It shows how drastically riding can affect a horse short and long term.
Author: Denise Parsons, Gaited Advocate Intervention Team, Inc., October 29, 2017