If your horse is tough, skittish, or unbalanced when you ride it, pay close attention to its posture. The way you carry yourself (your frame) affects how you feel physically and mentally, as well as your ability to perform well.
Horses behave naturally in 3 postures. Looking along the spine from croup to withers, the back is level (relatively straight), round (slightly raised), or hollow (drooping or concave).
Healthy Postures – Level and Round: Both frames benefit the horse because their core muscles are activated and strengthened. Like our core muscles, they provide more support to the back. The further the horse’s hindquarters reach below its body, the more its back will naturally be lifted and supported by the core muscles and the less stress there will be on its spine, joints and muscles.
unhealthy posture – Hollow: When the horse rears up and drops its back, its neck is up and its hindquarters trail backwards. Instead of pushing with his hind legs, he pushes forward with his front legs. His movements are clumsy, stiff and unbalanced. There is increased stress and strain on the spine, muscles, and joints. This physical stress negatively affects his mental state and he becomes more reactive, creepy and difficult to ride.
Nervous riders and hollow-backed horses: When you have tension in the seat, back, legs, or arms, your horse responds by lowering its back and tensing its neck, nape, and jaw.
If you are a nervous or inexperienced rider, when your horse hollows out its back it will be difficult for you to maintain position, balance and confidence. So, an endless cycle of stress, tension and imbalance between you and your horse is created.
What you need to do to end the loop:
Both you and your horse need to get back to basics.
For your horse: Focus on ground work exercises that help you lengthen and stretch your back, build your core strength, and activate your hindquarters. Avoid the use of contraptions that force the horse to keep its head down. Force does not create relaxation and flexibility. Instead, set up a playground of posts and small cavalletti) that you can walk your horse slowly and calmly through.
Once your horse can comfortably negotiate these obstacles from the ground, try similar exercises while riding.
For you: Develop a secure and independent seat by taking lessons on a calm and stable horse. Lessons in the lunge line are great for helping you become a more balanced, flexible, and mindful rider. When your body and mind are free of tension, you really open up a two-way communication with your horse.
You and your horse will feel calmer and more confident when he has a healthy posture and you are relaxed and balanced on your back. That is a true partnership.