Mention the term "behind the vertical," and most people will immediately think about that straight line from the horse's poll to the ground, and whether the horse is on that line or behind it. This horse, for example, is exactly on the vertical line to the ground:
(Note - this photo is NOT being used as a perfect example of what a good connection should look like. It is only showing us what a true vertical line to the ground looks like.)
However, you can ONLY use that line vertical to the ground as a guideline if the horse is in a frame similar to the horse in this photo, with the poll being generally the highest point of the neck!
In order to correctly judge the horse that is stretching downwards with a low neck, you need to look at the angle created at the poll, and whether or not the horse is closed in the throatlatch area. I have drawn on some pictures to show you what I mean: (Click on Article Title above (in blue) to read full article)
Because this horse was in a canter that was on the extreme open end of the scale of compression (read all about that here), with a nearly completely uncoiled spring in the last strides, that desperate long spot was this horse's only option. And this is an easy thing to have happen when the rider is riding desperately forward to a very big jump!
Since the type of canter stride on the approach dictates the takeoff spot that will develop, a more packaged gallop stride would have changed this outcome, and given the horse the opportunity to smoothly and easily add one more stride in this situation.
So, question: How can you tell if the "spring" of your horse's hind legs is becoming uncoiled on the approach? In other words, when he is getting too long and flat in his gallop to be able to be nimble and add a stride when necessary? And when you do feel this is happening to you on the approach, what can you do about it? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Imagine 2 people picking up and carrying a very stiff board or a heavy log. That board isn't soft, supple, or athletic.... it is simply a rigid object that was transported from point A to B.
A horse can transport himself from point A to B with his four legs, but if he does not use his entire musculature properly - with a supple body and a relaxed, swinging back - his body is similar to that rigid log, and he will not develop as an athlete. This is why it is not uncommon to see horses that are otherwise fit and strong, yet lack proper muscling throughout their toplines.
So, if you have a horse that tries hard to NOT use his back when working... in other words, he wants to be a leg mover under saddle - what do you need to focus on in your training to make sure that you are addressing this issue? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Discussion # 144: Is this a refusal?Is this route on a AB cross country complex considered a refusal? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Video Discussion # 92: This is a very cool and educational video on the horse's hoof and the shoeing of our amazing equine athletes!This is a very cool and educational video on the horse's hoof and the shoeing of our amazing equine athletes! The high speed camera and slow motion action shows us exactly how our horses' hooves handle all the different types of footing that we may encounter. What did you learn from this video? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to watch video and read this educational discussion)Discussion # 143: How would you ride this fence? Let's say that this ramp jump is a classic "ski jump" type fence, with a steep downhill slope on the landing side. How would you ride the approach? Taking into consideration that this is a big, solid, rampy jump with some width to it... and balancing that with the steep downhill landing that your horse will not see until he is at the takeoff point - what speed would you want to have coming into this jump? What type of canter would you want? And in what position should you be in on the approach? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Discussion # 141: Check out this cross country complex! This sure is quite an interesting and challenging water complex, with a lot going on visually for the horses to digest! Who can tell us what the pros and cons are for being able to see the white skinny fence underneath the first element as you approach it? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Video Discussion # 89: Watch Ginny Leng show us what a good show jumping canter looks like! In this video, Ginny shows us a great example of the frame that allows most horses to show their best jumping form... Her horse is round and active behind the withers in this packaged, bouncy canter, yet he is up in his shoulders with an elevated head and neck in the final strides to the jump. Notice how his nose is up, and well ahead of the vertical on the final strides of the approach to each fence, which is very important - both for balance, and for the horse to be able to have his eye truly on the top rail. In watching this, can you get a sense of how this helps a horse to rock back and spring upward most easily? Also note that when her horse was on the wrong lead or cross cantering (which was surprisingly often) she was easily able to maintain the quality of the canter, and therefore the the horse still jumped well. If well ridden, it isn't really a big deal when that happens! What are your thoughts? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to watch the video, and to read this educational discussion)Video Discussion # 88: This short video shows a great example of a rider riding truly *forward* in a trot to walk transition! This short video shows a great example of a rider riding trulyforward in a trot to walk transition! Do you sometimes have trouble keeping your horse active and in front of the leg in this transition? A few things to think about:
To help yourself to more honestly ride your trot to walk transitions in a forward manner, think of... (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read on further, and to learn from this educational discussion)
Discussion # 140: Let's discuss the very common problem of "one sidedness" in the horse! Look at this great illustration of the effects of imbalance in the horse's body. This shows the example of the horse that is right hind leg dominant. This means that the horse pushes harder with the right hind leg in general, causing the strength of the 2 trot diagonals to be slightly different. And the left lead canter will be stronger, since the right hind leg is the beginning of the left canter lead.
Because the horse with the dominant right hind leg pushes harder with that limb, he is often more on the forehand when traveling to the left. Yet he often actually prefers going that direction because it is the easist for him.
So, let's discuss how to fix this problem! What specific exercises should you do for the horse in this example... that wants to stay kind of "curled" to the right, pushing more strongly with the right hind leg? And tell us what specific crookedness problems you have with your horse(s)! (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to see the descriptive illustration, and to read this educational discussion)Discussion # 139: How would you ride this fence? This complex involved going through water to this log on a mound, landing on a downhill slope back into the water to another jump on the way out. As we look at it, you can see that the horse cannot see that there is more water on the landing side of this jump as he approaches it. As a rider, how do you best prepare your horse for the surprise factor involved here, so that when your horse gets to the takeoff point of the log and suddenly sees that there is a downhill landing and more water, he is more likely to be ready and willing to keep going? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
This rider shows us an excellent example of an extremely defensive seat over this same fence:
No crest releases here... instead keeping the horse well between the leg and the hand to jump a big fence at speed. The rider's center of gravity is low and well back, with their "feet on the dashboard." This is only absolutelynecessary in extreme circumstances, but since there is no real drawback to this position (when done well), it is a good habit for cross country riders to develop and utilize on cross country.
Let's say you are galloping along between jumps on cross country, and you are approaching a fairly steep downhill slope. The best time for you to change the balance in your horse's gallop for the big terrain change is:
A. Before the downhill begins
B. Right at the edge where the downhill begins
C. Only after the horse has begun down the hill, and is showing signs of losing balance
D. Don't make an effort to change the balance, let the horse figure it out
(Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to answer, and to read this educational discussion)
Discussion # 135: What do you see in these 3 drawings of a horse's hoof?Of these 3 drawings of a horse's hoof, one shows a normal, correctly shaped hoof... and the other 2 show common faults (which are farrier related.) Which one is the correct hoof? And what is wrong with the other 2? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
The trot on the right is unfortunately what is seen 90% (or more) of the time nowadays. It is sad that so many trainers teach methods that produce this result, and that so many judges seem to overlook the problem. I am also bewildered that so many are fooled by a flashy front end, and don't seem to notice the other details. Besides the obvious toe flipping front end and trailing hind legs, what other differences do you see between these two drawings? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Video Discussion # 87: Video showing an exercise that can be useful for improving your horse's rideability on courseThis video shows an exercise that can be useful for improving your horse's rideability on course. Have you tried this one? If not... go give it a try, and come back and tell us how it went! (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to watch video, and to read this educational discussion)Discussion # 130: I recently came across this visual challenge which caused some trouble! I came across this situation at a recent jumper show that was held in an open coliseum in the evening hours. As the sun began to go down, the horses had to jump this brown jump directly into the shadows of the darker side of the arena. 4 strides away from this jump, the horses had sun directly in their eyes. And then right in front of this jump, the wall of the coliseum blocked the sun, and their eyes had little time to adjust. Not surprisingly, it began to cause rails down and refusals! If you were faced with this situation (which could easily happen on cross country - jumping a brown jump from bright light into the shadows), what could you do to help your horse accurately assess the jump so he can jump it well? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Discussion # 126: Where would you jump this cross country fence?Let's pretend for discussion sake that this fence is not curved so that it is invitingly lower in the middle of the log. Let's say that you are faced with a log on top of a hill heading down into the water, where you have a choice to jump on one side where the log is solid enough to prevent the water from showing underneath it, and the other clearly showing the water underneath the log. Which side would you aim at? And why? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
"Check on the acceptance of the outside rein before every corner." ~ Christopher Bartle
What do you think this means? How do you check on the acceptance of the outside rein connection? And why is it so important? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion) Video Discussion # 86: The important points of free jumping your horse, and how to best introduce jumping to the young horse! Check out this video, which discusses the benefits and important points of free jumping your horse, and how to introduce your young horse to the concept of free jumping. Your thoughts?? Who here has free jumped their horses? What did you learn about them from watching them jump on their own? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to watch video and read this educational discussion)Discussion # 124: How do you feel about having corner jumps at the Novice level?At an Event that I attended a few weeks ago, there was a real (vs the traditional more introductory style) corner on the Training level course. And I was thinking about starting a discussion about corner jumps at the Training level.
Then this past weekend at a different competition (both in CA), they had a corner jump on the Novice course... and this one was at the bottom of a significant hill! What are your thoughts on corner jumps at these levels? And if you are competing at the Novice or Training levels, what do you need to do at home to prepare for meeting one of these on a cross country course? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Discussion # 123: The correct position vs the chair seat!The correct riding position is really more like standing in a squatting position than like sitting. Yet, since we do sit on our seat bones when seated in the saddle, it can be hard for some riders to get close to this ideal alignment of shoulders, hips, and heels as shown in the top photo. It is common for riders to instead sit in somewhat of a chair seat, with their feet out in front of them, as in the bottom photo. If you tend to have this very common problem, what can you work on to fix it? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Discussion # 122: How do you best handle this situation?This rider is obviously struggling with getting his horse to properly respond to his outside turning aids at this moment, and has therefore tried to cross his outside hand over the neck to make it happen. What causes a horse to have this problem? What should the rider do in this situation to fix the problem? And what can the rider work on at home to prevent future occurrences of this issue? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Video Discussion # 84: Let's watch this Dressage test ridden by Steffen Peters!I particularly like his entrance, with a lovely, soft transition from canter to halt. This shows a good example of a correctly forward ridden transition to halt. What other strengths do you see in this test? Do you notice any weaknesses, or movements that show that the horse might be green for this level? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
Rule quiz! We've all seen the Rolex riders wearing them… so we know they are legal for FEI events. But are ear fly bonnets legal for the Dressage phase of a USEA event? (Click on Quiz Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)
There are two schools of thought on this subject… what do you think? Does a horse need to be fully on the aids before there is a benefit to performing lateral work? Or can lateral work help to put the horse on the aids? (Click on Discussion Title above (in blue) to read this educational discussion)