This weekend Solo is at Checkmate in the Training division. He is looking good and feeling well. The only part of his body that I am still not completely happy with is the base of his neck. He still has it a bit lumpy and overdeveloped although the muscle above is forming nicely. Hopefully the muscle above will take over and do all the work as his resistance slowly disappears. To help the musculature form correctly, I am a big believer in lunging, pole work, and lunging over poles with our older horses.
The lunging (we lunge in side reins, a de gogue or a pessoa depending on the horse and what it needs, a happy mouth snaffle and BOOTS all round), with it’s stretching and continuous circling puts stress on the topline and done in steady moderation, lunging develops the topline through this work. The horse that is reluctant to elevate his back, is more likely to do so when there is nobody parking their butt on it.
Poles force the action and elevation of the hock and lift and move the horse’s back. When our horses are stronger in their backs, we gradually elevate the poles, over the months/years, eventually asking for elevation to the point of high collection without having to touch the reins. A strong back makes it easier for Solo to carry our butts the way we want to be carried. Solo has started elevated poles on the lunge and under saddle, of course he finds it easy and doesn’t really stretch and work as hard as I would like, of course it’s not necessarily as much fun as jumping but it’s a step up from dressage as far as he is concerned, so he does it with some enthusiasm.
At Hawkridge, we also lunge and ride regularly, over a spray of poles some of which may or may not be raised, again, depending on the strength and fitness of the horses. Highly strung horses will go through over and over again but their backs will be mush afterwards if they are allowed to go through too many times or have the height raised too soon. Little is more….
The centre of the poles are set apart at 5feet. The poles are raised on the outside of the spray. Small horses can ride to the inside of center if they are shorter striding. Once our horses have done the spray on the ground during two or three sessions, if they are fit and already in good work, I start by raising one pole in the center of the spray. Once the horse has the idea, I set the entire spray a few inches off the ground except the first/last poles. These I leave on the ground giving the horse an easy ‘in’ on both directions.
All these exercises have done wonders with Solo’s topline and he is a big bulky horse for a young thoroughbred, lets hope it all eventually stretches right through to the base of his neck….sigh.
Meanwhile, fingers crossed that he goes well today and behaves his little self.