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You should seek the advice of a veterinarian and on-
By Carol Kurtz Darlington, Art2Ride Associate Trainer
A lot is being said lately about riding long and low. Some say horses should never stretch below chest level. Others ride their horses on the buckle. The truth is that all stretches are not created equal. Riding your horse in a stretch when you have no contact with the bit only results in more weight on the forehand. These peanut-
In classical foundation training we stretch a horse with the purpose of lifting its back and engaging the hind end under the body as Helen and Orlando are demonstrating here. This is a completely different stretch. We maintain a consistent contact of the weight of rein, whether working in hand, lunging, or riding.
Below is Emmeli on her beloved horse Nacho in a deep stretch in the trot. The straight line in her reins is what we mean by weight of rein. Notice she is not holding Nacho back at all but just connecting the energy from his back to his mouth. The parallel lines between the diagonal pairs of Nacho’s legs show that his hind end is active and in sync with his front legs.
It’s true that when you first teach your horse to stretch he will probably be on the forehand. But no horse is more on the forehand than a hollow horse, which is why we want to lift the back. If the stretch is done correctly the hind end will become more active and the horse will begin to balance itself and carry more weight in the hind quarters. Horses in a deep stretch with connection to the bit will gradually weight the hind end more as they develop and lift their backs.
It is important to stretch a horse under saddle with forward movement from the hind legs, as we see Allison stretching Contigo here in the walk. She keeps the connection with the bit, but never pulls back on the reins. This will develop self-
If your horse has not developed its topline, it is necessary to strengthen and lift its back. By activating the hind end with lateral movements like leg yield and shoulder-
Here is Tori teaching Soleil to stretch in the canter. Soleil is reaching with that inside hind, and Tori is lifting her body to make it easier for him.
This development will take some time and patience, and it cannot be rushed. The stretch is only as valuable as its effect on your horse’s back. Look behind the saddle. No matter how great the front end may look, if there is a dip behind the saddle it means the back is not being lifted. You don’t want a stretch like that. As master horseman Will Faerber says, “The stretch not only helps you to learn how to balance, but it lets the horse develop its own balance underneath you without you holding on to its mouth. It lets the horse develop self-
Sarah & Fleur at Art2Ride Clinic:
Cody’s horse Indy:
Karli and Petri: