“On the bit” part 2:
This week I’ll quickly cover how a false outline is detrimental to the horse.
A false outline is when the rider holds the horse’s head into the “right” position. This can be by brute force, see-sawing or by overworking the horse in side reins or draw reins. This is often an incorrect outline and the head is pulled too close to the chest, which causes the vertebrae in the spine to compress and reduces your horse’s flexion. This then gives you a horse that struggles through lateral movements and is not working correctly from behind. You can notice this in the trot as often people who have their horses over-flexed also have mounts over-bent to the inside/outside in an effort to improve lateral flexion. This creates a nodding head in the trot.
With a curled compressed neck, the vertebrae are hindered and the “top” of the outline is not the poll, but the 3rd or 4th vertebrae. When the neck is tight, lateral and hind end engagement is lessened. The horse also learns to keep its head in this position so as to avoid the see-sawing or heavy-handed pressure in the mouth. This makes it very difficult for the horse to move forward and take up the contact that the rider has – you may have ridden a horse which drops behind the contact yet is still in an “outline”. These horses need a lot of work to undo the false outline.
A horse in a false outline is also not using its back correctly, and the muscles along the underside of the neck become over-developed to hold the head in the outline created by the rider. The neck in a horse with a false outline often looks shortened and the muzzle area can sit close to the chest. The head is behind the vertical – the forehead is where the vertical is measured, and it is far better for it to be slightly in front of vertical than slightly behind it.
Next week I will discuss the benefits of working for a correct outline and how that will help the horse.
Feel free to like, share, and comment, so I know what little problems you all have, so that I can feature them in a future Tuesday Tip!