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03Sep 14

The lift

Last week I discussed the deeper outline for a novice horse and its future.

This week I would like to go back to that but from a different point of view. What to do  when the young horse has made the transition from a contact rein to learning to go round, but over-bends without  you actually asking for it.

First we have to establish the reason. Is it a mistake the rider is making by, for example, having his or her hands to low and or wide, or, is the horse not strong enough yet in certain areas in its neck and instead of maintaining its position it collapses some how. This could be a weak poll or an under developed shoulder, amongst others.

When the rider is less experienced it is difficult without mirror or trainer to learn to have a higher and more closed position of the hands. However, the tip `long arms and shorter reins' is one that I give often when teaching. Especially when the horse has a weak poll this already helps the rider to not pull the head mechanically under its neck, or worse, between its knees. Also, we have to learn to understand that the horse can only come up when we `make room' by carrying our hands higher. In this case gravity is our greatest enemy as when the horse goes down we tend to drop our hands without even realizing it. This higher carriage of the hands is a gradual and consistent lift, which maintains its position at the level where it becomes functional.

In other words, the base of the neck can only come up when the hands allow by making room through a gradual lift.

The more experienced rider is able to recognize this gradual development, however some horses will still try to go too deep as an evasion. Now we need the sudden lift. In this case, depending on whether there is a tilt of the head involved, both hands or one hand lift suddenly, which virtually makes the horse go above the bit, followed by a quick release in order to re-establish a new and softer contact and outline. This is quite an invasive aid which should not be used too often. Overuse of this aid will make the horse have an uncomfortably inconsistent head and neck carriage. If so, it is time to evaluate what is happening in order to find out what is wrong.

Remember that going too deep can not be riding-technically solved if there is a physical problem (I'm thinking teeth or back). Always have these issues taken care of in order to avoid unnecessary arguments.     


Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

Dressage Training

Dressage training needs variety, including pole work

About Liz Barclay

Her love for horses together with her dedication made her into the trainer and dressage rider she is, today. She is versatile and inventive and likes a challenge; whether it is a technical training question, a confidence issue or a problem involving the management of the horse or pony.


My book 'THE FARMER, THE COAL MERCHANT, THE BAKER...' with the subtitle 'A Personal Impression of the Development of the Gelderland Horse World' has been received with more enthusiasm than I possibly could have hoped for. Click here to contact me and I will send you a copy. £7.50 + postage, or click here to order from Amazon.