Recognising and Reschooling a Horse who Hollows His Back

Recognising and Reschooling a Horse who Hollows His Back

Recognising and Reschooling a Horse who Hollows His Back

Recognising and Reschooling a Horse who is hollow through his Back

What this episode is all about & how it can help you:-

  • Knowing what a hollow back looks and feels like
  • Realising you may be playing a big part in what is happening
  • Understanding the role your own self carriage plays in your horses self carriage
  • Beginning to build on a correct way of going in your rides

There you are, happily riding along.  Feeling all those good feelings we feel as riders; until you ask for something different.  Suddenly, it feels like everything has just ‘deflated’ and, to be honest, it has a little because your horse just went hollow through his back. 

You see, it is not just you the rider who should ‘carry themselves’ and work at having a strong and connected back.  Your horse also needs to work on carrying himself in order to avoid becoming hollow through is back as well.

Knowing What a Hollow Back Looks and Feels Like

Being able to pinpoint and feel when your horse begins to hollow his back, and then later take steps to avoid it happening, is key to reschooling through this problem.  When your horse begins to hollow his back, it really feels as though his back is not supporting you any more.

Think about this, when his hind legs (hind quarters) are engaged and working underneath him, they support you on his back.  When they get ‘left behind’ that support goes away…

Couple this with the fact that most horses will also raise their head and neck and become resistant to the rein aids as well.  The result is your horse literally hollowing his back from underneath you and you experiencing that ‘sinking feeling’.

Because the head and neck will usually ‘come up’, the rider can literally feel the horses shoulders brace against the contact and seat.

This resistance is one of the most obvious signs that your horse has begun to become hollow thorough his back; and should send a few warning bells off in your head regarding what you can do to get things back on track.

Realising That You May be Playing a Big Part in What is Happening

Riders the world over tend to get into the saddle with the sole intention of making the horse ‘do’ something.  A good example of this is the all important ‘on the bit’ goal so many riders have, but either way, when we become so concerned with just one ‘goal’, it can be a little like putting blinkers on!

Riders end up focusing on what they can see in front of them; the horse’s head and neck.  They also ‘see’ their hands and arms…  You must switch your focus from what you can see – to what you can feel, both in your horse and in your aids. 

Just focusing on one part of the whole picture often results in your position suffering.  It is all the gripping, the squeezing, the twisting the shoving that you are doing to get things ‘looking’ like you think they should look. 

But remember, from where you are sitting, you are only seeing a third of the picture.  This third should be the ‘result’ rather than the cause part of the overall picture!  When we start to make the front end the ’cause’, the result is never good!

So, I mentioned that very often when riders get into this mindset and way of riding, they are moving – a lot!  All of this movement only serves to move your position further and further from where it should be. 

The further you move away from where you should be, the less clear your communication becomes.  The less effective your aids are.  And the less you can balance yourself. 

Understanding The Role of Your Self Carriage in Your Horses Self Carriage

It is this lack of balance that causes you to become heavy in the saddle, which in turn can lead to your horse becoming hollow through his back.  He is literally trying to get out from under your unbalanced, ineffective position!  Harsh, but true!

Instead of carrying yourself, you have become a ‘dead weight’ in the saddle.   Rather than thinking ‘light’ and ‘refined’, you are scrubbing and having to over do the communication through your seat.

Many riders at this point become frustrated because their horse is not really listening or being responsive to their ‘seat aids’.  So rather than taking things back to basics and allowing their other aids to apply any extra pressure if necessary, they try to knuckle down even more on the already ineffective seat aid.

It is a vicious cycle that usually leads to all parties becoming frustrated by the lack of understanding and progress!  An overly excited (heavy) seat will also effect the rest of your body and the rest of your aids.

As the team leader for you and your horse, you need to lead by example when it comes to self carriage.   Learn to first carry yourself in order to feel what is going on underneath you.  It is only by carrying yourself that you can create the space your horse needs to carry himself.


Beginning to Build on a Correct Way of Going in Your Rides

Start with the basics, the walk to halt transition.  Work on setting it up correctly and allowing your horse to ‘close’ the halt.  Simply put, allow his space to ‘park’ his back-end underneath his body.

Think of creating a space that he can easily close the lid of the box that all four of his legs should create when he is in a square halt.  

Notice any tension through your lower back.  Notice if you are leaning, or becoming heavy.  Start to ‘feel’ if you are indeed creating that space for your horse; and then inviting him to step into it.

Make a point of thinking light through the transition.  Go over it again and again, making small adjustments each time until you begin to ‘feel’ a difference underneath you.

From here, start to look for this feeling throughout the other movements in your ride.

Happy Riding


Links mentioned in the episode:-

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