Are some horses just naturally upside down?

AShetlandBitMeOnce

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As the title, are some horses just naturally upside down in terms of topline?

Jacob has an overdeveloped muscle at the base of his neck - he's ewe-necked, I am working on it and he is working over his back in the school (under an instructors watchful eye) and starting to make improvements over his topline albeit early days as he is still pretty weak, but this bottom of neck muscle is still very prominent. I'm not expecting miracles as I know it takes time, especially with large horses, but I can't help but think his natural way of standing is keeping it there, his default is always very llama like, whether it's in the field or tied up or otherwise. I will try to attach a photo of his resting position (please excuse the state of him!)

Will this ever change, or is this just the way he is?
 

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CanteringCarrot

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This might be an interesting read for you:

https://equimed.com/health-centers/lameness/articles/horse-conformation-head-neck-and-shoulders


There is an area on my horses neck that never seems to fill out with muscle compared to others. No one can figure out why, someone wagered possibly just how he's built. Meanwhile, another horse who does nothing in terms of serious or proper work has a gorgeous neck. 🤷‍♀️

How is the rest of his body? Back, abs, and hind end mainly.

But it can certainly take time, as in 6 months to a year. Proper nutrition, work, and patience.
 

Sossigpoker

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Because of how his neck is set into his shoulder it will be harder for him to work correctly and therefore he will have the tendency to use the muscles under the neck.
 

AShetlandBitMeOnce

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This might be an interesting read for you:

https://equimed.com/health-centers/lameness/articles/horse-conformation-head-neck-and-shoulders


There is an area on my horses neck that never seems to fill out with muscle compared to others. No one can figure out why, someone wagered possibly just how he's built. Meanwhile, another horse who does nothing in terms of serious or proper work has a gorgeous neck. 🤷‍♀️

How is the rest of his body? Back, abs, and hind end mainly.

But it can certainly take time, as in 6 months to a year. Proper nutrition, work, and patience.

Thank you, I will give that a read - looks interesting!! I don't much mind visually (although I do love a chunky neck) I just want him to be building in a way that is conducive for the long term health of his joints and back etc.

He is fed well I believe - alfalfa pellets for protein, collstance copra for fats, a light balancer for vits & mins.

He is pretty weak all over really, unfortunately I don't have a recent stood up tackless photo, but the attached should give you an idea (the third is when I first got him a year ago, so I think he has improved some since then, especially as it's been a long process with some injuries and some breaks because of my health.

He has an angular backside which I am doing hill work to try and help, and his abs are coming along with his topline now that he is working over his back properly in the school but there is A LOT of work to do there- I have just upped the work to 6 times a week as he had the whole of Jan off and was very lightly plodded around on for the few months prior to that.
He does three 30ish min schooling sessions in walk/trot, one 45 minute flatwork lesson and two hilly hacks which will increase in length as he gets fitter.


Because of how his neck is set into his shoulder it will be harder for him to work correctly and therefore he will have the tendency to use the muscles under the neck.
I did wonder if this might be the case, wasn't sure if it's how he's built or something I am still not getting quite right.
 

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ihatework

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Well it will be a combination of what nature has given a horse in terms of conformation and musculature and also the training (and to a lesser extent feeding) you put in.

Improvements can of course be made with any horse, but it’s obviously easier to do when the raw materials are more conducive to it in the first place. Bigger horses generally take longer.
 

CanteringCarrot

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I actually think that's decent improvement from when you first got him, especially with inconsistent work. I think you've got your work cut out for you and have a good plan in place. Just a slow steady grind at this point.

I think his conformation will limit him, but I do think that it will allow for a bit more improvement.
 

Pinkvboots

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In the earlier pictures he looks typical for a horse that has been ridden in a too narrow saddle, the up to date pictures look much better he is even standing better, the base of his neck was probably hollowing along with his back when the saddle didn't fit.

It might just be the last thing to happen working in a lower frame will probably help that bit develop.
 

AShetlandBitMeOnce

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In the earlier pictures he looks typical for a horse that has been ridden in a too narrow saddle, the up to date pictures look much better he is even standing better, the base of his neck was probably hollowing along with his back when the saddle didn't fit.

It might just be the last thing to happen working in a lower frame will probably help that bit develop.
Interesting that you say that, you’re on the right mark! He was in a far to wide saddle that has damaged his withers, with hard and uneven flocking so would have been uncomfortable in his back when I took him on. He has a new saddle and has had withers x-rayed so all sorted in that respect.
 

Pinkvboots

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Interesting that you say that, you’re on the right mark! He was in a far to wide saddle that has damaged his withers, with hard and uneven flocking so would have been uncomfortable in his back when I took him on. He has a new saddle and has had withers x-rayed so all sorted in that respect.
He looks so much better even the way he is standing even his face he looks like a different horse, it takes months even years to reverse muscle damage from a saddle but he is obviously comfortable now well done your doing a great job.
 

sbloom

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He is greatly improved...but...there are so many new theories about topline and posture, the saddle has clearly been an issue but everything in the body is related, so compensations may need fixing too, or the saddle may have quickly become too wide because of the other issues. I did a webinar on Saturday that looked at feet and teeth being the biggest inputs into a horse's posture - after all they are only ridden for a short time each day, so the biggest factors may not be ridden ones!

I would look to have him assessed, he is standing slightly camped under, which affects the entire topline, and honestly, apparently, it can be caused by teeth! He doesn't look like he's broken back in his hoof pastern axis behind, but there something making him camp under front and back. Take a look at The Equine Documentalist on Facebook and website.
 

Pearlsasinger

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You can help him to develop better neck musculature by feeding from the ground, rather than from a haynet, if you don't already but you are definitely making an improvement.
 

sbloom

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You can help him to develop better neck musculature by feeding from the ground, rather than from a haynet, if you don't already but you are definitely making an improvement.
Yep and horses ideally need to move, all day. Moving from mouthful to mouthful is way beyond even feeding hay from the ground. So many factors in how we keep them are absolutely critical, but movement without the restricting factors sorted, doesn't work on its own. I highly recommend the Proprioception and Posture webinar from Saturday from the chap mentioned above. They covered the body fixes that may be needed as well as the environmental/movement type changes.
 

AShetlandBitMeOnce

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He looks so much better even the way he is standing even his face he looks like a different horse, it takes months even years to reverse muscle damage from a saddle but he is obviously comfortable now well done your doing a great job.
Thank you for both replies, very kind and encouraging! He is already fed from the ground although this only started when I got him a year ago, before that it was a haynet. It will be a long road, it’s great that positive improvements can be seen already and I’m not just imagining things. It’s hard when you see them everyday.


He is greatly improved...but...there are so many new theories about topline and posture, the saddle has clearly been an issue but everything in the body is related, so compensations may need fixing too, or the saddle may have quickly become too wide because of the other issues. I did a webinar on Saturday that looked at feet and teeth being the biggest inputs into a horse's posture - after all they are only ridden for a short time each day, so the biggest factors may not be ridden ones!

I would look to have him assessed, he is standing slightly camped under, which affects the entire topline, and honestly, apparently, it can be caused by teeth! He doesn't look like he's broken back in his hoof pastern axis behind, but there something making him camp under front and back. Take a look at The Equine Documentalist on Facebook and website.
Yep and horses ideally need to move, all day. Moving from mouthful to mouthful is way beyond even feeding hay from the ground. So many factors in how we keep them are absolutely critical, but movement without the restricting factors sorted, doesn't work on its own. I highly recommend the Proprioception and Posture webinar from Saturday from the chap mentioned above. They covered the body fixes that may be needed as well as the environmental/movement type changes.
He is turned out 24/7 as I don’t currently have a stable, 8-5 out with a herd in a large field and brought overnight into a smaller paddock next door so he can have ad-lib hay all night, otherwise he would drop weight quickly. That’s interesting re:hooves and teeth! Funnily enough I have photos of his hooves which I will attach, I have just taken his back shoes off. He has been complimented by the vet on his feet (due a trim 2 weeks after the photos taken) but I’m always open to possible improvements. I’m not the best with feet.
His teeth are done 6 monthly so I’m pretty sure they’re good. He has no known issues with any, and he has had the bit fit lady out too so should be happy in his mouth.
As far as I have ever seen he has always been a bit camped under, conformationally he is a bit of a wonky donkey!
 

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sbloom

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From everything I've read, a horse just shouldn't be naturally camped under, there's always a reason. And he shouldn't have an underneck muscle like that. I guess there might be a reason that's not fixable but...worth having a look at the stuff I mentioned. I agree his feet don't look bad as I said, though without the cannon bone being shown in the photos you can't actually assess HPA well. There's just a little medial flare and I would question if, in the nearside photo of the nearside hind, it IS broken back slightly, but there's something going on and that's a common cause. And forgive me, but I've had some really dodgy advice on feet from vets for my own horses years ago. I think it's that part of being a generalist, in most cases, and that there are so many poor feet out there that it's hard to know what a really good example is.

There are fascinating photos all over FB and elsewhere where bodyworkers improve this stance, getting the legs at 90 degrees, but then you have to follow up, all the small pieces (think the Sky cycling team, marginal gains) have to be in place and remain in place, for the fixes to "stick".

TED does a remote assessment from photos, and someone like Tom Beech is always a good option to get an holistic view of what might be going on. Progressive Equine Services is another one looking at feet and posture, but they're in Oz, good stuff on Facebook though. I'm not saying you have a big issue, but you're right to keep a really close eye on progress, and wonder why you still have particular issues. Without getting the posture right, the topline just can't come.
 

rara007

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Some are certainly more ‘correct’ than others confo wise. Look at a large racing yard and their shapes will vary significantly despite similar management and genetics. My older horse is fairly average, not upside down but he has a fairly TB neck set. My younger one was born with a well set on neck and already aged 3 had an aesthetically more pleasing front end than him.

This is 18months of feeding, work and indeed grazing:
0CAF08DA-9156-4EF7-8BB5-B24516172243.jpeg
C5315D0A-A4ED-4969-9B59-284B5F30D52C.jpeg

I think for him that’s a strong as he’s going to get.
 
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