Exercises for topline

Chippers1

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After posting my thread about his weight the other day i'm now convinced he has some terrible muscle wasting disease (or cushings? or ulcers?) or (the slightly more plausible scenario..) i'm not riding him correctly so his topline is lacking a lot.

Does anyone have any simple but effective exercises for building topline, particularly the neck?

At the moment I am hacking mainly - but only for around 20 mins until it gets dark - and he goes around with his head in the air as he's nosey and I also think of hacking as the 'fun' part so don't like to school too much but I can change this.

When I do get in the school (oh how I wish summer and the fields being open!) it's again for about 15/20 mins and I do transitions, within gaits too, and I've had to teach him lateral work so we do a lot of leg yielding in all gaits and i'm introducing some shoulder in steps too, plus I've been doing some shoulder fore too. I've also taught him rein back which he is now excellent at and we rein back then trot or canter. I have also recently taught him walk to canter (which he loves doing!) so we practise that too. Occasionally I have time to put out some poles but I don't tend to concentrate on his frame as I just want the forward movement and with less staring at the poles!
I have been incorporating some long and low too however he's a little spooky (our school is bordered by trees!) so I have to anticipate spookiness when having his nose near the floor!

SO does anyone have any tips or exercises I can use? Not looking for a quick fix but I need some inspiration! I have a Pelham that I show him in and he goes nicely but I feel like that's a false outline? but I could possibly school in that on the odd occasion. Thanks!

Obligatory sunny picture Screenshot_20190215-072035_Gallery[1].jpg
 

ihatework

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I don’t think there is a magic answer.
Topline comes fundamentally from correct work.

It’s all very well doing poles, hills or whatever but if they are doing them like a camel it’s counter productive.

A 20 minute walk with head in air is in no way shape or form work or barely a hack.

Be guided by a good instructor who you see weekly for a work program
 

Chippers1

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I don’t think there is a magic answer.
Topline comes fundamentally from correct work.

It’s all very well doing poles, hills or whatever but if they are doing them like a camel it’s counter productive.

A 20 minute walk with head in air is in no way shape or form work or barely a hack.

Be guided by a good instructor who you see weekly for a work program

Well no he doesn't do poles like a camel, just not completely round. I live in a very flat part of the country so I can't do much hill work unfortunately.

I can only hack as long as there is light, and I work full time so I am trying to fit it in. They are faster hacks just with his head up rather than being made to school.

I'm just looking for some exercises I can do to help in the short space of riding time I have.
 

Chippers1

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Yes I do see your point :) it is difficult in winter. I will make him work over his back when hacking too. I do work him between gears but I can always add more in.
I am looking at getting an instructor too. He's come a long way since I got him, just need some refinement now.
 

sbloom

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I would not use gadgets, I would do groundwork. Best options are, IMO, straightnesstraining.com, but the Manolo Mendez DVDs are supposed to be excellent. Much easier for him to learn to carry himself correctly without the weight of a rider and it really educates the rider's eye, and improves their understanding of biomechanics and timing of aids.
 

Chippers1

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Thanks @sbloom i'll take a look. It's a good idea with the limited time I have. I do lunge occasionally but not with gadgets and he's very good at going off my voice, plus when I taught rein-back I started on the ground as he had no idea how to go backwards which got us stuck at gates! So he's quick at picking things up.
 

JFTDWS

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I would say he doesn't have to be "completely round" to work over poles and hack correctly to build muscle. If he lacks muscle, I probably wouldn't be aiming for completely round at all (depending on your definition of that). A horse can lift its back and work fairly correctly without the nose being on the vertical, with a high neck and a "round" outline, certainly. The trouble with this is, it's a fine line - between a correct horse in a variable or developmental outline, and one which is working incorrectly, inverted and with its hind end disengaged - that's why having eyes on the ground, a good instructor, or even videoing what you're doing (in the arena, not hacking!), would be more use.

Generally, if he's working actively, with a soft back, into a soft contact, happily and without issue, running through basic schooling out hacking will help him build muscle as you step up the work with the approaching light nights. There are no real short cuts or quick fixes.
 

Chippers1

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I
Generally, if he's working actively, with a soft back, into a soft contact, happily and without issue, running through basic schooling out hacking will help him build muscle as you step up the work with the approaching light nights. There are no real short cuts or quick fixes.
this is what i'm aiming for, he does have stretches of active working, soft back etc but out hacking he can be nosey/spooky so it's trying to remind him that he's working too! I'm not at all looking for short cuts or quick fixes, I know it needs work, I suppose I was just looking to see if anyone had anything that they liked to do with their horses to encourage more muscle growth.

Also I often have my OH filming jumping rounds so i'll get him to film some flat sessions :)
 

Chippers1

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I kind of wish i'd not started this now! i'm not saying I let him schlep around with his ears up my nose and I know it's about correct work and riding properly, just wanted some schooling ideas. I ride as much as I possibly can and as well as I can but sometimes I like to hack on a loose rein and not think about schooling, I push him forwards though and encourage his back end as I don't like plodding along.

I'm not an amazing rider and don't have regular lessons (although looks like I should), I just wanted some inspiration.
 

ihatework

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I kind of wish i'd not started this now! i'm not saying I let him schlep around with his ears up my nose and I know it's about correct work and riding properly, just wanted some schooling ideas. I ride as much as I possibly can and as well as I can but sometimes I like to hack on a loose rein and not think about schooling, I push him forwards though and encourage his back end as I don't like plodding along.

I'm not an amazing rider and don't have regular lessons (although looks like I should), I just wanted some inspiration.
So your question was wrong.

What you wanted to say was what exercises would help XYZ in order for me to improve my horses way of going?

Get the way of going right and the topline follows. Thing is, way of going, as you appreciate is a long process and you need an experienced eye
 

Bernster

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From your other posts, I suspect we are similar riding wise. My two most recent horses I've known enough to start getting the hang of improving their topline and way of going, but I've still a way to go.

Horse 1 was rehabbing for kissing spines so this was a focussed programme over 6 months or so. Once we were into the ridden work, the biggest difference was lunging in a pessoa and using trot poles. In hindsight I'd prefer not to do so many small circles and perhaps done more long reining, and ideally without the pessoa (or I'd use an equiami if I were to use anything now). I had experienced help, regular lessons, she was a reasonably fit and athletic horse, but even then it took a good 6 months or so to get her where I wanted her to be.

Horse 2 bought as a gangly just turned 5yo who couldn't turn left. Again, through a series of lessons, schooling, lunging, pole work, he's improved and filled out. He is still a bit weaker on one side to his muscle behind the wither/shoulder is not as developed on one side, but his back is generally stronger now. I don't school on hacks either. I tend to give him a longer rein but, due to his way of going and musculature, he carries himself fairly well anyway now - no camel impressions!

Not cracked it by any means but I think we're on the right path.
 

Chippers1

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Ok maybe I got the question wrong. I'm not as experienced as a lot of people on here so sometimes my terminology isn't the best. But as riders we learn all the time so that's what I am trying to do, my previous pony was pretty much push button schoolmaster so it's a different experience for me!

He's not terrible by any means, works well and from my seat but his topline is looking a little weak. Maybe this is down to me to riding properly then. So I will try to improve.

His right rein is wobbly so I've been doing a lot of balancing work with him but he was a pretty blank slate when I got him (he was 10) so it's a constant work in progress. I'm so pleased with how far we've come already but this is making me feel useless. I will obviously be putting as much work in as I can. I'm not normally this bothered by what people say to me online but I feel some of the replies have been a bit harsh!

@Bernster thanks, I think we are quite similar too, I think I need to get a set program from an instructor.

If anyone wants to pull apart a picture and tell me where needs improvement here's one of him (albeit from summer)..
Screenshot_20190211-080533_Gallery.jpg
 

Cortez

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There's nowt wrong with your picture: that's how you should ride him all the time is the point (obviously he gets to stretch and be on a long rein at regular intervals too). His topline doesn't look bad there either. Small improvements (there are always those...:) ) to help him get off his forehand - lengthen your stirrups a hole, lift your hands an inch, look up; those small changes will help you to sit up, use your back and seat better and allow your horse to start bending his hind joints too.
 

ihatework

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No one has been harsh. In your OP you say you are mainly just hacking with his head in the air for 20 mins. And in the same sentence asking how you can improve his top line.

All anyone has really said is work your horse correctly to improve topline. Not harsh, just fact.

How you go about achieving that is an entirely different matter. And it’s not easy or else we would all be riding beautifully muscled horses going like Valero, which let’s face it we aren’t!
 

Chippers1

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Thank you :) I don't want to seem like i'm having a strop because i'm not getting the answers I want but I know I need to improve so was just looking for advice really!

I do ride with my hands higher now as I've made a conscious effort to and it now comes more naturally - I learnt at a not so good riding school and it was a serious bad habit! Looking up and lengthening my stirrups is something I will do.

I guess I was just trying to write my original OP with some lightness, yes I do hack for a very short time but his head is not constantly up in the air giraffe style, I admit that was badly written on my part (as it is literally what I said ha), it was more that I can ask him to work and can go on a loose rein but if he spots something it goes up so I don't do too much because his attention is elsewhere. I didn't want to make it too long!
I know he needs to work correctly, as I said it was just for some ideas or exercises that anyone else might use, to change up our schooling. It does say in my OP that I was looking for tips or exercises and I spoke about what I do in the school (which is normally twice a week) rather than focusing on the hacking.
I'll take on board everything that has been said though :)
 

Bernster

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What Cortez said ^^ he looks pretty good there. I never get shots of us at our best so mine are way worse, as it’s generally at a show and therefore we’re both a bit green (tense) to present a nicer picture! Plus mine are always too big file size so I give up trying to upload them in here. Pfft.
 

Amymay

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Lovely picture. He looks great there.

Most of us struggle in the winter, but 20 mins is better than zero mins, so you’re doing better than me at this time of year (I only rode on the weekends in Jan and Feb).

But, yes, the key is to ride as effectively as you can within the time you have.
 

JFTDWS

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I think you're taking some fairly neutral advice rather personally. Nobody has commented on your riding ability, or suggested you don't know what you're doing. I suggested a trainer because, well, that's what they're for - to help advise you on stuff like this - and they can give you advice which is really appropriate for where you and the horse are at.

I said that there are no short cuts, no quick fixes, not because I think you're looking to cheat, but because there's very little that works to build topline other than correct work. That work can be over poles, or up hills, but if you're short of time, you're better off on the horse, riding, than putting out poles. And hills are great if you have them, but if you're in the land of the pancakes, there's nothing doing on that score.

All you can do is what you can do - as obvious as that sounds - if you've only got 20 minutes, you've only got 20 minutes. There's nothing you can do, other than ride correctly for that time, that will build top line faster. That's not criticism, it's just reality - don't beat yourself up for the things you can't change.

I also think the photo is nice - he needs, ultimately, to shift more weight back, and come off his forehand, but as a work in progress, it looks alright to me :) Nicer than my young mare looks when we're hacking out anyway!
 

JFTDWS

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Of course, if you just want general schooling exercises, I'm sure people could give you some suggestions. If that's what you really meant?
 

Chippers1

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Of course, if you just want general schooling exercises, I'm sure people could give you some suggestions. If that's what you really meant?
This is what I was after, I think I just phrased it wrong :)

Yes looking back I did take it a bit too personally, it felt like I was being told that I wasn't riding properly because I only have a short time to ride - but i'm doing the best I can with my situation. I know that it takes lots of work to build up muscle and thought any extra exercises might be beneficial but I see that I used the wrong terminology. As an aside I managed two hours hacking yesterday (mostly working correctly, some relaxed rein) - with one big very steep hill so that helped :D I'll try and get there more often as the evenings are getting lighter.
 

oldie48

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I find it takes ages to build topline even if you are doing loads of the correct work. Rose is the correct weight but still lacks topline despite putting quite a lot of muscle on her hindquarters and a bit on her back and I've had her for four months now. She has put a bit of muscle on her neck but she still needs to fill out that bit in front of the saddle (trapezius?). She naturally wanted to work long and low and on the forehand because she lacked the strength behind to balance but now she's stronger we are both finding it easier to get her to stay on the hind leg, lift her shoulders and then work in a longer lower frame. If I look down onto her neck I can see the bit I want her to use moving. It's not about letting her slop along on a loose rein without a contact which tbh she would do quite happily. It's taken a while to get her to do it properly and now it's a mainstay of our schooling both in and out of the arena. Hacks are usually just over an hour long, mainly roadwork and she works on a contact partly because we never know what we might meet but mainly because that's how I expect her to go. She has 23 hours in each day to mooch along as she likes. We school about 3 times a week and also do polework. Even so, the increase in her topline is minimal but going in the right direction so don't despair you will get there eventually with your horse but if you are limited to how much you can ride, it will just take longer. Good luck.
 

Cortez

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FWIW I rarely have more than 40 minutes per horse, and that's not every day either.

I think what you have to bear in mind that there isn't really one specific exercise that is aimed at building up just the neck/back/loins - ALL the muscles will work IF the posture of the horse and way of going is consistently correct. I think there is still a feed called "Topline Mix" or something? That always makes me laugh: you cannot just feed one area, but there are a few things you can work on that will help. Transitions (particularly direct), shoulder in and rein back all require the horse to engage his back and loins deeply, but don't over do or he will become sore and that will defeat your purpose. Time is really what is needed, and patience most of all.
 

Chippers1

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I think what you have to bear in mind that there isn't really one specific exercise that is aimed at building up just the neck/back/loins - ALL the muscles will work IF the posture of the horse and way of going is consistently correct. I think there is still a feed called "Topline Mix" or something? That always makes me laugh: you cannot just feed one area, but there are a few things you can work on that will help. Transitions (particularly direct), shoulder in and rein back all require the horse to engage his back and loins deeply, but don't over do or he will become sore and that will defeat your purpose. Time is really what is needed, and patience most of all.
I agree about the feeds, I don't know how companies can get away with it! It's his neck that is the main problem but I agree you can't work just that area! Luckily it's starting to get lighter so I can ride for longer and hopefully by summer he should be looking better :)
 

Pearlsasinger

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This is what I was after, I think I just phrased it wrong :)

Yes looking back I did take it a bit too personally, it felt like I was being told that I wasn't riding properly because I only have a short time to ride - but i'm doing the best I can with my situation. I know that it takes lots of work to build up muscle and thought any extra exercises might be beneficial but I see that I used the wrong terminology. As an aside I managed two hours hacking yesterday (mostly working correctly, some relaxed rein) - with one big very steep hill so that helped :D I'll try and get there more often as the evenings are getting lighter.

Even on a relaxed rein, you can be using your seat and legs properly (in the correct position), which will help your horse to carry himself and discourage him from slipping back onto the forehand.
 

Chippers1

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@Rowreach I would understand if that was aimed at me, I have a habit of tipping forwards that I am putting a lot of effort into working on, I've had a couple of lessons since the photo above which have picked up on some things.

@Pearlsasinger I do try to do this as I don't like a dawdle walk, I like him to be moving forward. It also helps when I go with much bigger horses as he has to keep up!

Thank you everyone :)
 
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