Can someone please explain to me why it is desirable to get horses working in an outline?

(25 Posts)
Smartieaddict Thu 23-May-13 13:31:49

I am lucky enough to have a fantastic horse on loan. He, and I, love hacking, which is what we do most of. We also both enjoy jumping, and I am hoping to do some competing at local shows, mostly showjumping, hunter trials, and the odd ODE.

He has previously done a fair bit of eventing, which is brilliant for me as it means he really knows what he is doing when it comes to jumping, and I am learning loads from him already. He is less keen on the dressage side of things. He will come down on the bit, but it is a battle every time, and as soon as I get him on the bit he looses impulsion. I have managed to get him working correctly, but it is hard work for both of us, and I am a lazy cow, who would far rather go for an easy life!

I have been debating with myself whether this is a battle worth having. I am only in it for fun, and any competing will be at a very low level. So basically my question is, is there a reason I need to persevere with this, or is it fine to accept, that we will get marked down a bit in dressage tests, but otherwise it won't make any difference?

Thanks in advance!

As one who always struggled with this, I would say just enjoy what you do - although it is a fabulous feeling when a horse does carry itself in an outline, and is working 'up' beneath you.

I suppose lessons always help.

Smartieaddict Thu 23-May-13 13:37:28

Thanks. I am having lessons, and you are right, it is lovely when he does it. I am just not sure if its worth all the struggling to get there. He does everything else so effortlessly.

He sounds lovely.

Booboostoo Thu 23-May-13 14:25:42

It shouldn't be a struggle, get someone to help you.

Working in an outline describes a horse whose impulsion comes from behind and is contained infront, a horse whose back is rounded and best able to carry the weight of the rider, a horse who is balanced and supple. You need all these things for any aspect of riding, but particularly so if you want to jump (a weak muscled horse that is not working properly is more likely to have an accident jumping). Even if you are not interested in competing, it's better for the horse to ride him in a way that uses his muscles correctly and makes it easier for him to carry the rider's weight.

monsterchild Thu 23-May-13 14:31:06

If your horse is using his hind correctly he will work in an outline. Pulling his head down won't do it. If he's happy and you're happy do what keeps you both happy! You'll loose more points pulling on him than just letting him carry himself comfortably. Or you should if the judge knows anything.
He does sound lovely

Butkin Thu 23-May-13 17:10:50

Interesting subject. We always ride our horses/ponies in an outline but that is because in Showing it is expected. We work ours into the bridle and expect them to come down on the bit in a light relaxed manner - being overbent is as bad as not on the bit at all.

However we work in racing and rarely see horses ridden in this way. In fact a leading US sprint - Big Jag - and the top French/Aussie stayer Americain are the only well known horses I can remember being "schooled" as such.

I've always thought - especially when watching horses trotting round with their noses out on the Severals in Newmarket - that horses would benefit from proper schooling as they would develop better neck/back strength and use their impulsion from behind more. However I know it is not how they are taught. In racing if you shorten your reins it usually means go faster!

I look forward to this thread with interest.

horseylady Thu 23-May-13 17:55:38

I view it like humans. It's better to have good posture, not slouch etc. top athletes are like this and so are many other people.

I'd rather I worked correctly and my horse worked correctly as it means both of us will be stronger and hopefully more physically capable and stay injury free.

But riding should be for fun and I some horses find it so hard to work like that. My welsh was like that. Always seemed to struggle to breath?!! So in the end I didn't worry too much!! She could jump well!!

monsterchild Thu 23-May-13 20:27:49

If you watch endurance horses and may eventers, you'll see them carry themselves in a nice outline when they are moving forward (not flat out racing) and relaxed, with little pressure on the reins. that's the "outline" you want, one that the horse offers herself, not that she's being forced into maintaining.

I personally think the outline is over stressed, and has created lots of misunderstanding because people want to win, and your horse's head has to be close to vertical to score good points. I think some judges have lost sight of what outline means too. But that's a whole new topic!

OP, I think that if your horse is happy and travelling well you should work on developing his potential, but not worry too much about his front end. Work on his engine, and the front will come along just fine.

horseylady Thu 23-May-13 20:31:02

Very true monster!

monsterchild Thu 23-May-13 20:31:20

And what horseylady said is true, when a horse (or any athlete) works correctly, their posture reflects that!

But remember, we are asking horses to not just do what they do, but carry a rider too. That extra weight means they have to shift some of their natural way of going a bit towards the back to compensate. Just like when you carry a backpack you have to tilt forward a bit to not lose your balance...

Aren't horses fabulous

Booboostoo Thu 23-May-13 22:30:41

What do people mean by 'outline'? I always take it to be the whole horse's outline, i.e. for a horse working correctly (it would need to be adjusted for level of work but generally speaking for a competent, working outline for dressage for a horse with no particular conformational issues) the head is on or slightly in front of the vertical, the pole is the highest point, the shoulders are up, the neck and back are rounded, the back end is engaged and the hind legs are underneath the horse. I don't think dressage judges (at least BD and the ones over here in France) have a problem misidentifying this outline, although there are subjective interpretations of what is required at each level and relative adjustments for different kinds of faults.

As for pressure on the reins, I completely agree that you cannot make a horse work correctly from the front end, but when a horse does work correctly from the back this is felt on the front. I have a horse that naturally works behind the vertical and because of this you get floppy reins with nothing there, it is only when he is working correctly from behind that there is something in the hand.

monsterchild Thu 23-May-13 23:02:19

Booboo I completely agree with your description. But often I hear people talking about an outline as being the horses head on/behind the vertical and no discussion at all about where the legs are.
And I see a lot of horses traveling with their second vertebra as the highest point, not the poll.

monsterchild Thu 23-May-13 23:03:46

I'm in the USA, which shouldn't make a difference to good dressage!

Booboostoo Fri 24-May-13 07:56:08

No of course not, I just mentioned the UK and France as countries I have experience of.

At an early level of training most horses will find it very difficult to have the poll as the highest point and in fact if they do have the poll highest it is probably because they are very tense through the neck and BTV. A lot of the discussion of a horse's way of going is done with reference to the top of the sport (which is a very useful thing) but I don't think it translates in every detail to the lower levels of competition and the start of training.

There are some great discussions on HHO on this, one with brilliant photos of people's horses - are you on there at all? I'll see if I can find them again but there is so much posted on there, sometimes it's difficult to find things again.

Booboostoo Fri 24-May-13 07:58:16

Ha! I take it back that was really easy to find! This is a huge thread but if you have the time to go through it the photos are really interesting:
http://www.horseandhound.co.uk/forums/showthread.php?t=561227&highlight=forehand

Booboostoo Fri 24-May-13 07:58:37

Really interesting link boo. Only read the first couple of pages but seems to cover all bases of opinion. grin

Booboostoo Fri 24-May-13 08:54:16

Yes it gets quite contentious and at times a bit heated, but if can continue reading to when people start posting photos it becomes even more interesting.

horseylady Fri 24-May-13 10:10:41

Read about half of it!! The photos are definitely interesting!! Amazing how opinion differs!!!

Smartieaddict Sat 25-May-13 10:13:48

Thanks for all the responses! I am glad to hear I am not the only one that finds this a little confusing! Thanks for that link Booboostoo. I have read through some of it, and will try and read the rest later.

It sounds like the general consensus is that if you work on the back end, and get them working well, the rest will come, so I think that is what I am going to try. It certainly seems kinder than faffing about with the horses mouth and upsetting them!

Stinkyminkymoo Sat 01-Jun-13 20:55:49

Think of it as being a rear wheel drive car rather than a front wheeled car.

So you want your horse to push himself from behind rather than pull himself along.

It is important to get a horse working in an outline to support their back. When they are in an outline all their core muscles in the back and stomach are working to support the spine, and the rider is sitting on a band of muscle. It is like safe manual handling for horses!

If you think of the spine as a bridge, a horse not in an outline is like a bridge with a flat road going between two legs, not very strong. A horse in an outline is like a suspension bridge, as well as the legs at either end there are cables (muscles) supporting the full length of the road (spine).

Does that help? smile

mrslaughan Sun 02-Jun-13 11:56:35

fab analogy Stinkyminkymoo

Smartieaddict Mon 03-Jun-13 16:41:49

Thanks for that Stinkyminkymoo, very helpful! I have been working on getting him going forward from behind, and it does seem to be working. I will persevere! smile

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