Virtual Horse – A MUST See!

Even though many may not understand the language in this video, the computer generated images speak for themselves.  Of special note is the relationship of riding the horse’s head and how that affects the rest of the horse’s body and movement.  There’s a really good example of a correct trot and an incorrect trot.  Be sure to watch, not just the changed posture of the horse, but also the changed movement, ie. the swing of the limbs, the placement of the feet.  Also note the difference of pulling the horse’s chin into its chest, versus pulling the horse’s head up and then the chin in, and then finally encouraging the horse to stretch forward and down with its neck and head, and opening its throat.


29 thoughts on “Virtual Horse – A MUST See!

  1. Isn’t that cool! And thanks to everything I have learned here, I could get the jist without needing a translation.

  2. Excellent ilustration of what you’ve been trying to describe, pictures do work better than words.

    Things to note if you aren’t used to ‘seeing’ the skeleton:

    1. The correct forward, down and out position, notice the bottom of the spine, from poll through the back, that is a level spine (and these illustrations are from warmbloods which are more likely to be level of uphill build). The top line of the spine is distorted in its shapes by the spinous processes, the wings of each vertebra which are of different shapes and heights in neck, withers, thorocic an lumbar. It is the base of the spine you want to lift into a level surface.

    2. Notice the lateral movement of the spine and that the large muscles along the back contract alternately, which gives the horse and other equids their unique and generally smoother gaits. Other mammels, such as cows and antelope, contract at the same time on both sides of the back, giving them the ‘pronging’ gaits. Some points about the bilateral contraction, study the swing of the rib cage and learn to feel it. That is where much of your bend comes from. This is where much of the stiffness and inability to circle smoothly comes from in horses ridden hollow or in badly fitting saddles comes from. Those big back muscles must stretch and swing. If the horse is hollowed (such as shown in the over contracted neck with nose pulled in) the muscle lock down and you loose the swing and therefore, the bend. If you sit crookedly, you impede one side from stretching and swinging more than the other side and you force the horse to move crooked. Move crooked long enough and you will have soreness, hooves that grow improperly and other compensatory damage to the horse’s structure. A badly fitting saddle will also pinch or compress these muscles interfering with the proper lift and swing of the back. Duke Ellington had a song “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got That Swing)” If you are riding in such a way you lose the wing, most noticeable at the walk, stop and figure out what you are doing wrong. To continue is to damage the horse.

    3, The muscles of the neck show if you are riding the wrong way, and the person who knows what those red pressure points are showing will see it in a horse standing relaxed. The pulled in head, which is shown with the two red spots at poll and behind third vertebra will cause a build up in the short extrinsic muscles just behind the poll, even in a relaxed horse you will see and feel them. You will know that horse is pulled in even without seeing it in a bridle. The red spot at the loin, that will tighten and hollow those muscles, the cats at the rear of the haunch will be overused, thick and tight, the adductors and abductors the thick muscles to the inside and outside down the side of a full haunch will be stringy and hollo, the gluteals on the top won’t be as round and full as they should be and may even be so tight the horse looks goose rumped even though it doesn’t have a structural abnormality. That horse probably has a backache. You can see it even without any one sitting on the horse’s back.

  3. Very informative. However, I wonder what effect a naturally high head carriage and neck would have on the overall movement. I have a foal from a nationally champion Morgan Hunter Pleasure stallion (which is rather different than an open Hunter type) and the foal has a bolt-upright neck from birth. In fact, he can reverse the curve of his neck easily so as to put his poll back above his withers if you give him a nice scratch on the back! That is simply where his genetics have him carry it. To make him go low and long would entail dragging his neck and head downward from where he naturally carries it. I don’t intend to turn him into a dressage ideal (just as I would not try to make a park horse out of a quarterhorse), but I would be interested to hear any comments about how a naturally high neck conformation affects the action of the spine and hindquarters. I am thinking of taking some videos and putting then on here for comment. He is only 3 weeks old at present.
    I have heard valid complaints about how the Saddle Seat training methods force the muscles at the front of the throat to develop and put the horse’s head and neck in an unnatural position . Granted, this is seen. However, what do you do when your neck is already vertical, with a hinged poll that lets the horse easily achieve a “chesspiece” profile?

  4. Even quarter horse babies tend to be born with an upright look to the necks compared to the eventual adult look. So a Morgan is likely to be upright. But so are many of the warmblood babies.

    And after a little bit of growth, their necks stretch down to the ground without having to splay their feet. All horses without a pathology can stretch their necks forward, down and out and it should be part of the training. Too upright a neck can also be a riding problem.

    Carrot stretches, plie bow, etc. can be taught on the ground.

  5. My mistake. Of course the neck is not permanently upright. (although he keeps hitting his head on the creep feeder bar…). Yes, he can stretch down and out, but my question is whether that particular characteristic (which is part of the breed standard) would affect his “schwung”. Other than a bloody nose, how is too upright a neck a riding problem? My experience is that the center of gravity shifts back fairly easily if the horse starts out slightly uphill. However, developing a long and reaching stride takes a bit of extra work. This little guy prances more than he trots. My other Morgan foal, from a Midwestern family, has more of a reach at the trot, coupled with a longer back and a long hip. Of course, one can’t tell too much at this stage.
    Of the warmbloods, which ones have a more upright neck and flatter shoulder?

    • By upright neck are we talking ‘high set’ neck? As in the vertebrae pass between the scapulas way above the mid-point of the scapulas?

      And define ‘flat’ shoulder for me.

  6. A dressage horse probably won’t have as laid back a shoulder as some saddleseat/park style horses as they don’t want as high an action, but for upright necks on young babies, tons of them.

    Tobago bred Trakheners as one example

    A horse that is too upright frequently has a very long and low base to the neck, and develops elk neck muscling. The AkhalTeke in an earlier blog verges on that problem. Such a horse evades the bit by going above the bit easily, poking its nose up and out. Depending on the rest of the bones in the neck, the horse may be swan-necked, and bulge out at the bottom of the neck and tuck their nose to their chest to avoid the bit.

    One wants to ride a level spine with the horse’s neck arched, nose to the front of the vertical and loose at the atlas, gravity is letting it hang, no muscle power. Looking at the videos, since all the layers of muscle aren’t portrayed, it is somewhat difficult to see what is happening at each layer and how it affects the alignment of the bones of the neck. This particular veterinarian tends to focus on one layer in his talks.

    The muscles in the video are likened to piano wires, they hold the neck bones and attach to the ligament along the top line, as the neck moves they contract or release, pulling the bones closer to the ligament, which when stretched, tends to flatten the curves.

    Another deeper muscle, the complexus it a tube, it grows stronger when the neck is properly stretched and becomes visible in a smooth line from poll to shoulder when the neck is arched, it is proof of good use of the neck to engage the forward section of the ligament system that runs the length of the topline and lifts the back. Note the upward lift diagrams and where the red spots showing muscle engagement are at both sides of the back.

    Unless you are able to name parts and study diagrams, it is hard to follow all this on a blog. Dr. Deb Bennett’s three little books on conformation analysis is one of the best starting points. I think they are out of print but you may be able to find used copies.

    A complexus muscle on a horse in movement

    In a horse of a type you might find more familiar, far left, Rex McDonald world champion
    Note the complexus, high and up near the crest and following down the neck:

    I believe it is the legendary Sam Bass on him in that picture. This horse can come to the vertical without bulging out the bottom of the base of the neck, and has the desired upright carriage. Note the draping reins. This is classical high school training showing by the muscling and how square the horse is.

  7. I believe that definition would cover high set neck. I look at the position the horse most easily carries his neck at when working. A flat shoulder, by the very helpful discussions here, is one closer to 40% than to 60%. Tell me how to put up my video of my colt (I am kind of non-tech) and I will submit him for what analysis can be done on a very young colt.

  8. I am pleased you pointed out the Trakheners. I have liked them best of the warmbloods. In many ways, their development mirrors that of Morgans in that they were used as farm animals in Prussia and that practical usage kept them sturdy as well as beautiful. Their story of flight from the Russian Army is one of the most compelling I know. So close to extinction, but for some dedicated people.


    I attached a pic of an upright neck (Morgan) and flatter attachment (QH) in hopes that Merc will comment on the difference in the way these horses should carry their necks/heads due to their conformation. Although the Morgan has a twist in his head, tension, I find their cervical shapes similar for their types. As their shoulder/humerus attachments are quite different, how close are these examples to ideal?

    • First, there’s a difference in ridden level between these two horses. We don’t expect a 1st level horse to carry itself in the same manner as a 3rd level horse (as an example). We also don’t expect a naturally level built horse (Morgan) to carry itself the same way at 1st level vs a downhill built horse (QH) at 1st level. There’s a lot of difference between these two horses, besides the neck structure or gaits.

      Regardless, both are incorrect in their necks in these pictures. It’s quite clear the Morgan is being blocked heavily in the shoulder via a strong rein aid. And I agree with jrga, it looks like that photo has been photoshopped and there’s a bit we can’t see. Base of neck is bulging, throat is closed. Still, you can see the horse uses its neck properly a good part of the time it moves and likely because it is so well structured, as is the haunch of the horse. Despite its rider, this horse manages to move quite well naturally. There is some belly sag, but a lot of that will be the result of the heavy blocking and the horse dropping its back as part of trying to evade the contact.

      The other horse has a clear break at C3, that telltale ‘flat’ spot behind the poll, throat closed, behind the vertical, base of neck musculature is over developed. This might be a horse in ‘retraining’. It’s a small picture, but it appears the rider’s inside hand is in the classic piano position with wrist breaking. The horse’s inside ear is flicked back, listening to that inside hand and compressing the neck as a result of too much aid.

      Both horses would do better with less inside rein and some other tweaks to rider position.

  10. Blondemare, how is the morgan bitted? I can see the bosal, but there seems to be some other contraption as well that might have been partially photoshopped out, and the horse has its mouth open, which I wouldn’t have expected from just a bosal?

    • I’m not sure J, good question. I assumed just a bosal but could be a combo bosal / snaffle? Maybe jumper gear has entered WD but I don’t believe that combo is allowed. A friend had a reiner that would open his mouth with a bosal only so it does occasionally happen. This guy seems quite tense, landing toe first in front and bracy, assuming he just had a hard half-halt. Of course, a western favor is to jab left/right on reins at all times……

    • If you look under the head, in the area of the banner behind the horse, you can see what appears to be two floating leather reins (I say floating because I can not see at all what they are currently attached to) . . . possibly would have been attached to chains and a bit as in a traditional two-rein setup? I would agree with the photoshop theory as well as what has been previously said about the blocked and bulging throat.

  11. ?? I cannot figure out what the heck that horse is wearing. I know little about western, but it looks like we have a bosal along with a curb of some sort. Can anyone post pictures of a similar rig? Western trainers are kind of a hoot…hundreds of combinations of bits, bosals, pulleys, tie-downs etc. English trainers basically have two bits. No offense intended, but walking into a Western tack shop and looking at the bit wall is sort of overwhelming. Western riding seems to think if you can just get the right combination in the horse’s mouth, everything else will follow.

    • That horse is overflexed as well, breaking at C3, throat closed, behind the vertical and otherwise trying to evade the cement hand. But good picture of the ‘rigging’.

    • The other pictures of this rider do suggest it is the vaquero or Californio style two rein setup, but part of it is missing in that photo above.

      The two rein setup is an intermediate step in training between the snaffle horse and the finished bridle horse. The curb is introduced, but a bosalita is used so that corrections and suppling can still be done without engaging the curb. It is not unlike a double bridle in the sense that bending, suppling, is reinforced by something that acts on a different principle than the curb bit. The way the mecate reins are being held in the first photo and the position of the floating rein just doesn’t look right.

      I looked at a few other videos from this guy’s site, I ‘ve seen his name around, but the more I watch, I don’t think his explanations match his actions very well.

      Watch the videos with sound off first and pay careful attention to how the horses respond to transition requests and his balance at times. He has a significant reputation in a new field, I am not sure it will last.

    • I understand the bosalito and the spade bit combo-in the right hands, they work wonders, in the wrong hands…….. However, the bit on the Morgan looked more like a type of gag bit to me. Fair point on the different mouthpieces for English bits, although I don’t think we should take the blame for the Myler engines that are advertised on RFD TV! 🙂 I still maintain you can train an English horse with a simple snaffle and a Weymouth, singly or in a combination (which is really all a Pelham is). The weird one is the Kimberwick which never made a lot of sense to me.

  12. any bit in the wrong hands is dangerous, obviously a spade or just about any curb, magnifies the danger to the horse.

    This dressage rider illustrates my point from the videos of the reckless teens. The horses of this so called expert show as much or more tension in groudwork as any of the horses in the videos. They show tension in the ridden work, and he is using much more ‘powerful’ bitting rigs that can do damage. The mouths of his horses are rarely quiet. Their tails display tension and illustrate that for all he creates an illusion of roundness, these horses are hollow. This is what is important to learn to see, what does the horse say about what is happening to it? Their bodies don’t lie.

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