Topline Summary #2 – Longeing (At Trot)

Longeing is an excellent way to improve our horse’s topline.  Without the burden of the rider, the horse can more easily find a rhythmic, relaxed and balanced way of going.  The circle naturally encourages a deeper, more center bodied step from the inside hind, triggering the cyclic action of the ring of muscles.  This, of course, still relies on the skills of the person doing the longeing.  Letting a horse race around on the end of the line braced in counter bend, leaning on a shoulder, and escaping out the haunch is useless to the horse and does damage.  Picture #46 shows an effort towards correctness.

46. Topline46

Unfortunately, the effort is not entirely successful.  I’m making the assumption that the person at the end of the line is in the process of fixing this horse, rather than ruining it.   I could be wrong, but it’s the impression I get.  The horse’s tail is held in that lifted, but relaxed position we like to see with no apparent swishing, there’s suspension to the gait, the inside ear is on the handler, the eye soft, the line giving.  And while the sidelines are a bit of hindrance, they aren’t the reason the horse doesn’t get to the desired result.

The horse is taking a good step behind, reaching forward to the back of the saddle.  A great step would be under the weight of the rider.  This horse has plenty of potential to take a better step with a decent hip length and a very good femur to tibia ratio (nearly identical).  It’s a riding conformed hind leg.

We can clearly see an abdominal line indicating the horse is using them.  The biggest hindrance for the horse is the injury to the loin.  There is a noticeable hollow in the loin with very tight, angular muscling.  This shouldn’t be, and it’s quite likely that if we could see this horse without the saddle, that topline tightness and angularity would continue all the way to the withers.

Moving to the front end we can clearly see the tubular complexus muscle engaged and working.  The problem is that it’s uneven.  The muscle is very evident in the first third of the neck and then begins to fade until it disappears well before the shoulder.  That muscle should be equally engaged the entire length of the neck and right to the shoulder.  The crest of the neck also shows this irregular usage with flatness starting at the poll, then some arching that peaks just beyond the throat line, to then flattening, and finally dipping a bit just before the withers.  The latter half of the crest also thins.

The horse’s throat is closed, and the horse is behind the vertical evading the contact of the side reins.  Yes, even though they are loose.  This added to the loin issues causes the horse’s shoulder to be blocked, and the horse to take a shortened step with the foreleg.   Essentially this horse is compressed from the back and the front.  Contrary to popular belief, this is not collection.


Picture #47 reflects all that is wrong with the industry’s knowledge base.  You can not tie, pull or hold a horse into collection and this horse shows it.

47. Topline47

This horse has a fabulous hind end.  Big hip, femur clearly longer than tibia, breadth and depth of loin.  There’s power and potential galore, and absolutely no need for this contraption.  If the haunch was lacking, this horse would be physcially suffering far more than it is.


It’s easiest to see what’s gone wrong by looking at the horse’s front end.  Throat is closed.  (Hard to see on a dark colored horse like this, but if you enlarge the photo you can see what we’d call on a person, a double chin.  The crest of the horse’s neck forms a wave, flat behind the poll, then arched, then dipping before the withers.  There’s no evidence of complexus muscle, which there should be with the horse stepping as deeply from behind.  There’s also no evidence of abdominal contraction.  The back and loin are showing tightness.

A final point is the longe line attached to the inside bit ring.  This would be equivalent to a rider riding on the inside rein, which is exactly not how we ride, especially not a circle.


The pony represents the most engaged (and correct) trot of the group, and therefore the one stretching and improving its topline the most.  It has nothing to do with the handler and everything to do with the dog.

48. Topline48

Lots of hind limb joint articulation.  Even, full arching, and reaching of the neck.  Slightly ahead of the vertical with an open throat.  Wither and back lifted.  A taller dog might produce a higher carriage.  🙂


It’s a shame we don’t get to see horse #49 without its clothing.  I’m unsure of the purpose of putting boots and a bridle on a horse to longe it, but leaving the blanket on.  If there’s a concern for the horse catching a chill (if it’s clipped and it’s a cold day), leaving the blanket on while being worked risks over heating the horse.  Maybe someone else can come up with a plausible explanation.

49. Topline49

Despite the blanket being on, we can still glean some information.  This horse is just moseying along and yet he? is taking a bigger stride behind.  Is he just that well conformed behind?  While the blanket may be restricting shoulder movement a bit, we can see that the main culprit is a short humerus that barely makes 50% the length of the scapula.

Secondarily, the neck shows poor development even while looking well-structured.  I’ve circled an obvious lump in the neck that shouldn’t be there, and I suspect the vertebrae are jammed.

In terms of topline development:  Neutral.  If your horse moves like this on line, you’re not doing anything good or bad to its topline.


(My apologies for not being around of late.  Busy training horses and the last thing I feel like doing at the end of the day, when I’m tired and warn out, is doing more horse related things.  This is a fine time (and I’d welcome it!) for anyone interested in writing an article for the blog to submit it at