The below question was asked in response to the Curb Strap Explanation post.
I have a mare that has been ‘collected’ too much. I am teaching her how to extend her poll and only get after her when she attempts to collect too much. She is softening some but she is used to ‘leaning’ on the reins for balance. At the moment using a flat chain curb.
In order to better answer the question and provide a solution, Dave asked a series of follow up questions.
With the question asked and the background information received the answer follows.
This horse has been moving in an unbalanced position by using the reins and bit to help it balance. The mare is not over collected she is hyper flexed at the poll causing the rest of her neck and spine to compensate.
There are two ways to create the horse to have a perpendicular face, one way is to pull the jaw towards the chest, or, the correct way, you can allow the ears to go forward. Please note, just because the face is perpendicular it does not mean the horse is collected. Collection, or as I call it, BODY BALANCE, is the whole-body front to back.
When you begin the balance process, you must be aware of the anatomy and how you are attempting to establish a change.
Firstly, when you allow the topline (ie: nuchal ligament) to lengthen, it assists in raising the base of the neck vertebrae. Ligaments do not have the contractibility as a muscle does. In order to create support, the nuchal ligament has to be under tension. When you allow and encourage the horse to lengthen its topline this begins to happen.
When the topline lengthens many positive changes start taking place.
1. The base of the neck will raise which is directly connected to the wither.
2. The back muscles become passively soft allowing the horse to bend laterally thru the rib cage
3. The abdominal muscles start to carry the weight of the rider and saddle and also resist gravity.
4. The rectus abdominal muscles bring the bottom of the pelvis forward which allow the hind legs get deeper up under the body.
With the raising of the wither, the rounding of the back, and the engagement of the hind quarters, the horse can now begin to become balanced without the pressure of the rein and bit.
The bit will not make this happen, but a bit with a higher purchase (ie: MYL-03) or a 1 to 1 ratio can encourage a horse to find this position without creating tension in the lower jaw.
By repeating this consistently the muscle systems will begin to strengthen over time to where the horse can hold the position for greater lengths of time.
So, the horse learns from the release not the pull. This takes time, patience, repetition, and practice.
Horses live thru feel and we tend to miss the signs form the horse, then they become unresponsive to our cues.