I have a new horse. she is a five year old Irsh Draft / tb mare called Cinderella

Follow Cindys progress here over the coming weeks, months and hopefully years

Cindys story

Cindy has a lovely temperament. She’s sweet, sensitive but has a “bit about her” as we’d say, her own lady. As a learner Cindy is sensitive, can worry easily, partly her background perhaps

I got Cindy because she had been misbehaving for her owners. She had been showjumped and evented.

Cindys past

Most of Cindy’s problems stemmed from her not being ridden “through” her back. (hereafter termed “through”) She was ridden in a “headset” . This is a situation where we see the neck curved and the head pulled in but the back is still hollow or “inverted” and the horse is not “through” its back.

In this inverted position Cindys head, when ridden, in reality would have been have been high. In Cindys case instead of solving the route of the problem ( ie the inversion), her head was just pulled in on tight restrictive reins. This caused Cindy a lot of pressure in her mouth and she became anxious of the bit. As a result she would go behind the contact tucking her head in towards her chest. When the flash noseband was removed it became apparent just how anxious she was. She chomped the bit manically every time contact of any description was taken and would practically roll her eyes. It was quite distressing to watch and horrible to listen too.

As a consequence of being ridden in this manner Cindy could never be relaxed or “through” Her spine remained inverted and adrenalin flowed through her nervous system. Adrenalin is the hormone of anxiety and flight in animals and humans. Inverted horses are unable to stretch laterally through their bodies but it is this lateral stretching that facilitates the hind legs and the forelegs to become aligned on one track (like a train on a track.). Without this alignment there can be no throughness and therefore no real balance and therefore no relaxation.

When horses are not in balance and are ridden inverted they can react in different ways, some rush like crazy, while others can appear to be sluggish and dont go forward at all well. All are symptoms of lack of balance due to lack of aligment and the resulting lack of throughness.

How did this affect Cindy physically?

As well as chomping the bit Cindy developed very strong muscles underneath her neck, she had no muscle on the top side of her neck or back. She also had a flattish section to her neck just behind the poll that should be arched (in correct work) also stemming from the head being pulled in. She had a hard mass of muscle between her jaw bone and her neck from bracing against the rein. Her throat latch area was tightly held in a v shape rather than in an open u shape.

Wont go forward.

When i first rode Cindy i couldnt believe how much leg she was used to. I want my horse to be reading my energy, to go when i suggest go. Using my energy and intent had no effect, engaging my seat had no effect, closing my leg had a slight effect, clap of the leg produced forward movement for a few yards only for her to stop after a few yards.It was like riding a horse with the brakes on

When i took up a contact even on the ground she would initially try to brace and go above the bit and when this wasn’t possible she would suck back behind the contact tuck her little chin into her chest and chomp the bit like she was going mad. It really was very sad to behold. If you look at the picture of Cindy below you can see the very over developed muscle underneath her neck. Her head was held in this high inverted position almost all the time. This is a sign of a horse who is not relaxed .

Beginning work.

Normally i start with in hand work in the bridle, working the horse in circles and into halts and then into back up to create lateral bend, create relaxation and cure the inversion Cindys relationship with the bit however made this made problematic. I decided to tackle her inversion by using the lunge instead. i would teach her first to move her individual body parts, her neck and head , her shoulders and her hindquarters. Once i was able to influence cindys body parts i would be able to align her in a way that would allow her to come “through” her back. This would give her the relaxation she so badly needed.

next week photos- cindy aligned and through on the lunge

and work begins with her re education to the bridle