Rub your back for what it means

Hillbury Basics - Ride the Back: What Does It Mean and How to Get There?

So that the horse's back stays healthy ...

“The horse has to be ridden over the back!” As beginners, we have probably all asked ourselves what this statement is all about. Of course you ride over your back, after all, you sit on it.


But of course it's not that simple. Riding over the back means that the horse carries the rider in all gaits in a way that keeps it healthy: with active abdominal muscles and a hindquarters that comes into focus - this is how the withers rise, the back swings and the Movement flows through the entire horse's body from back to front.

A bit of anatomy: the long back muscle is not there to be worn

This sequence of movements is important because a horse is not naturally made to support the rider's weight. His back is tensioned like a suspension bridge between fore and hindquarters and is thus the weakest link in the horse. And we riders take a seat on it. The horse has back muscles, the two strands on the side of the spine. But these muscles are locomotor muscles that transfer the movement from the hindquarters to the horse's body. The long back muscle runs horizontally - and that's how its strength flows. Therefore, it is not suitable for carrying the rider's weight acting vertically from above.
If the horse stabilizes its back using these muscles, it presses its spine downwards and fixes it - this results in poor posture, muscle tension and, of course, incorrect movement sequences. In the long term, this can become the cause of illness and lameness.

A horse arches its back over what is known as the upper tension - the neck band and the neck muscles. If it lowers its head, the tension pulls the spinous processes of the thoracic vertebrae forward and the back rises. If the pelvis tilts, the same thing happens in the lumbar spine - this is why it is so important to step forward well with the hind legs.

Does the horse go over the back? This is how you recognize correct riding

Does your horse go over the back? Here are the touchstones by which you can tell: It can be stood and bent in the neck - and the movement goes through the entire body. If you stand on the neck, the inner hip appears a little. If the horse holds its back, it cannot.

Horses that move healthily with an active hindquarters also walk diligently and in time forwards, the body sways and effortlessly takes you as a rider with it. If your horse is stiff or energetic, this indicates problems.

A jerky, hard trot, a raised head, and back legs pushing out are classic signs that your horse is not going over its back. Obviously this is also the case with the transitions from gallop to trot, when many horses collapse and the rider hops quite a bit. When galloping, a firm back prevents a clean jump and a clear three-beat.

Transitions also give clues to the horse's back activity: They should be soft and effortless. You can also recognize a well-ridden horse by its topline: the muscles are even and there are no gaps on the withers or shoulder blades.

This is how you ride your horse over the back

The prerequisite for a horse to go over its back and thus move healthily under the rider is good gymnastics. Solid training with a sensible structure that takes the horse's body and psyche into account.

1. Bending work and side aisles
The abdominal and back muscles alternately tense and then stretch again. So they can be trained and both sides of the horse's body are addressed. With shoulder-in and croup-in, for example, the horse steps into the center of gravity - with the inner and outer hind legs and tilts the pelvis to do so. You can also exercise your horse sensibly with changes of hands, voltes and various positions.

2. Alternating erection and stretching posture
It is important not to fix the horse in a fixed position with a strong hand. Only a false kink, a scooping out hindquarters and a drooping back are created. Instead, it helps to keep working the horse in different postures - straightened and stretched - to target different muscle groups. With regular breaks, in which you can stretch, you can also avoid being overwhelmed.

3. Get off - and do ground work
There are almost endless possibilities for healthy gymnastics from the floor. It is often even easier for us humans because we can see the horse and its movements and reactions. Untrained horses or horses after an injury break benefit immensely from ground work: walks at a brisk pace, pole work, double lunge or manual work on the cavesson - here you can get creative.

4. Variety in training
Fast rides in the terrain and especially uphill and downhill rides are ideal for strong muscles and back. Good effects can also be achieved with Cavaletti or pole training.