In this video, Michel explains how to stretch down the horse's neck when being ridden. We already talked in previous lessons about the importance of relieving the horse's back from any tension or blockage that could impede the correct motion of the entire body. For that, Michel recommends working on stretching the entire top-line of the horse. This kind of work is even more beneficial when practiced on a slopping footing as it boosts the horse's thrust and balance.
In this session, Michel is teaching Lea who is riding Tosca. At first, Michel lunges Tosca, so the rider doesn't hold any reins. It enables the rider to work on her position and her ability to follow her mare's movements which in turn, should encourage the mare to stretch down her neck. Lea has to get used to the feeling of emptiness in front of her when the mare stretches her neck with her nose down to the ground, especially when going downhill. Michel gives her some tips to reach that goal.
Then, Lea picks-up her reins. The difficulties in getting a horse to stretch down his neck can come from the rider's attitude, but also from a bit that is too severe. To solve this issue, Michel uses a bit made with leather. Much softer than a metal bit, this leather bit encourages horses to take the contact and stretch their nose toward the ground.
Michel teaches Lea how to find the solution and get her mare to stretch down her neck by alternating taking and releasing periods. By the end of the lesson, the goal is reached. Then, Lea will need to keep practicing and make it a routine.
Stretching the horse's neck is not an end in itself, but rather an efficient way to improve the horse's pushing power, hind legs engagement, and balance.
To remember :
-The main limitation for a horse to stretch the neck down is the rider's attitude, especially the rider's hand that will jab the mouth each time the horse tries to stretch. -In order to follow the movement of your horse's neck when he stretches down, do not hesitate to amplify the release with your hands and up to your shoulders. -Be aware of your outside rein that has a tendency to block the movement of your horse's shoulders. -Stretching a horse's neck is obtained by a subtle game between comfortable and uncomfortable positions. -Relieve the constraint to the lesser movement towards the beginning of a stretch. -Sharp turns are of a big help as it creates some constraints for the horse with almost no influence from the rider.
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