Everyone talks about how stretching forward and downwards towards the bit is good for the horse, but actually being able to do it correctly is not so easy. Knowing the “how, why and when” all comes into play and are important factors to riding, or training, a correct forward downwards frame. Dr. Britta Schöffmann explains everything.
How should the stretching posture look like?
- A slightly convex topline, definitely not just a round neck with the nose behind the vertical.
- The following hind leg. This means: The supporting hind leg should step under the body, landing as close as possible to the horse’s centre of gravity.
- The rider feels pressure on the bit, however, this is more of a gentle pressure, than the horse leaning on the hand, or using the bit as a crutch.
- A forward-downward stretching always occurs with forward motion. There is no forwards and downwards when standing still. But keep in mind: The forward being referred to is the tendency of the horse's nose. By opening the angle between the neck and the jowls and opening the poll, the nose naturally pushes forward.
- The horse is in balance and in self-carriage, the rider only sets the frame with a light and a steady contact.
Why is it so important?'Working with the correct forward and downward stretching supports and maintains the willingness to stretch and stabilizes the back and the topline', Dr. Britta Schöffmann explains. But for the exercise to have a health-promoting effect, correct execution is important.
What are the requirements?The horse needs to be relaxed: An excited or tense horse will not let his neck fall forward and down with confidence, 'but will want to get an overview of the surroundings by lifting his neck. Mental and physical relaxation is therefore necessary.' A second important point is balance. 'The horse must be able to carry himself and balance his body in such a way that he moves in balance'.
What are the mistakes to avoid?A lot of things are considered as forward and down, as soon as the horse lowers the head/neck area, riders like to talk about it. Here are some examples of typical mistakes:
- The top line is not curved, but straight.
- The horse moves with his nose behind the vertical.
- The hindquarters do not connect, the horse looks a little like a duck swimming, pushing with his back legs out behind him, rather than stepping under the center of gravity.
- The horse moves on the forehand, moving visibly downhill.