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Topline imbalance

If a rider does not correct all the dimensions of natural asymmetry and imbalance, this usually results in a bad posture and an incorrect use of abdominal muscles and back muscles.

It causes an imbalance in the muscles in the topline and underline of the horse.

short-topline long-topline

.............  Imbalanced topline ...................................  Balanced top line

Natural asymmetry can create imbalance during riding. The horse then wants to use its head and neck to balance itself. This makes the horse lift its head up. This can only be done when the horse tenses its long back muscle (the 'longissimus dorsi'). This muscle is located on both sides of the spine and when tensed it becomes short, stiff and hard. Also the underneck muscles start to stiffen.

Natural asymmetry Natural asymmetry

Symptoms and problems

A hard and stiff back and short topline, can cause many problems:

  • Hard mouth
  • Underneck
  • Head shaking
  • Grinding its teeth
  • Not wanting to stretch forward-down with the neck
  • Not comfortable to sit to in trot
  • Lateral gaits
  • Prancing
  • Slow, not forward
  • Short steps
  • No tact
  • Bridle lame
  • Irregular gaits
  • Striking, bucking, rearing
  • Tension in the back causes mental tension and nervousness
  • Bad coat because the blood flow through the tensed back muscles is reduced
  • Kissing spines, because of the short topline, the spines can start to 'kiss' each other.

horse-spine kissing-spines

What about your horse?

  • Are the muscles in his underneck strongly developed?
  • Is it very difficult to ride him 'on the bit'?
  • Is it difficult to 'sit' him in trot?
  • So you can only do the 'rising' trot because he makes you jump up and down in the saddle when you try to keep 'sitting'?
  • Or is it very easy to sit in trot?
  • Almost too easy, that you can't feel him moving?
  • That you don't feel anything at all? In that case they speak in Germany of a 'Schenkel Gänger', which means the horse is only moving the legs, but not using the back muscles. These horses are comfortable to sit in trot, but they don't use the back properly either.

Don't fight the symptoms

Sometimes draw reins are used with horses with a stiff back and stiff mouth, to make the horse lower its head and become soft and round. Or a sharper bit is chosen. But all tools that are used to tie the horse in a certain position and force it to hold its head in a certain way are, without exception, more harmful than helpful.

It usually creates new problems such as resisting the rider, protest, positioning the head behind the vertical, leaning on the riders’ hand, developing an underneck or lameness.


Also, the saliva glands are squeezed between the lower jaw and the tensed under neck muscles. This can lead to infections and can inhibit the production of saliva. These additional reins ruin the horse’s mouth, because the communication through the bit can only be done with the soft, feeling, living hand of a rider.

So don't fight the symptoms, rather solve the problem. In most cases the natural asymmetry is the problem and Straightness Training is the solution. The trainer/rider should be able to recognize the symptoms and train the horse in such a way that it can stretch the top line and use its abdominal muscles properly.

The Straightness Training Home Study Course can help you to get started!



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