Horseproblems Australia
Post Office Box Victor Harbor
SA. 5211
(61) 0885521418





Linda O'Leary






When a horse is “over the back” it is stretching its top line from poll to dock with its back being the highest point. This gives the rider the feeling that the horse raises it’s back up to meet your seat. You can literally feel the horse growing underneath you. So why ask the horse to be over the back?

When over the back, the horse uses it's top line (coming). Working a horse, over the back, creates a strong and well developed top line. This enables it to carry the rider more effectively without risking injury to itself. So we do it to keep the horse sound. Horses weren’t born to carry humans around on their backs. Especially, doing dancing steps as is required in dressage.

Here is my new Young Horse on arrival and 12 Weeks later.


We also ride, over the back, as the horse relaxes it's back muscles and this makes it more “elastic” to sit on. Making it a comfortable feel for the rider. When a horse is soft to sit on, it is easier to follow its movement without bouncing and jarring us about.

When the horse is over the back it's paces improve. It becomes looser in it's joints. Thus travelling with cadence. (coming) The horse will find it easier to keep its rhythm. It will appear like it is dancing and the flow in the movements stays constant. How do we achieve getting a horse over the back?


We need to stretch the horse laterally and make it supple (see suppleness). By using the lateral muscles the horse naturally will stretch its longitudinal muscles in a long and low frame.


The rhythm is very important, if ridden too quick the horse will become tense and this has the effect of tightening the back muscles. Tight back muscles can be evident by short small steps. The horse needs to be relaxed in order for it to “Swing”. No physical or mental tension can be present  if you are to attain  this. Although “running” stops swing, the horse does need to be active as activity helps to drive the horse to look for a contact.


The rider’s hands must follow the contact down as the horse starts to stretch its nose in the direction of the ground. If we miss the opportunity, it will have the effect of the horse thinking it was the wrong answer and thus it will stop looking for the relief of the rider’s hand that allows. So to train the horse to come over the back the rider must have good balance, independent hands and seat and have very good feel. Horses learn by trial and error. So any response rewarded by relief will encourage the horse to try it again. Any response that does not get a softening from the rider (reward and relief) and the horse will search for a different option. We cannot miss any opportunity to give and follow the contact if stretching down and forward.


The contact a horse gives us must be elastic and not hard or set. (see remouthing the Horse) With incorrect contact, the horse clamps its jaw creating tension. It feels like a leaning feel in our hand and often the riders shoulder muscles and arms get sore and tired as a result of carrying the horse. If allowed to travel this way, not only is it uncomfortable for the rider but the horse will go on to its forehand. Once on the forehand the horse is no longer pushing from behind and the progression towards collection which is required for the harder movements in dressage is lost.

We have to be careful that we ride the horse over the back in our warm up but that doesn’t mean always and forever long and low. Long and low achieves relaxation quicker as when the horse is allowed longer in its top line it is easier for it to stretch. Imagine two pieces of plasticine, one long and one short piece. The longer piece is easier to bend than the short piece. Hence the warm up done long and low is a very good idea and recommended. However once warmed up, we need to be able to bring the horses poll up and still maintain the back up too. A lot of riders try and bring the horse short and with the poll the highest point too soon for the horse’s physical strength and this causes the horse to hollow its back. You can see a hollow back by looking at where the back of the saddle sits and meets the rump. It will appear like a dip is evident at this point. There is often also a dip at the whither where the neck meets the back bone(see pic).


it is no accident that COLLECTION is the last step of “The German Training Scale”. It takes time to develop the strength and the ability for the horse to carry itself with good posture, in fact years. Ridden over the back prepares the horse for the job of dressage. Done correctly it gives the horse the chance to be the best it can be and to last the distance.


Riding the Dressage Horse 'incorrectly' causes Rider induced Unsoudness If we are going to ride the English Disciplines, we owe it to the Horse and ourselves, to do it in the best interests of the Horse.



comprised of the following six elements in that particular order:








"An ordinary Trainer cannot hear a Horse speak, a Good Trainer can, a Great Trainer can hear them whisper and a Top Trainer can HEAR THEM THINK"

"Wear your Heart in your Hands"


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