Is your horse behind the vertical?
When your horse is behind the vertical, it means that his nose is too close to his chest and there’s too much pressure across his poll. It usually happens when your horse becomes too strong in your hand and as a result, you keep a tight rein.
How to know if your horse is behind the vertical
It can be tricky when you’re in the saddle to know whether or not your horse is behind the vertical, but look out for his ears. If his ears are lower than the crest of his neck, chances are he’s working behind the vertical.
For the ideal contact, your horse’s mouth should be level with your knee and his nose will be in a vertical line to the ground. He'll be relaxed in his jaw and also able to accept an elastic contact.
How to get the perfect outline with your horse
To stop your horse working behind the vertical, lighten your rein and keep your leg on, encouraging him to bring his head to the ideal contact.
Remember that your reins have two jobs – the outside rein keeps the horse in balance and helps with control, while the inside rein gives softness, relaxation in the jaw and bend.
While your reins give the outline, remember that your fingers help to soften the contact, so if you’re struggling to get your horse to take the contact, apply a slight rein pressure with your second and third fingers until he accepts working on the bit.
For more advice from Paul Hayler, don’t miss his Find it, Fix it! feature in next month’s Your Horse magazine where he’ll be giving his advice on striking off on the correct canter lead.
Is your horse on the forehand?
If your horse is on the forehand, he'll be carrying more weight on his front end. Horses naturally do this anyway, but with careful train, you can teach him to lift his forehand and go more uphill.
Lateral exercises can help to build strength in your horse, but simple things like transitions can also be really effective.
Along with walk to trot and trot to canter exercises, transitions within the pace can encourage your horse to lift his forehand. Next time you're trotting around the school, try lengthening his stride down the long sides and collecting on the short. Once you've got the hang of this, try the same in canter.