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We Create Heavy Horses

“We create heavy horses.”

If you’ve spent any amount of time watching horses move around freely, you’ll know that there’s no such thing as an inherently “heavy horse.”

So why are there so many in the performance world?

I believe it is because we create them.

We create them through training the mind to do patterns and movements instead of training the body for the adequate balance and fitness to perform them.


We create them by being codependent ourselves.

There are a slew of reasons why this happens and even more ways we can help alleviate it but I wanted to share the most common cause of how I find this to happen:

When you are unable (or unwilling) to drop contact with the reins, they will automatically go to brace with their necks.

A decent chunk of those neck muscles are antagonistic to their pectoral muscles.

(Meaning only one can fire at a time).

The pectoral muscles are what are necessary for training the body to be strong enough to lift itself into self carriage.

The moment you feel any amount of “heaviness”, that is merely a sign of imbalance and an invitation to ask where the imbalance is.

A horse cannot physically be heavy in your hands if they are using their pectorals adequately.

It is not biomechanically possible.

That said -

Most of the time, it’s simply due to atrophied pectoral muscles, normally caused by the fact that they spend the majority of their time bracing and holding their upper body up with their necks.


Because we teach them that we will hold them up.

The best way to alleviate this problem and begin to strengthen the correct muscles is by going back to the walk.

You have to go back to the only gate that requires independent mobility of all 4 limbs to help the horse have enough balance to feel safe enough to engage them properly.

Exercises will be along the lines of 5-10 minutes of kind half halts and some light lateral movements, all while dropping all hand contact the MOMENT you feel the “lightness”.

Allow your horse to carry themselves.

Allow them to fail.

Your job is only to help them set them up for success, even if that’s every other stride while they slowly start to swap to using and strengthening the correct musculature.

Personally, I like to start this work in just a caveson and move to a bit only when they have the proper strength so the horses mouth isn’t getting punished for the body being imbalanced.

Also - If you really want to give your horse “wings”, it will require pectoral training.

Some signs of lack of pectorals -

1. Over development in the lower neck muscles.

2. Psoas problems. (Low back pain).

*Standing narrow in the front end.

3. Over development in the superficial gluteal muscles.

4. Elbows being rotated in towards their body.

And of course -

Being heavy.


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