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6/ FEBRUARY 2012 THE RIDER Natural Horsemanship & Body Control Foundation Reining Training

humans to get rid of sore muscle pain in our backs. I’m sure we can all relate.

Developing a Rounded

Topline for Dressage & Western

Performance Horses

By Susan Dahl

“Put your back into it man!” Those commercials on TV that advertise products for

Horses are no different. A strong topline (back muscles from the withers to the croup) is developed in a horse early on in their western foundation or english dressage training. Hav- ing an engaged back will help the horse to carry it’s rider easi- ly and do what we ask them to do without breaking down and with a great degree of success. We certainly all appreciate the better and happier rides because of it.

A key component of horse development – especially per- formance horse development. There is a youtube video circulating of Will Faeber, dres- sage master of California which illustrates this idea very well. Even though the video is only showing dressage riders, both disciplines need this strong topline for their events. The youtube video is by Bay Area Equestrian. You can find it on v=I8cOq7YWXys

At the 4 second mark, a black horse is demonstrating a rounded topline and lowered head carriage. Just envision a

sitions. I also am not sure I like the statement that it takes a cer- tain amount of time to develop a horses top-line since that in my opinion has a lot to do with the horses confirmation, but that is another topic. :O) Basically a good video to show how and why developing a strong flexi- ble top line is important to any horse.”

western rider and tack on that horse if you will.

I encourage you to watch the video as there are many examples for both disciplines. In particular, Will explains at the 1:50 to 2:00 min mark, how it is to be used further in top level dressage for the eleva- tion of the head (high head car- riage) for dressage movements. And for the western disci- pline, Will also had nice exam- ples and explained with a chest- nut horse (2:04 to 2:20min. mark) of how the horse’s head lowers when you raise the topline. Excellent for western. In the western tradition we don’t want the horse’s head to come

higher than the withers to do most of our western events because it’s a consequence of requiring the topline to be really rounded and the horse really driving with their engaged hin- dend.

Rod Miller, owner of (International Per- formance Horse Development) has this to say on facebook about the video: “This is a good video that shows how to start developing a horses top-line with forward energy. Then at about 1:45 into the video he explains the goal of an advanced level dressage horse and this is where Dressage starts developing strength and eleva- tion, and in my opinion takes a turn from what we want to develop for events that require fluid lateral motion and more abrupt speed changes and tran-

Here is the technical part with regards to western performance horse development as explained by Rod: “If you stop the video at the 1min mark and then we just keep developing the round back and soft shoulders that allows the horse to carry more weight on the hind end allowing the front feet to stay lighter but still in contact with the ground and not elevating the shoulders by pushing them up with the front feet but holding them up with the abdomen.”

Even in events such as western pleasure where the rounded topline would allow the horse to have the lower head carriage we like in western, the rounded topline for smoothness and cadence and the engaged hindend for impulsion (slow as it maybe!). A great video to watch.

New USEF Dressage Rules At the time of writing this article, USEF had just announced changes to their dressage bitting rules, allowing

a port of up to 30mm on their snaffles. This is great news! As Judy Auble, sales manager for Toklat states: “Thank you to the USEF for taking time to consider the welfare of the horse and review current research on the need for tongue relief. Effective Feb. 1st. Show- ing internationally will still fol- low FEI rules.” I can’t wait to see the change for more tongue relief implemented in all areas. Putting my spin on west- ern foundation training and dressage training.

@KISS Reiners

About the Author: Susan Dahl, certified Myler Bitting System technical clinician, proudly the newest member of Toklat’s Myler (Bit) Ride Team, is a cer- tified professional horse trainer, NCCP coaching theory certi- fied, writer, competitor, clini- cian and owner/operator of Foundation Reining Training Centre, where she specializes in modernized horsemanship & body control foundation reining training or Western Dressage for horse & rider. For more information on her very innova- tive & fun approach to training, clinics, lessons, or coaching, please visit her website m or

Reining Canada is proud to announce the Reining Canada Reiner of the Year 2012, Veronica Deans.

Through the duration of her equestrian career, Veronica has performed at top caliber and has brought pride to the Canadian reining community. In December 2011 she won the prestigious NRHA Non Pro Futurity in Oklahoma City aboard Spooks N Sparks (Smart Spook x Whizicle.) They scored a 221 to claim the win in the $100,000 added level 4 Non Pro and $70,000 added level 3 Non Pro.

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Veronica was born in province of Québec, Canada, and has been a great competitor since the young age of four. She was the youngest competitor to attend the Quarterama at walk-jog and trot on Tenny’s Blue Boy. She participated in many disciplines before focusing on reining in the mid 90’s. She now resides with her family in Texas. She has 2 daughters, and works at their home, Hidden Springs Ranch, where she is involved in the breeding and the promotion of Reining Horses. She manages

broodmare care, breeding, recipient mare, boarding and foals.

Veronica is a consistent performer and her dedication to Reining and achieving goals is apparent with NRHA earnings in excess of $200,000.00 in her Non Pro career. In addition to winning the 2011 Non pro Futurity, her success was highlighted with winning the Reserve Champi- onship at the 2010 NRHA Futurity in the Level 3 Non Pro and placing 3rd in Level 4 Non Pro riding Chexy in Jewels.

As a Canadian Non Pro we are proud of Veronica and her accom- plishments and her commitment to our fabulous sport.

“Thank you. I’m thrilled that you consider me worthy of this honor and I’m proud to be a Canadian Rein- er,” said Veronica.

Photo above from Cheval de rêve Photo at right from In Foal Partners


Equine Discount Available!

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