Question # 195: I have a client's horse that I'm working with, and she has an issue I've never had to deal with before. She thinks she is an accordion--she will shorten her neck and hollow her back whenever she has any contact in her mouth.
...We've been working very hard on it, and we've gotten her to go forward pretty well without becoming resistant to leg aids and she's even becoming more comfortable feeling the bit in her mouth when she goes forward. she's even getting lateral movements down very well, and we're working on stretching into the bit at the walk and trot. But we have to take a step backwards in our training when we ask her to go down a gait. Downward transitions are a nightmare because she shortens her neck, throws her head in the air, and suddenly there is no horse in your hands and it takes anywhere from 6 strides to another trip around the arena to stop her. I've tried everything I know and nothing is working. I don't know what she is anticipating when this happens. Maybe she's expecting too much hand, or she's expecting someone to bounce on her back really hard. I have no idea, but either way I have no idea how to make her stretch into the contact while we go down a gait, rather than fight it. She has a Myler level 1 bit, which the owner is switching to a French link soon (I don't know if it's a D ring or what it is). The Myler is a little too big on her. So that could be an issue, but she accepts it fine in forward work. And her saddle is fitted for her, so that shouldn't be an issue. And she's up to date on all other medical things, so she's not in pain anywhere. (Kymbre) Hi Kymbre!
This is actually quite a common problem, to at least some degree. Many times a horse that has finally learned to reach into the connection will tend to regress in downward transitions. Read this article on maintaining the length of neck in transitions to read about how challenged the USET riders were with this, even with their top horses. Also read this article on the horse that tends to shorten its neck, for a full description of that problem in general, and some ideas on how to overcome it. And I would try to use... (Click on Question Title above (in blue) to read full answer)