There are major differences between horses that are back movers and those that are leg movers. Having a back mover is the goal. When you have a horse that moves over the back and is ridden with the biomechanics you have a horse that is in perfect balance, happy and THROUGH. This is the ultimate ride!!
Leg movers are horses with NO BACK MOVEMENT. They only move with their legs. They are not even on both sides nor are they ever through. Leg movers are difficult to ride in a sitting trot, especially an extended trot. This is because horses have a hollow side and a braced side. When the back is hollow it leaves no place for the rider to sit. It is like you are sitting in a hole; instead, you should feel like you are sitting on a GIANT BEACH BALL.
Horses that are leg movers have more issues with soundness, spook more, and brace in the riders hands for support. Leg movers also have a hard time cantering to the right because the inside hind leg has to be in the pushing stage in order to pick up the right lead canter and instead the right hind is usually in the sitting stage.
Horses that move over their backs move with more expression, stay sound longer, and are BIGGER movers. They have a beautiful top line because they use the top side of their bodies and not the under part of their necks. They are horses that don’t spook easily and are more even on both reins (even on both sides). You can tell by sweat marks on specific parts of the body, evenness on both sides, and going in both directions. Most importantly, you can tell by the relaxation in the body and the connection in the reins.
Sit, Push, Lift and ReachThere are 4 phases that the horses back legs go through during any gait. Each of them has their own importance and the timing is critically important for a rider’s biomechanics to influence the movement.
Sit: This is where the horse is carrying all of their weight. The sit phase is the best time to ask for half halt and/or ask them to sit more on their hocks for more collection
Push: This is where the horse is getting ready to take a BIGGER stride. This is a great time to ask the horse to lengthen its stride. This is NOT THE TIME TO ASK FOR A HALF HALT.
Lift: This is when you have air time! And, depending on how much you were able to affect the sitting and the pushing phase, will determine how big the stride you will get. This is a time when you would NOT apply any aids.
Reach: This is also an air time movement. This is where you get your l-e-n-g-t-h-e-n-i-n-g. This is a phase that you need to make sure YOUR hips are swinging with their hips so they get out of the way of the horses hips and do not interfere. The reach phase is also a phase where you should NOT apply an aid.
Belly Swing: Another important factor in through movement and biomechanics is the belly swing. The belly swing is where their belly swings both left to right and right to left evenly (literally the swinging of the belly!). The horse needs this to be even on both sides. If they don’t have a belly swing they cannot become a back mover because a swinging belly allows their hips to become even. It also allows both hind legs to perform the lift and reach phases of movement. Through biomechanics, the rider can learn to influence and move the belly.
So - there you have it. A riders biomechanics works with the horses biomechanics to change the way the horse moves. Through the understanding of, and proper use of, biomechanics, a rider can bring a horse from being a leg mover to a back mover and ride a GIANT BEACH BALL!!