Training Your Eye

A horse ridden in a false frame has two dead giveaways: the muscling development along the neck that often look like cobra wings, and an expression of pain or discomfort (or what I often call the “backward eye”). A horse can easily submit to the contact without engaging their top line muscles and abdominals, and they regularly do. In fact, when I try to google pictures of horses carrying themselves well, I stick to a few horsemen and women I know who consistently ride their horses in self carriage because they are so hard to find.

Manolo Mendez demonstrates a horse in correct carriage maintaining the alignment of the cervical vertebrae

A horse ridden correctly engages the extensor chain and flexor chain, lifting their back and developing correct top line muscles. You should note a pleasant expression as well- the horse in balance does not have a worried eye, foaming mouth, tense jaw or flaring nostrils –
Even when working at maximum output (though of course they will be breathing harder).

A horse with a beautiful expression is a true joy to see. Don’t be fooled by a false frame –
Learn to train your eye for muscular development and expression and you will always know the difference.

A false frame yields overdevelopment of the splenius muscles
This horse displays overdeveloped splenius muscles (circled) and atrophy of the rhombodius (in front of withers)
A horse ridden in tension and a false frame tends to look unhappy and have stiff ears and a tense jaw
In contrast, the horse ridden in balance shows a soft expression, mobile ears, soft tail and a pleasing expression

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