Western Performance Horse Development, Body Control Foundation
One of the key skills a horse needs is to develop a strong topline (back muscles from the withers to the croup). Having an engaged back will help the horse to carry it's rider easily and do what we ask them to do without breaking down and with a great degree of success. We have much better and happier rides because of it.
This is a key component of horse development - especially performance horse development. Or WPHD, PHD. (I will be using those short forms from now on. haha. It's my computer background to use acronyms. :)
There is a video from Will Faeber, dressage master of California which illustrates this very well. Even though the video is only showing english riders, both disciplines need this strong topline for their events.
Right from the start at the 04sec mark, a black horse is demonstrating a rounded topline and lowered head carriage. Just envision a western rider and tack on that horse if you need to.
Please watch the video below as there are many examples (2:04 to 2:20 minute mark in particular).
In the video,Will explains at the 1:51 to 2:00 min mark, how it is to be used further in top level dressage for the elevation of the head (high head carriage) for dressage movements.
Now for the western discipline, Will also had nice examples and explained with a chestnut 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 our western events which some require great amounts of speed.
Rod from IPHDA 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 elevation, 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 transitions.
I also am not sure I like the statement that it takes a certain 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 flexible top line is important to any horse. "
Here is the techie part 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"
The western horse needs to have more forward energy than a dressage horse (also in western dressage) with a lower head to balance the rounded topline in combination with the horse's lowered engaged hindquarters for western movements or maneuvers. 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 cadance and the engaged hindend for impulsion (slow as it maybe!).
Here's the video by Bay Area Equestrian Network.
Putting my spin on WPHD, body control, foundation training.