Call Up the Quarters

Improve collection for any event with this horse-training tool.

I have a simple exercise that I use to help strengthen a horse’s back and hindquarters, and to help him learn to use his hind end.

While the horse is tracking straight and forward, ask for increased collection and a shortened stride for a few strides. Then release, allowing the energy to move forward into a lengthened stride, all while maintaining the gait – walk, trot or canter. After a few strides, again ask for collection and repeat.

Asking for that increased collection is “calling up the quarters.” Push the horse’s hindquarters up underneath your seat with leg, rein and seat carriage. The horse has to tuck the rear and reach up underneath himself while maintaining forward energy.

Learn from AQHA Professional Horsemen and -women Carla Wennberg, Lynn Salvatori-Palm, Andy Moorman, Al Dunning, Patti Carter and Stephanie Lynn in AQHA's  Borrow a Trainer report, which includes lessons to improve self-carriage, lateral movements and more.

Here’s What to Do:

•    Independent legs and hands are a must, use direct rein.
•    Establish an active, working gait so the horse is “tracking up.” The hind leg is coming up and stepping where the front foot took off.
•    Mimic the movement with your own body, tighten and roll the hips and back. “Hug” with your seat.
•    Alternate pushing with the feet and half-halting with the hands in diagonal pairs. Ask with the right foot, and give a mini half-halt with the left hand, then switch.
•    Release and reward. Go forward to that active, lengthened stride.

You can’t half-halt with the mouth and not half-halt with your back and seat. You’ll lose communication with the back half of your horse and cause mouth numbness.

Be strong with your back as you collect, not tight and frozen.

The idea is to establish energy in that forward walk, then maintain the same amount of energy in the collection. When extended, the horse’s frame is more of a rectangle. When the horse collects, I’m trying to reframe into more of a box. You should feel the back rise up underneath you.

Step It Up

Use this exercise over time to develop your horse’s deep hindquarter muscles and strength. At first, only ask for collection for a few strides at the walk and gradually build the number of strides. Be patient so that your horse understands what you are asking for when moving into higher gaits.

Nothing changes when you go to the trot; you’re still using the same aids and asking for the same thing but in a different gait.

AQHA’s Borrow a Trainer report, brought to you by The American Quarter Horse Journal, is an easy-to-read 11-part manual, offering time-tested techniques for improving your horsemanship.

I usually sit the trot for this exercise, because in the rising or posting trot, you are half rising and half sitting, and that means you’re half communicating and half not communicating, and that doesn’t work for this exercise.

The Payoff

What I’m looking for is an educated rear end in my horse. A horse with an educated rear end is balanced, has self-carriage and is not heavy on the forehand.

As his hind end develops, you’ll see increased muscle definition. Pay attention to sweating. If the sweat is primarily through the shoulders, and not in his hind end, this is probably an indication that your horse is not collected and engaging the rear.

The goal is improved muscle development for a stronger, more athletic, efficient and explosive horse, no matter the event you choose to compete in.

Christine Hamilton is an editor of  The American Quarter Horse Journal.

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