The "Inbred" Balance

This painting depicts the authority of the "western" rider over the horse in the lighter and later of the heavy (knights) types of riding. Note the depicted submission of the horse in the bowed (behind vertical) head, while...

this picture, depicting a Polish (eastern) rider and displaying more freedom in the whole concept. Note again the shorter stirrups and the forward attitude of the rider with no obvious submission of the horse, yet presenting certain harmony. If met in the battle, the top rider would not stand the chance against the Polish rider.

The Akhal-Teke displaying a narrow, light, thin, backward (U-) neck. Note the long prominent withers balancing almost equally the front of the horse, despite the longish, tube like bodies of these horses they are very well balance for the rider just in their own physical characteristics.

 

    Inbred Balance? Is there such thing? 
    Yes there is, and it can be seen mainly in the Arabian horse and often in the Oriental/Eastern horses like the Barb or the Achaltekin (Akhal-Teke). These horses are very old breeds serving more than a millennium as riding horses and selected for reproduction according to their performance. The speed and endurance over long distances as well as the reliability of the horse were essential for the selection of horses for the reproduction. The riders however in the old days had no idea about any artificial balance; hence they were selecting horses that adjusted/adopted to the tasks the best. Over the centuries this kind of breeding brought to the world horses that developed certain physical characteristics which enabled them to perform better the given task (like for example in the modern times, the thoroughbred developed the longer frame for speed over shorter distances and reaching the maximum extension=exertion. The shorter framed Arabians on the other hand not reaching the full extension=exertion lost some speed but could travel in gallop further than most horses).

     The inbred balance is mostly noticeable in the build of the neck as well as in the position of the hind legs and in the Arabian/Barb in the shorter frame as well (the later is also attributed to six less vertebrae). The typical U-neck seen by the Achaltekin and the Arabian, moving it’s extension backward, more toward the center of gravity and the commonly seen by the Arabian/Barb the “sickle hocks” enabling the horse in his new/adopted natural balance to carry the rider more with the hind legs, thus enlightening the front and preventing the premature overuse (The thoroughbred versus the Arabian contrast). In our article about the Arabian horse you can read that the Arabs believed that the horse running/galloping with his head up in the air was better over longer distances. Which is of course logical when understanding the mechanics of the horse’s body in reference to the rider.

     Horses like these are unsuitable for the type of riding that is required today and forcing them into the "classical" form is brutal; however, these horses are very much suitable for the trail riding, pleasure, endurance riding, racing in their own class, etc; especially for the less experienced rider, since they in fact take care of themselves and the rider as well. The best way to ride such horses is on a loose rains, not trying to flex their necks (not using draw reins to get their heads down etc) and using less severe bits since they can often be controlled only by the riders weight/legs, because they are more secure in caring the rider, hence more sensitive to him, since their prime concern is no longer the unbalance and the insecurity as for example in the case of the unbalanced horses of the Knights heavy cavalry. Keep this in mind, especially when riding the Arabian mares build in such way.

 

The Barb's (like that Arabian) typical short and backward neck with short back and obvious sickle hocks enabling the horse to step well under himself in gallop.

This racing photo of the Yomut horses show how the horses balanced themselves over the years. Note, the first horse, neck high up and almost backward, shortening/balancing the out of balance forehand.

Written by Ludvik K Stanek a.k.a Lee Stanek