Upside Down Neck In The Horse

  • Conformation
  • The Personality
  • Human leading or Riding habits

often the latter………

This is one of the worst examples of a man made ‘Upside Down Neck’ on a horse and if you look at the tools of torture in this horse’s mouth, a number of things should become very evident to you. Poor Boy, lovely Horse though.


If this photo doesn’t bring home to you that the bigger the bit the bigger the damage then I don’t know what will. This idiot has still got very little control over this poor horse. What does he put in next…a chain saw??

An upside down neck pretty well explains itself. It is the over development of the under muscle of the neck and the degeneration of the top line muscle. Thus causing the look that the neck of the horse is put on its body, upside down. Generally, horses are not born that way, although some are.

During my entire career, I have not heard it explained in a way that kids could understand, why such a high percentage of their horses have “Upside-down Necks”. You know, the funny little horses that go around looking like Lamas.

Now before I go totally blaming riders for this affliction, I have to say that a percentage of horses are born with this pre-disposition and the older they go without re-training, the worse their necks become. So what causes upside down necks in a lot of horses and worsens those with bad conformation?


You can’t fix this one but you can fix many.

In a word, “RESISTANCE” Resistance is almost always caused by in-experience or a lack of knowledge of the rider. It is rarely ever the fault of horses. So, what happens and why?

Due to the fact that most people in the Equestrian world don’t think about subjects such as this in a technical way, very little thought is given to why it happens. The proof of this assertion is out there for all to witness, it’s just that those in charge of the Industry, either choose to ignore it or fail to see it.

So as riders go around trying but failing to put their horses head down, year after year, they are continually working the under muscle of the neck just like taking it to a gymnasium. The more the horse resists, the longer it refuses to get a head set and give to the riders contact, the larger the muscle becomes and the more the top-line muscle deteriorates.


Did you know that you can build under muscle at the halt? You can and I see it happening with over 90% of riders. Whilst standing around on your horse, just chatting or resting, most riders sit with a slight contact against the horse’s mouth via the reins.


They seem brainwashed by the traditional teaching that if they don’t keep a contact on that human comfort zone, their horse will gallop away with them. Without knowing it, the horse is subtly working the under muscle of the neck, just whilst standing around.

So I suggest you teach your horse to stand without any contact. (Unless under the Judges eye) Just like the Western riders do.


Here is an experiment for you. Measure the circumference of one of your arms and then tie a couple of ounces of weight to it. One month later, measure it again. I bet it is bigger.

How many riders do you see holding a slight rein contact against the horse whilst just walking around? Over 90% of them I would suggest. There are three ways that you have to ride a horse at the walk.


Long and Low in which case you are improving your horse, on a loose rein with no contact, this being how you should be riding whilst just walking around the place or pleasure riding and for training and competition purposes. So every time you are walking from stable to arena say, having a slight contact, “In case of” you are causing an under muscle on your horse’s neck.

In the Round yard on the lunge. If a horse has a habit of going around with it’s head in the air, the type that is working the under muscle, you should have some equipment on the horse to put it’s head where it can build a top line instead.


Then there is the horse that is going around, as we say, not truly round, head not perpendicular, showing  resistance and not working the top line.


Even leading your horse can build the upside down neck. If you are one of the 90% of Australians who insist upon constantly pulling your horse along by holding the lead rope right up near the head, then you are building the under muscle.


Even as you stand still in the car park. As you hold your horse by the means described above, you are putting strain on the under muscle as the horse pulls against the force you place upon the lead rope.

When I see horses, one look at the neck tells me how well the rider rides. Dressage Judges must surely think the same thing when a rider presents to them. Big under muscle…..resistant rider.

So, if you have a horse like this or the next time you see one, try to remember this article and have a go at making it better. You’d rather ride a horse than a lama…..wouldn’t you?



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