After spending some months in the stretch frame or the training frame the horse should show strength over his top line. This is indicated in the muscles built up around the withers and at the base of the neck, over the back and on the top of the haunches. The back should come up coming into a straighter horizontal line from withers to loins. The underside of the neck should be soft and the horse should be mentally relaxed and confident at all times. The belly should be slightly more tucked indicating a stronger core and the horse should move, relaxed and rhythmically in all three gaits while working deeply from behind in the stretch frame. Only once this has been achieved is the horse strong enough to come up into the working frame at a walk.
The horse is brought up into the working frame on the lunge by using side reins. The function of side reins is to give the horse contact to seek and the ability to balance himself in the new frame. Said reins are in replace of the riders hands and should be elastic and fitted loosely to the horse’s natural head position. They provide guidance to bringing the head up so that the horse must further shift his weight to the haunches. The working frame, like the stretch frame has several stages, this is anywhere between the knees and the withers. As the horse gains strength he naturally holds his head higher in the working frame. But this can be deceptive with the unbalanced and underdeveloped horse. This is because the horse uses the head for balance and will swing it up when he struggles bringing his haunches under for lack of strength and coordination. Making it important to train your eye to recognize proper movement in the horse’s lumbar back. It’s only in the lumbar back and the deep step of the hind legs when we can confirm that the horse is using his body optimally for development and not damaging himself by dropping his back or dragging his hind legs behind. It’s possible for the horse to stretch the head down without lifting the back therefore a consistent checking of the horse’s movement from behind is important throughout the training session.