Framing for green horse

I have a 5 year old mare that can sometimes be difficult getting to frame. I’ve done it before but it is hard to get her to do it and especially keep it.
Any tips? :slight_smile:

Don’t think of it as a frame. If you are trying to force a head set (that’s what comes to mind when someone says “get to frame”) that is ineffective riding. Your horse should be moving from their hind and into your hands, seeking the contact. You need to have straightness, balance, and impulsion for this to happen. Work on those with your mare if you aren’t already.

If you are already doing all of that, can you be more specific about what is occurring? How are you asking for contact? What is your horse doing?


As above the horse can not be pulled in from the front, it needs to be pushed from behind. If you don’t know how to do this, which you don’t because you are asking the question, you need an instructor. You are teaching a being who does not understand English and doesn’t have the want to do what you are wanting. It is a skill to teach them to want to do what you want.


The very word frame sets my teeth on edge. The position of the head is secondary to how the horse carries itself in its body. The trained horse can be collected without being on the vertical, and extended without having a stretchy neck.

Likewise altering the head carriage doesn’t change how the horse moves.


“Frame” is just a word for a horse properly collected moving from behind into the bridle. Western people use it more then we do., heard in Dressage but in the phrase " properly frame and shape the horses body with energy from behind created by leg.". Many riders don’t understand collection originates behind and the long training and conditioning journey to obtain it. Too many wannabe trainers don’t either, just see the low head and assume they can get it the head to drop and call it “frame”.

Basically you teach fully forward first without any worry about head position or shape. Then you contain the forward and use it to shape by gradually teaching extensions, collection, laterals and independent control of the haunch and shoulder to build muscle and balance before you put the parts together in a collected “frame”.

You can’t learn these things from a book or DVDs, you need a competent instructor to guide you through the process and teach you not to think of “frame” as something you can quickly produce. Teach you not to refer to it as “frame” too. It’s proper response to all the aids creating collection.

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Be patient, I wouldn’t expect most 5 year olds to be able to be in a “frame” consistently! It is not their natural way of going, so it takes time for them to build the muscle strength and learn that’s what is expected. Start slow, build it up gradually, and make sure you spend plenty of time stretching down too.


Patience and lots of leg. Coming 7 my WBx is finally strong enough and “wordly wise” enough to be approaching self carriage for more than a few minutes, which started as fleeting seconds as a five yo

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I think it is helpful to reframe (pun intended) what you are asking for as “correct working posture.” “Frame” suggests one single solitary shape. But a horse’s correct posture for a given activity is dynamic.

A mature, schooled horse who is working in a correct posture is loose through the spine. The horse shows impulsion from behind, pushing off of an engaged hind end. The horse’s head and neck position is variable depending on the gait and the degree of collection- the neck is a function of the overall balance as produced by the hind end. The horse is soft in the poll and reaching into contact with the bit, “holding hands” with the rider rather than leaning on or curling away from aids from the hand. The horse’s overall carriage is stabilized- self-maintained. And all of this takes strength, fitness, and education to develop!

Meanwhile, a 5-year-old warmblood horse is often still growing and may not understand where all of his parts are. A 5-year-old Thoroughbred horse may have three-quarters of a clue about where all his limbs are at any given time, but may be used to using them in a different fashion. Developmentally appropriate posture for these kids is a different story based on their physical fitness, their depth of education so far, and their understanding of how to use their bodies.

So a young horse’s good posture looks different. The absolute fundamental of good posture for a baby horse is that the horse should move forward readily off of your leg, developing rhythmic movement and balance. In so doing, they develop the strength to push under themselves from their hocks, rather than pulling their hocks along. The young horse should turn left and turn right using leg and rein aid. He might be starting to understand, and be strong enough to maintain, bend and counter-bend on a straight line. Once he has the hang of that, he may start to learn about using his limbs independently through introduction of lateral work. Good posture for a baby involves accepting the rider has hands, but many young horses do not have the physical strength to reach for the bit and carry energy from the hind end into the bridle. They should be relaxed through the spine most of the time; if they carry tension in the spine more often than not, chances are you’re asking for something they don’t understand and need to slow down.

In other words, your 5-year-old mare is probably right on developmental target if she goes forward, backwards, left, and right, and is starting to think about lateral work to separate her one back leg from her other back leg. Focus on developing her physical ability to carry her body correctly relative to her work, and don’t get too bothered by what the head and neck are doing. Once her back end is strong and she can use her parts independently, she’ll be able to hold the posture you’re looking for.


As others have said. From your very wording, I suspect you are focusing on the head and neck, rather than what is happening from the neck back. A horse going round, and soft in the bridle needs to be coming from behind. Once the horse is strong enough and capable, a tactful rider supports the “round” or in your words “frame” . The horse will hold it, so long as they can physically support it, and the rider is tactful.

You may have gotten it before, but with this horse, you will most likely need the help of an instructor.

Follow the classical training scale, forget about a “frame”. If you train following the classical training scale, your horse’s posture and carriage will automatically assume the correct shape. It’s not something you need to pursue directly. It is basic dressage schooling, and applicable to all other disciplines as well. It is the dressage that we all must do in order to gain a sound, healthy horse who can attain it’s maximum potential.

Asking a young horse for a “frame” involves use of the reins by the rider. Correctly trained and correctly ridden, it is the horse who seeks contact, not the rider. The rider seeks the goals of the classical training scale, in the correct order, moving to the next goal only when the previous one is adequately attained. Find a coach who will help you with this Or pay the price later.

Really like using " posture" instead of “frame”. Think of a young human child, they can’t stand up really straight with chin up and shoulders back while moving forward for quite some time because they have not developed the muscle for it and constantly have to adjust to their increasing height.

Also use the example of young teen Figure Skaters who grow a few inches-they can’t land their jumps because their suddenly longer leg hits the ice earlier in their landing and they have to relearn how to manage the new length, they can get some body soreness as the muscles have to restrengthen/ stretch more.

Young horse is exactly the same. Still learning to manage their ever growing body which can go on to age 6 or so in the WBs and even some late blooming TBs. Take it easy trying to make them go like a fully mature, fully trained horse.


Great example!

I think everyone makes it more complicated than it should be to get a horse to stop putting its nose in the sky or falling on the forehand. And yes, I don’t like the word “frame” either, but that is no reason to make getting a horse to go around nicely some magical impossible thing. It really isn’t that difficult with a sound, mostly sane horse with properly fitted tack.

That said, you can’t really work a horse correctly without the rider having an independent hand and seat, and good balance. This takes a different length of time for different people.

Once you have the proper skills you start riding the horse forward into a very light contact. Just touch the corners of the mouth and keep the horse moving forward. Don’t take a lot of pressure. Push the horse forward if it tries to stop. Turn if the horse wants to rear or buck from the new feeling (most horses just brace against you). Don’t make it a big deal. Don’t yank at the horse’s face. Don’t ask for too much of anything. Just go forward walk, trot and canter with a little bit of contact with the horses mouth.

Do a lot of transitions with keeping a soft contact and keeping the horse moving forward. If the horse falls into a downward transition push it forward each time until it stops falling on the forehand. Start thinking about not using your hand to steer or stop - instead use your leg and seat more and more. Do transitions within a gait (bigger and smaller trot and walk) the same way you do transitions from walk to trot and trot to walk.

Then you can start working on inside leg to outside rein exercises. (Important: Praise and/or release when the horse does things right. Stop at any point the young/green horse gets tired. Don’t yank or wiggle your hands a bunch. These should all be done at the walk and trot before you canter.)

  1. Ride a 20 meter circle. Spiral in. Then spiral out by pushing the horse out from your inside leg to outside hand. Spiral in. Spiral out. Repeat aud naseum. Stop and do it in the other direction.
  2. Trot a 20 meter figure eight. That is two twenty meter circles with a straight(ish) area where you switch direction. Use inside leg to outside rein to switch directions and re-balance. Try to make the shape of the circles circular and the same size not oblong and funky shaped.
  3. Try inside leg to outside hand on a straight(ish) stretch.
  4. If you are feeling adventurous and loosing all steering for the next few rides isn’t something that terrifies you try counterbending - that is outside leg to inside hand. Don’t over do it. Don’t ask for a dramatic counterbend with a young/green horse.
  5. Do a bunch of changes of direction and do inside leg to outside hand during each.
  6. Ride a square and push the horse out from your inside leg to outside rein in each corner.
  7. Lengthen and shorten the stride on a circle keeping the correct bend thinking about not changing your contact and riding the transition from the seat and leg.
  8. Visualize speeding up the inside hind leg without speeding up the whole horse. Use your seat (and outside hand when necessary) to keep the tempo and your leg to speed up the horses leg.

Once the inside leg to outside rein means something you can ride the horse forward into a soft contract and when the horse tries to put its head sky high or plow forward onto its forehand use the inside leg to outside rein to get the horse to stay in the “frame/posture” you want (that is forward, pushing from the inside leg toward the outside of his or her body, bent a little to the inside and soft and swinging across the back.) Then take up a the light contact in the canter and get the same thing. Use inside leg to outside rein re-balance when necessary.

There might be a quick fix to get a horse to go in a “frame”, but this is how I was taught (with a few more exercises I learned more recently added in) and it isn’t a quick process. Good eyes on the ground are crucial no matter how experienced you are. They help you not be too frustrated and they help you deal with the tantrums the horse might throw.

So true. Self carriage is the key, and the basis for that is correct conditioning. It takes a heck of a long time. Ask me how I know. My just-turned-8 year old TB, who came to me green two years ago then suffered a bowed tendon, is finally getting there. It did not help that he is big and tall, and seemed like a gangly teenage boy for a while too. If you can afford it I recommend a couple of training rides per week with a trainer who knows how to condition and work the horse to to the end goal.