Tips for asking my horse to stretch out

I have an 8-year-old OTTB mare who prefers to move with her nose in the sky in the typical “giraffe” posture. She will occasionally put her head down and move beautifully, and I’d like some tips on how to encourage her to maintain that kind of movement.

I have occasionally (1-2 times per week) been lunging her in a Pessoa system, and it’s been very helpful with getting her to stretch out her back and neck. She recently had a spot of back ouch that was injected, and her vet suggested this. But she’s still a giraffe most of the time when it’s not on, and I’d really like to be able to lunge her nicely without it. I’d also like to ride, but I don’t want to cause any damage to her back by riding her when she’s carrying herself so hollow.

Does anyone with OTTB experience have any tips for encouraging a more correct carriage?

A few weeks ago a barn-mate came across this article in a search for help for her mare with kissing spine. The article explains a series of exercises/stretches designed to help a horse stretch and build strong core muscles along the spine - like yoga for your horse. A few of us also played around with the stretches, since the basis - relaxed, supple and strong back muscles - could benefit any horse. I have noticed when I warm up with these I get more regular contact, more swing through the back and better self-carriage. (full disclosure, not an OTTB, and his evasions are both curling behind the bit or neck up)

There will probably be comments regards saddle fit, but since she goes this way on the lunge, unless you have the Pessoa that isn’t likely to be the issue.

Occasionally longing in the rig will not accomplish the aim of using it, and that is to build up the muscles needed to carry herself in the desired position. This is not an OTTB problem but a problem for any horse that has been ridden incorrectly.

I would continue longeing her in the pessoa system or in a simple vienna side reins for 6-8 weeks, initially for a short period of time, and gradually increasing it to 10 min on each rein.

Once she builds the muscle to carry herself on her own, you will need to learn to ride her with the same stability of body and hand that side reins give.

You may need to find an knowledgeable instructor to guide you on how tight the reins should be and to help you, yourself.