Getting the Shoulder Up With a Level Top Line

by Troy Green | January 26th, 2012 9:36 AM | 1 Comment

Q. Hi Troy,

I’ve been training my own horses for about 10 years now , and have done pretty good.  But, I really have a hard time getting the shoulder up with a level top line.  It seems I get the level top line and then sacrifice my nice hock.   I’m so frustrated!  I’m one of the most dedicated people I know, and I  want so badly to learn to get the stay and frame.  I get his hock and then he wants to lower his head to the dirt.   I need back up neck and head level and pretty hock.  Help!



A. Hi Kent,

It sounds like you have the dedication and the desire to improve your skills. That is something that is so important for all of us as trainers to continue to do…further our educations. One of my favorite quotes is “when you’re green you grow, and when you’re ripe, you rot!”  The first thing I would say to you is to evaluate your stock. Don’t be too hard on them or yourself if they cannot physically do the job you are asking.  You’ll have a lot of wet saddle blankets and frustration if you try to make a square peg fit in a round hole, so to speak. One of the best things we can do as trainers is to capitalize on our horses’ strengths and to find what their weaknesses are, and if we can’t fix them, to make them as good as we can.

The issues you describe, where you are happy with your horse’s hock and movement but their head and neck carriage is too low, leads me to believe that you may be pulling or holding too much while driving your horse up into the bridle. Every horse is a little different and without seeing, I can’t tell you for sure, but I know I have some horses that to best maintain their optimal movement I do a lot of riding with their heads up. I will  actually pull the head and neck up and lift the front end while getting them to drive from behind with my legs. Most of these horses want to carry their head and neck in the correct position when I turn loose and go back to “show mode.”  However if I rode these horses all the time with their necks down, the front end movement would start to deteriorate. It sounds like your horse(s) have no trouble getting their neck down.  You might find that 90% of the riding you do on horses like that will be riding them around with their head and neck up to maintain lift in their front end and only as you get ready to show, or when the owner needs to practice, you might ride them in more of a show mode. An uneducated eye would think, “why is that horse’s head up?” but a good horseman will be able to tell quality of movement and what you are trying to achieve by riding that way.

We don’t always school the way that we show. Ride each horse for what they need. Good luck and keep up the persistence and hard work!


About the Author

Troy Green is a firm believer in the importance of a good foundation for every horse with balance, rhythm, and self-carriage being key. A good foundation equals longevity in the show pen. Troy has won over two dozen All American Quarter Horse Congress Championships in western pleasure, versatility, reining, halter and western riding, and has coached clients to over 50 Congress championships. Troy has three AQHA World Championships and two National Championships under his belt, and has won at all major futurities. He spent three years on the national board of the NSBA.

Troy Green has an extensive background working with youth and amateurs at all levels and of various disciplines. He specializes in pleasure futurity and all around horses.

Now is your chance to have your questions answered by Troy! Just submit your question using the comment section below or the email link, and he will respond to select questions in future posts.

One Response to “Getting the Shoulder Up With a Level Top Line”

  1. Great question/reply. Answers a lot of questions. Thank you for sharing Troy!

Leave a Reply