Constitutional work on the ground

Part I Effective lunging without auxiliary reins and the way there

The horse’s back or its musculature has the task of supporting the forward movement through certain transport functions of the body mass and to keep the fore and hindquarters connected. Thus, the horse is not designed for carrying the rider’s weight, which is why irritations often arise in these muscles. In order to avoid these irritations and to ensure the horse’s health under the load of rider and saddle, these muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia, must be strengthened.

Above all, the horse needs stability in the thoracic sling, as well as the trunk and a good abdominal muscle training, so that the activity of these muscles absorbs the rider’s weight, opens the back muscles, evenly tilt the pelvis back and forth and the hindquarters are used correctly. Using the hindquarters correctly means that the pelvic mobility (tilting back and forth) is equally efficient, resulting in a balanced pushing and flexion activity of the hind limbs. A healthy body behavior means that the horse has the same degree of stability as elasticity in the body.

The best way to do this is through groundwork without the horse carrying weight on its back. However, it is important that the natural freedom of movement of the horse’s hasn’t been taken by auxiliary reins. Any restriction of freedom of movement, especially of the mouth, neck, neck and shoulders leads to massive mal functions. The entire forehand serves to balance and control the body of the quadruped. Forcing the head and neck into a posture overrides natural functions that are essential for healthy body behavior.

In healthy gymnastics only methods should be used that do not restrict the horse’s movement and posture, nor overwhelm the horse and are based on voluntariness. For this reason, auxiliary reins are rejected in principle.

Auxiliary reins

Auxiliary reins form the horse’s neck and are supposed to support gymnastics while lunging. However, it is not possible to create a “correct” shape by the connection of auxiliary reins. Because their action causes mal functions in the muscles of the entire body.

  • The pull on the bit causes the nose to get behind the vertical.
  • The poll is no longer the highest point.
  • The lower neck muscles are contracted and prevent the shoulder from being moved forward.
  • The base of the neck gets too low and prevents the horse from using the neck freely as a balancing rod.
  • The forehand is fully overloaded, which has a negative effect on the rest of the body.
  • The back is strained, the hindquarters are lifted through the pull of the supraspinous and interspinous ligaments.

Alternative equipment for constitutional gymnastics on the ground

The rope halter, the cavesson and the lunge as well as the double lunge are versatile means of communication, which offer the possibility to act without additional auxiliary means gymnastically and thereby to protect the sensitive horse’s mouth. By a correct fit, the cavesson offers the possibility of a precise action to influence the posture of the horse. The horse learns to carry itself by a relaxed posture and to find his own balance. In this way, the right muscle groups can be built up to carry the unnatural rider’s weight constitutionally.

  • The young horse is allowed to move freely on the rope halter on a straight and curved line so that it learns to coordinate and balance itself.
  • Following this, the horse learns through the action of the cavesson to stabilize itself in the shoulders and to mobilize the neck.
  • This is how the neck extension gets created.
  • The free functions in all muscles of the entire body are preserved.
  • With the double lunge, the shoulders are stabilized to a greater extent by the action of the inner lunge in bending and the outer lunge in giving stability.
  • The flexions and neck extension will improved.
    The horse can raise itself more and more without contraction or muscle restriction and learn to keep the horizontal balance securely.
  • Until it can collect itself.

Step 1
Gymnastics with the rope halter

With the young or sensitive horse it makes sense to start the healthy groundwork with the rope halter.

Full relaxation and suppleness leads to satisfaction.
The shoulder mobility leads to tension in the muscles of the inner side of the body
and expansion of the outer.

Neck extension

The neck extension thus releases potential tension in the horse by creating inner peace through the body’s external resting state. It reaches the top line to the hindquarters. It is created in the beginning in a sensitive way by using pressure on the poll while standing. Elementary, however, is how and where this pressure is exerted. All of this depends on the sensitivity and possible stress level of the horse. It can be created purely by laying on hands, hand pressure, fingertip pressure or by a dosed pull on the halter. Under no circumstances it should be created in a mechanical compulsively way, because this causes a negative effect instead of calming the horse in spite of the posture. This is queried in the following at the walk.


The forehand is the horse’s stability and direction center, which is of the utmost importance to an animal that lives and survives in the escape mechanism. Whenever we want to achieve real external mobility and thus internal flexibility with our horse, we need to keep those body areas soft and flexible. At the stand, a friendly but steady signal is given to the shoulder first by the hand and then by the stick until the horse leans into the opposite direction or even places one front leg in front of the other. The horse’s head is positioned and held close to your own arm. The signal for the shoulder mobility is refined further and further until the horse yields in the shoulder in a sensitive manner, keeping the neck steady so that the neck can be flexed. This is will be continued at the walk.


The augmentation exercises are turns with shoulder control and thus the beginning control of the medium part of the horse’s body. The forehand controls the direction, the hindquarters the speed, and the medium part combines control over direction and speed.


Moving in circles and voltes is the result of the control of rest, speed (hindquarters), following, near and distance, direction (shoulders) and connection (medium part).

Step  2
Work in hand with the cavesson

The work with the cavesson in hand goes on with the groundwork with the rope halter. Here, however, the aids are affecting the poll and the nose.

The mobility of the shoulder gives the outer shoulder freedom.
This space expands the outer side of the trunk
and gives room to the inner hind leg to step forward.

Neck extension, shoulder mobility, turns and circles

As with gymnastics with the rope halter, the horse learns to lower its head by a careful request of the cavesson and thus by pressure on the nose and to mobilize the shoulders by the stick. It extends itself and, above all, it continues to relax inside. In combination with the neck extension, the shoulder mobility is first exercised on straight lines, then on turns and small circles, until everything can be easily connected with each other.

Erection and Neck extension

As soon as the neck extension can be produced fluently, it must be paid attention on the load of one shoulder of the horse and / or an overall front-load, because by the extension of the neck a high risk of that exists. If this is the case, the horse should be stimulated by upward impulses to raise itself and then straighten itself through the shoulder mobility.


Transitions of neck extension, erection and bending mobilize and stabilize the forehand to the same extent. In addition, transitions within and through the gaits in elongation and transitions in erection, as well as bending can be used.


The shoulder-in at the cavesson is started in the form of work in hand. It serves to stretch the outer side of the body and to mobilize the horse sideways. This also strengthens the hindquarters in flexion and stabilization. The poll, neck and shoulders are carried according to the work in hand with the cavesson. The outer shoulder must not be overloaded. Then the horse is guided sideways with the forehand inwards and the hindquarters start to cross. The hip is loosened by stabilizing the outer hind leg and making the inner leg more flexible.

Haunches-In / Travers

After the training of the shoulder-in, the Travers can be started (walking on the outside of the horse). The horse is bent away from the rider. Shoulder mobility or stability plays an elementary role, because the hind legs are asked to come inwards.

Step 3
Simple lunge with the cavesson

If the horse has internalized the impulses and requests from the cavesson in hand, they can be used on large circles and thus while lunging with cavesson. It is able to move on curve and straight lines in different postures and gaits – it is ready for lunging with a simple lunge.

The nose is guided by the correct contact of the lunge in front of the vertical.
The base of the neck is raised and the withers are stable.
So, the lower neck muscles can work freely and openly.

Stable connection between the nose of the horse, lunge and hand

In a stable lunging position, the rider ensures a constant contact with the cavesson and thus a constant head-neck position. This consistency ensures a secure body connection and balance in the horse.

Neck extension

The horse has already learned to extend itself with the cavesson work in hand. This should now take place at a distance on a small then on larger circles. Later, this can be retrieved as desired.

Flexions / shoulder mobility

Through the cavesson work in hand with flexions, the horse is used to the signals for the lateral neck and shoulder mobility. Now it is important to perform this with more distance – first on small, then on large circles and also on straight lines. Here, the outer side of the horse’s body is extended and the inner tensed.


With many fluent transitions on different lines in the active forward movement, once in a high, then in low neck position, the horse’s suppleness increases significantly. The rein back is also involved in the work on the transitions to make the horse more and more agile in its course of movement.

Step 4
Doube lunge with the cavesson

The double lunge offers many possibilities to mobilize the horse healthy. The horse is led with two lunges, which allow a relatively straight posture. Say, it can be stably bent without falling outward or inward. The horse can be erected and extended alternately. This allows a process of suppleness and stability in the body at the same time. The double-lunges- and work in hand leads to the long-rein work.

The lunges are strapped to the cavesson. The outer from the surcingle to the nose.
The inner one runs from the nose to the surcingle.
This allows the horse to bend inwards while stabilizing the outside.

 Equipment: We use the double lunge with pulleys, a surcingle with enough rings, a cavesson with two side rings and a driving whip (light enough and the lash does not hinder).

Why pulleys and cavesson? Because the horse with simple strapping (without pulleys connected to the bit) often gets too deep in its poll and neck position and refuses to accept the bit by the strong pull of the lunge. The consequences are lack of suppleness, shortening of the movement and blocking of the back. In order to be able to work in a gymnastically valuable way, it is important to be able to always maintain the “forward pushing” of the nose, the forward extension, a stable and carried poll-neck position and thus an uphill tendency. This is guaranteed by freely sliding lunges and “only” slight pressure on the nose through the cavesson.

Use: Keep lunges separate, carry loops and whip in hand that guides the outer rein. Thus, the inner hand can freely influence the poll and neck posture.

The basic body posture “natural posture”

The basic posture is a posture without bending, without rounding, without extending. The poll is the highest point, the nose is in front of the vertical and the neck is carried
freely. The point is that the horse can simply move naturally and develop a sense for the lunges that touch its head, neck, shoulders and back. The lunge leader will then be able to see where the horse’s needs are. Say, the horse needs mental or physical work. Depending on what it is, can then be decided in what form. So, this posture is a posture in which you make a first diagnosis of the things that are necessary to work on. It should also initiate the first gymnastic step. The horse learns to keep in contact with the lunge leader’s hand and use strength as it learns to accept the tension of the lunges. This minimizes or balances the thrust of the hindquarters so that the horse does not get out
of balance by them by becoming front-loaded. The posture stabilizes the back and shoulder girdle by reducing the pressure on the forehand, which creates balance in the traction and pushing forces of the fore and hindquarters.

“Carried neck extension posture”

The neck extension relaxes the muscles and lets the horse swing freely and runs through the whole body. The poll remains the highest point, the nose is pushed forward, and the base of the neck is arched in front of the withers, which stabilizes the shoulder girdle. The bodywork required to tense the lunges already resulted in a long base of the neck, the hand-width section in front of the withers and shoulder. This creates a positive tension of the upper neck and relaxation of
the lower neck muscles. This activity works against the front-load. It would be
wrong if the neck base is flat and pressed down, as the load of the neck gets
shifted onto the forehand.

„Flexed posture“

This posture involves flexion of the poll and the neck, as well as yielding or raising of the shoulder on the signal of the whip. Depending on whether the horse is sagged or overstretched on one shoulder. Either it falls into or out of the circle, which is a natural behaviour of the horse. In which form, depends on the body behaviour and conformation of the horse.

“Poll / neck roundness”

The rounding combines everything: contact, relaxation, flexibility – lateral balance. Whether the poll is rounded or rather the neck or both depends on the needs of the horse’s body. It should be possible to separate both from each other. Because it may be that the horse is contracted in the poll, but not in the neck, or vice versa. The roundness of one or the other part creates the according mobility in the horse. The base of the neck always remains extended to open the thoracic spine, to activate the abdominal muscles and to keep the back free.

The combination / alternation of these postures loosens, stabilizes and strengthens the entire body of the horse and forms the basis for further gymnastics steps such as transitions and collection.

„Flexibility and self-carriage are the source of horse´s agility.” Gustav Steinbrecht

Nicole Weinauge


Bildnachweise: ©, ©, ©

error: Content is protected !!