Mental and Physical Avoidance Horse Behavior: The Accordion Effect

Physically: A shrinking of the horse's top line; starting with the ears becoming rigid and angled slightly back, the length of the neck shortening with a tension or bulge in the neck muscles, the back becoming dropped or hollowed towards the ground, the muscles along the rib cage parallel to the ground will bulge out with tension, and the hindquarters are making chaotic, short, choppy, upright steps- think like the movement of needle in a sewing machine, with more energy seemingly up and down, versus powerful and pushing forward.
Mentally: The horse is lacking a soft, confident "forward thinking" mentality, this stems from him being defensive towards whatever is being asked of him by the human. So the physical shrinking away from the pressure is a reflection of his mental state.
How to address it: First there needs to be an assessment as to how early his concern appeared, even if he wasn't at his peak resistance. Most folks label a lack of "forward" in the horse with a human emotion, such as "he's lazy," or "he's being stubborn." But if we learned to first respond with empathy, by translating his physical unwanted behavior as his brain asking for help. He is moving in a defensive manner because he is unsure. So where did he start to feel that? What did we begin to ask of him that caused concern, insecurity, fear, or was unclear? Then how did we initially address it? Did we just "add gas" and make him move more? This unfortunately is the most common response and does nothing to improve the softness in the horse's brain or body.
Until we "play detective" and start to learn and BELIEVE what initial triggers are causing the horse to become unsure or concerned in his thoughts, by trying to "make" the horse move with more quality but not addressing his mental concern, just offers critique of his behavior, a symptom, rather than addressing the root cause, his mental concern.
The more his brain is willing and unconcerned, the more quality his gait and movement will be. THEN you can work on refining the bend, the size of step, etc. because your horse is available for a conversation.
Attached Picture: This is me riding an older "trained' mare. Practice assessing the picture, starting at the nose and working your way towards her rear. You'll see each of the behaviors I've described previously about the accordion effect.
And yet for a lot of folks, at the initial glance, this may look "pretty" and "light" with my drooping rein, but that is really avoidance of pressure and a lack of coming through in her back to actually offer quality movement.

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