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Q&A: Improving a pony’s topline

Expert advice on improving a pony which has too much muscle on the underside of the neck and not enough on top

Q: My daughter’s new pony has a large muscle on the underside of his neck and has a dip just in front of the wither. What can I do to try and improve this?

Pony showing expert Patricia Hardcastle replies: Your pony has a conformation fault, which can be improved with the correct care and work, but will never be removed.

To confirm whether this incorrect musculature is caused by nature or nurture you need to look into your pony’s parentage. Try to locate pictures of its sire and dam, and grandparents if possible, to see if any of these ponies had this conformational fault.

A thick underneck can also be caused by a pony being kept in a stable where the door is too high for it to look over comfortably, causing it to strain to see out. This may have been the case atthe pony’s former home but also check the pony’s present home to make sure.

  • Are the stable doors at a comfortable height for the pony?
  • What height are your fences?
  • Does the pony stand with his head over the field gate for longperiods waiting to come in?
  • At what height is the pony fed hard feed, water and hay?

Stable doors, fencing and gates should be cut down or adjusted to allow the pony to put its head over comfortably. Hay, water and hard feed should be fed on the floor to encourage the pony to stretch the muscles on top of the neck.

Regular lunging in correctly adjusted side reins fitted in a low position will encourage the pony to work the muscles at the top of the neck and back which will help develop topline and encourage the muscles under the neck to become less active.

This problem should be addressed urgently as some ponies with thick necks learn to set their neck and jaw to take advantage of a small rider. Prevention of this habit is far easier than trying to cure it once it becomes established.

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