If you ride a mare you might not be familiar with the tell-tale sounds of the stiff-backed gelding. That is, of course, of the squeaky sheath.

While at first it’s easy to blame a dirty sheath for the noise, most gelding owners can assure you that that is not the issue, but rather: When a gelding tightens his lumbar (lower) back, it likewise tightens the muscles around his “nether-regions” as well, causing air to noisily suck in and out of his sheath with every step.

Don’t be embarassed. It happens.

It is fairly common with geldings who are chronically tense, or simply during those rides when they are more tight in their muscles than usual. It can be influenced by conformation as well: short-backed horses, for example, are naturally more compact and more prone to rigidity.

So how do you remedy it?

Loosen the Back

At the rising trot, give a little squeeze with your inside leg when you post to encourage bend and a little lift with a softening hand. Maintain the rhythm with your seat, and slow the tempo if he becomes rushy. The idea is to lift and round the back while encouraging relaxation. Sometimes it’s easiest if you trot a large circle. following the natural curve of the circle with the bend you are asking for.

Another trick is canter/trot. When you notice the sound at the trot, it’s a giveaway that he is tight through his back. On a large circle, half-halt and canter, balance and steady the canter, then once you’ve had a couple strides of a balanced canter (give him at least half a dozen strides to settle in the gait), then ask him to trot. Half-halt to steady the trot then using the same inside leg aid as above, give a gentle squeeze when you rise while steadying his tempo with your seat, and half-halt ing with your seat to balance. This first breaks the habit with a freeing canter stretch, then brings him back and encourages him to lift and loosen.

If he is especially tight, it can also be helpful to encourage him to reach his neck forward and lower. Keep your impulsion happening, as this is not his chance to drop back into a walk or fall on the forehand; it’s simply allowing a little more liberty through the base of his neck to free his shoulder. In turn, it can help loosen his back as well.

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