Getting Your Horse’s Rear in Gear
Corey Cushing says a horse’s hindquarters should power the entire equine vehicle.
Article and photos by Annie Lambert
The powertrain of any wheeled vehicle is designed to transform energy into propulsion. No matter the discipline, a performance horse must engage its hindquarters in much the same way to produce the forward motion needed to complete its “road test.”
“I think of the horse’s rear end as my drivetrain,” says Indio, California, trainer Corey Cushing. “All my power comes from the back end, whether I’m spinning, running down, doing stops, rollbacks, circling or working a cow.
“You have to have your motor up underneath you in order to do the maneuvers correctly.”
A performance horse that is not a smooth, fluid mover in today’s competitive show pen may find itself catching a bus to an alternate occupation. However, Cushing believes that some of those less-than-desirable lopers are capable of improving their style when taught to drive from the hindquarters, rather than pulling the ground with their fore legs.
“I definitely think you can improve a horse’s stride by making him drive from behind rather than leaving his rear end strung out behind him as he’s pulling his body with the front end,” says Cushing. “Pulling like that also puts added strain on the front tendons and suspensories.
“If a horse is up underneath himself and carrying his body correctly and balanced, it will save the horse soundnesswise and improve his motion.”
Conformation in Motion
How horses travel is ultimately determined by their conformation. Although we can help the way a horse moves with applicable training, their athletic performance is pretty much predetermined by physical attributes, according to trainer Corey Cushing.
“I like a nice strong hip and gaskin on a horse, and a hock that is low to the ground,” says Cushing. “I have had good-moving, big stoppers that were not made to perform that way; generally, you have to help the horses that are not physically gifted with added training.”
Cushing believes watching a yearling romp in the pasture offers a preview to what type of mover it will be at futurity time. Beyond looking for good conformation, the trainer likes to watch a colt cover the ground at a gallop and roll off a pasture- or round pen fence.
“Not all good horses are the greatest movers,” says Cushing. “I’m from the school that many horses can be improved with the right training. There are drills that teach horses how to handle their bodies and improve their carriage and balance.”