Staying on Track
You’ll never overface your horse, if: (a) he has rhythm and (b) his topline is soft and pliable so he can receive your messages.
Here’s how you might think about these two qualities:
Rhythm. The aids are given within the rhythm of the gait and your power source must be in that rhythm so you have timing and a feel for the motion of your horse. Without rhythm, you don’t have access to your horse’s back, which means his topline will be tight and as a result, you don’t have permission to get louder. If your aids get louder when the topline is tight, your horse will scoot, break or lock. If you have rhythm, you can explain your wishes clearly to him.
Topline. If you try to bend a board, it’s going to snap before it shapes itself. The horse’s back must be shapable and soft like wire coat hanger. It must bend so you can ply it. The topline must feel like it can be molded and you have access to it.
As you do the numbers exercise, the topline should be tended to all the time. You’re shaping and suppling so your horse can receive the message with the next number and the next number. With rhythm and with a topline that is able to receive your message or your directives with clarity, you will rarely overface a horse. You can easily add more energy, more motivation, more precision or get a quicker balance shift.