Horses naturally live on the forehand and yet can move freely to shift their weight as needed in order to rebalance themselves without a handler or rider. Learning a “weight bearing” posture is critical for a horse to be able to maintain his own balance while balancing the rider on his back without comprising his own ability to move freely.
Training horses how to shift their own balance from the forehand more evenly over all four feet and lift from the base so as not to brace into forward movement, allows horses to carry riders more efficiently with less stress. Horses working in this “weight bearing posture” have improved safety, soundness, freedom of movement, longevity, and more ease in training.
It is from this dynamic posture that horses can use their legs independently, come through with the energy from the hind quarters, lift their backs, telescope their necks while lifting through the withers and base, and find self-carriage.
In contrast, the opposite of a weight bearing posture is an “on-the-forehand” posture. This predisposes a horse to have more tension and bracing while being ridden, be more prone to crookedness, lameness and unreliability, and to exhibit more evasions. Horses ridden in this way cannot use their legs independently, engage their hind end, nor use their backs effectively. Their ability to telescope their neck and lift the withers and base is also severely restricted as they tend to contract and raise their heads in transitions and forward movement.
Many horses are ridden and trained in this posture, and it limits their freedom of motion and their ability to perform optimally.
For more information, refer to Connect with Your Horse from the Ground by Peggy Cummings.