Tossing head when asked for upward transitions - The Horse Forum

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post #1 of 29 Old 03-09-2012, 12:14 PM Thread Starter
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Question Tossing head when asked for upward transitions

So here's a little video to get an idea of how my mare moves. Sometimes (especially when she's on a little looser rein) my mare tosses her head up in the air when I ask for the upward transition (simply by squeezing my legs). The only time I can get her to do it without tossing her head is if I continuously squeeze the inside rein while I ask with my legs so that she's almost "distracted" by the rein and can't throw her head up. But I don't know if that's the correct way to go about this.

So dressage riders out there, what advice would you give me to correct this issue?

NOTE: We were NOT doing dressage in this video, we were actually doing some work getting my mare to slow down her canter and wait for me in between fences, so I am aware how horrid our form looks LOL...but at 16 seconds, you can kinda see what she does with tossing her head up when I ask her for an upward (this was a walk to canter, but she'll do it walk to trot as well).


Right now, we're doing a lot of "long and low" work and work with side reins on the lounge to build up her topline and get her balanced, but just wondering if the head toss is related to that, more of a balance issue, or whether it's a bad habit she's forming that I need to correct now before it gets worse.

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post #2 of 29 Old 03-09-2012, 06:45 PM
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She is very much on the forehand - a horse that is thumping along on its front legs has to throw its head up in a transition, to stop itself face planting. It uses its neck for balance.
When you are able to get this horse off the forehand, forward and into a reasonable contact, you will find that the head tossing will cease.
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post #3 of 29 Old 03-09-2012, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Kayty View Post
She is very much on the forehand - a horse that is thumping along on its front legs has to throw its head up in a transition, to stop itself face planting. It uses its neck for balance.
When you are able to get this horse off the forehand, forward and into a reasonable contact, you will find that the head tossing will cease.
Yep. Agree 100% based on experience.
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post #4 of 29 Old 03-10-2012, 07:52 AM Thread Starter
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Makes a lot of sense, thanks! I've been doing a lot of work with her at the walk to try to get her to sit back when I ask but I think her conformation definitely makes getting off the forehand a challenge. Transitions are definitely something that tends to help us when we do them over and over. Any recommendations for exercises to get her off the forehand?
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post #5 of 29 Old 03-10-2012, 09:20 AM
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The best exercise to get my horse to "sit back" and what has worked for me was to back her up. When you ask for an upward transition and she "jumps" into it or tosses her head, immediately back her up and take off again. Don't tear on her mouth but just so she will begin to engage her hind end when transitioning.
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post #6 of 29 Old 03-10-2012, 09:45 AM
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I think a part of the problem here is loose or inconsistent contact.

When you ask an unbalanced horse to canter without maintaining steady contact, you give them the freedom to toss their head in the air and that hollows their back out.

Improving self carriage while maintaining a stronger contact will help with balanced transitions both up and down.
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post #7 of 29 Old 03-10-2012, 11:27 AM
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Another thing, I see you using your hands a lot to control your horses movement. Use your body.

Going through some of your pics on your FB page, you really need to work on using your body. Seat into legs into hands - seat first, legs to work with your seat and your hands containing that energy created.

Use your body to get her to engage forward, to lift that back up into your seat. Allow her to open up and move under herself. Yes, this will be a lot of work due to her breed and how she is built, but you have to remember that in order for her to be correct, you must be too.

This will also fix the speedy horse at the canter too.
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post #8 of 29 Old 03-10-2012, 11:39 AM
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You're quite heavy with your hands. You're using them and the reins hard to hold and steer.

I'd have you on the lunge and doing transitions and turns using legs and seat only
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post #9 of 29 Old 03-10-2012, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by MIEventer View Post
Another thing, I see you using your hands a lot to control your horses movement. Use your body.

Going through some of your pics on your FB page, you really need to work on using your body. Seat into legs into hands - seat first, legs to work with your seat and your hands containing that energy created.

Use your body to get her to engage forward, to lift that back up into your seat. Allow her to open up and move under herself. Yes, this will be a lot of work due to her breed and how she is built, but you have to remember that in order for her to be correct, you must be too.

This will also fix the speedy horse at the canter too.
Yes, agreed completely.

The horse is simply responding to what she is being asked to do. Horses are always a product of their environment and their rider. Ditch the stirrups, stop gripping with your legs and use the seat of your saddle!! I bet the seat of your saddle looks brand new and the flaps are well worn - you need to think about wearing your saddle evenly.

In the part right by the camera where you pull her right up, your bum almost goes behind the saddle!! The seat needs to be in there, driving the hind legs forward and restricting forward movement. A halt or half halt does not come from the hands, and on a well trained horse and rider, during a halt or half halt the rider actually gives the reins incrementally to give more space for the horse to stay infront of the leg in the downward transition.

Good luck! Lunge lessons are awesome and so is putting a bucking strap on your saddle and holding onto it so you physically can't pull and are forced to sit down and use your seat.
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post #10 of 29 Old 03-10-2012, 07:57 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for the advice all! :)
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