Collection? getting a rounded neck... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 06:09 PM Thread Starter
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Collection? getting a rounded neck...

what's the best and most effective way to get a horse to lower his head and round his neck at the trot? and canter?

I use low hands on a certain horse but he still keeps his head high. but the slower he goes, the lower his head. (naturall for all horses) the only way i did this was by doing many circles and contanstantly useing the half-halt, is there an easier way?

thanks abunch!
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post #2 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 06:19 PM
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A lot of people make the mistake of thinking "if my horse's head is down, it means they are rounded." This is incorrect thinking and will lead to problems down the road.

Here's a post I made a long time ago:

Consistancy is the key here.
First, if your horse is young, I wouldn't worry so much about the headset as impulsion and being forward. The headset can come later. If your youngster pulls a lot, you have to teach him (him, right?) the basics of self-carraige; don't let him pull on your hands, much less lean on them. He can carry his own heavy head, you shouldn't have to!
To get a youngster (or any horse, come to think of it!) to get a headset, they must learn self-carraige. You want your horse to be able to move freely and loosely through the body, with forward impulsion and the ability to supple to the inside and outside either direction, before asking for headset. Headset should not be a priority with a young horse. I would rather see a youngster with flowing movement and its head above the vertical than a short-necked, short-striding horse.
Okay, so onwards and upwards:
First off, for a youngster, you should be asking for a "long and low" headset, rather than your typical dressagey "chin tucked in" headset. By this, I mean I would like to see the horse round through the back and neck, with the neck low, and chin tucked slightly in - think hunter horse style, with the poll at the height of the wither. I do not like to see your typical dressage "swan" neck - that will come later with training.
Now comes the controversial part, where people argue whether to "check and give" with the outside or inside. I have tried both training methods, and for flatwork, or dressage training, this way works best. I took a clinic from Leslie Reid (a top dressage competitor from Canada) and she did things this way.
To do this: get your horse moving forward at a walk, and hold steady with your inside rein. make a "checking and giving" motion with your outside rein - this is not a big motion, but more like squeezing the water out of a sponge. The horse should not resist this action, rather move into it. A good headset comes from leg, so you do not want your horse to slow down at all while you are asking them to give to the rein. Keep asking them forward with your leg, asking them to move into the contact, to move with your hand and leg in order to come down into your hand. They should be bending to the inside, not the outside.
This is a very difficult topic to explain without being there in a lesson, being able to see you and the horse. That introduction to giving to the rein is very breif, and I apologise for it, but I want to have fingers left after this post, not just bloody stubs.

I would strongly recommend some lessons with a professional trainer. Like I said, it is very hard to explain this without having the time to see you and your horse responding to the instructions, and seeing reactions.
I hope this helped a bit at least! "Centered Riding" by Sally Swift is a great tool in building a good foundation in dressage, so if you can get your hands on that book, I strongly recommend you buy it.
Best of luck!
ETA - please let me know if you'd like me to delve deeper. And yes, this was a post regarding a young horse, however the same principles go for older horses as well.

ETA II - Don't forget to reward the horse - if he's done well, then let him walk out on a loose rein for a few minutes, then resume work. If the horse is not used to carrying itself in a frame, then working in a frame will be fatiguing.

The lovely images above provided by CVLC Photography

Last edited by JustDressageIt; 11-18-2008 at 06:28 PM.
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post #3 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 06:51 PM
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Wow Great advice Allie!
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post #4 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 07:20 PM
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I agree with JDI.

Collection isn't just a rounded neck. It's the way the horse carries itself.
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post #5 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 07:31 PM
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Just to add - DO NOT sacrifice your position to the horse - keep your hands up in the correct position and don't use a "low hand" as it turns into habit.

The lovely images above provided by CVLC Photography
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post #6 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 08:49 PM
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I'm going to go ahead and disagree with some things said above. First of all, a typical dressage headset is not a "swan-neck". A swan-neck is the result of a pulled in neck broken at the 3rd vertebrae.
What we want to think of when we are riding is not riding forward, not riding in a headset, but riding in balance. A balanced horse is a happy horse, and it is when we try to achieve a frame through either pulling our horses into one, or running them into the bridle that our horses become unbalanced and unhappy. Yes a balanced horse is one with a forward thinking stride and he will carry his own head and neck, but we do not create balance through the application of these two results.
In order to achieve balance, we must first ride our horses in a correct stride. They should be absolutely rhythmical, like a clock or metronome and they should feel as if they are taking you forward. Never push. Ever. It is almost as big of a sin in riding as pulling. The horse must go forward from your leg and you must never ever push or pump in your seat, back or leg. Then you just shorten your reins with a soft, steady arm to create contact. Keep your elbow soft, and stay toned in your back with your shoulders back. Never pull back. Create the movement into the bridle and let the horse find the contact, the stride and the frame absolutely naturally.
The best analogy I have stumbled upon is to think about making the horse's spine longer. Just 1/16" at a time, slowly make it longer and longer, and through this length of spine the horse finds his balance.

I would highly suggest finding a good trainer in your area and taking weekly lessons, also taking lunge lessons on a schoolmaster will help you develop your feel and teach you the feeling so you can teach your horse. Keep up with your reading and audit as many dressage clinics as possible. Learning dressage is a very long road, good luck :)
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post #7 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 08:53 PM
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It sounds like you wish to get your horse "on the bit" as we say in dressage. The most important thing is to get your horse relaxed and supple first and always going forward (even at the walk), use half-halts to get your horse to engage from behind and create impulsion. Do not crank on your horse's mouth to try to get him into a correct frame. You will only get a resentful horse. Gently pick up a steady contact on the reins (keeping your hands low and quiet) and as you feel a soft contact with your horse's mouth, feel it give freely. Getting your horse "on the bit" doesn't happen over night. It may take alot of riding forward with gentle, steady contact with easy give and take and plenty of half-halts as you go along.
But once you get it, it's a wonderful feeling.
Be patient and ask a trainer for help.
But whatever you do, don't try to force it!
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post #8 of 13 Old 11-18-2008, 09:31 PM
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I was using the "swan neck" analogy as representing a higher neck carraige, not breaking incorrectly.

The lovely images above provided by CVLC Photography
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post #9 of 13 Old 11-19-2008, 02:03 PM
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The most important thing to use are your legs. When you are giving constant presure with your legs the horses head "has" to go down, because the horse tences up his stomach muscels and therefor relaxes his back muscels, which lets the neck-back band (I'm not sure if you call it that in english?) strech, which makes the horse move more comfortably. You notice it's easier to sit when the horse is trotting for instance since the back is more elastic. A lose tail that hangs loosly a bit rounded is a great indicator.
Don't throw away your hands! When your horse relaxes his back muscels, which lowers his head you want to slowly pick up the rains (befor you should hold the rain short enogh that you DON'T pull but not long enogh so that they hang through). Basically your horse is asking for the bit and you "give" it to him. Your elbow, wrist, rain and bit should be one straight line. You shouldn't have alot of pressure on the bit but the horse is suposed to use the bit as help. I can't think of the right word to discribe it... Anyway that's basically as far as most people can take it. After that you work on more Impusion, straightening your horses natural unbalance and THEN you come to collection (compleatly engaged hindquarters, horses head comes higher naturally, compleat self carrige and so on)
Yes, this is the ideal way things work. I can only speak for myself but it gets pretty frustaiting when your horse decides that rules don't apply to him/her. But If you keep working on yourself usually it turnes out you were the one doing the wrong thing...
Hope you can understand some of what I'm trying to say. Basically use more legs and don't throw away the rains!
Hope you find a salution.
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post #10 of 13 Old 11-19-2008, 02:43 PM
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I make sure my horse is relaxed. These days it's all about "Pull into position" method. If your horse is holding his bit. Go to halt and squeeze your hands. It doesn't hurt for a horse, it just puts pressure into his mouth. His will want to escape from the pressure and will go on the bit and let his bit go.
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