Join Date: Dec 2010
Location: southern Arizona
Although I mostly use a saddle with English roots (Australian stock saddle), my approach to riding is more western. OTOH, my favorite books on riding are based on a forward seat, which is usually considered an English style.
VS Littauer broke riding into 3 levels of control. The main thing that distinguished the move from elementary control to intermediate control was getting the horse 'on the bit', or riding with continual contact. He thought most riders could meet their riding needs reasonably well with loose reins, but encouraged any rider to eventually ride with contact: the intermediate level.
He said horse move their heads for balance, and the first requirement for intermediate control was to have a solid, consistent seat. That was because soft and constant contact with the horse's mouth required the rider to move their hands and arms to match the horse's head. If your hands can't move independently of your rump, then you cannot have soft contact.
Without knowing anything about your riding, I'd encourage you to not worry about how vertical your horse's head is. There are disciplines where a vertical headset can be the result of correct movement by the horse, but it flows out of the correct balance and motion of the horse's body.
But long before that step comes riding with contact. There are books written on the subject, but it mostly seems to me to combine a solid seat, soft following contact and having something to 'say' to the horse that makes the horse believe 'listening' to the bit is worthwhile.
If you have more information you can share on what type of English riding you enjoy and the background of the horse you ride, it will help others to give you a better answer.
"People can teach us the rules, but only horses can teach us the art of riding."