Horse Drops His Head in Canter

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Horse Drops His Head in Canter

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  • 1 Post By Shasta1981

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    04-07-2012, 04:26 PM
Horse Drops His Head in Canter

My instructor has recently been consistently putting me on a 19-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who I LOVE, but nearly every time we canter he starts to lower his head (usually not long after we start). He puts his head so low it pulls my hands down; it makes me feel way out of balance almost to the point of falling off. Does anyone know why he would do this- or what I can do to keep his head held higher?
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    04-07-2012, 05:20 PM
Subbing, my friend's horse was really bad for this.
Does he throw it down? Or does he just travel with it really low.
My friend's horse would throw his head down, quite annoying.
Normally I would just squeeze him up, or if he was being really bad give him a little kick. I only rode him a few times though. And that was a few years ago!
    04-07-2012, 09:08 PM
He doesn't really throw his head down- he starts out fine and then a little lower then he totally just drops it and then continues on like that. My instructor says I should just "ride him through it" but I'm not entirely sure what that means as it's hard to go on when he does this.

I've only been riding for 3 months after a 10+year absence (I stopped when I was 10), so I'm not quite sure what I'm doing just yet
    04-07-2012, 09:41 PM
Sounds like he is leaning on your hands. You will need to let up on the reins every so often so that he will carry himself. He can't lean unless you are giving him something to brace against. Correct timing with more leg will help. Learning to do this will take time. :)
    04-07-2012, 09:44 PM
Originally Posted by Shasta1981    
Sounds like he is leaning on your hands. You will need to let up on the reins every so often so that he will carry himself. He can't lean unless you are giving him something to brace against. Correct timing with more leg will help. Learning to do this will take time. :)
Contact is one of the things I'm struggling with, since I don't totally understand when I need to have more contact and when I don't. When you say he is leaning on my hands- does that mean I'm also pulling on his mouth?
    04-07-2012, 09:51 PM
Hard to know without seeing you ride, but since there is no give-and-take conversation going on you are likely pulling without realizing it.

Contact/feel are, in my opinion, the toughest to learn and is never-ending.
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    04-14-2012, 09:12 PM
Sounds just like what my Rusty used to do. He leaned on my hands at the canter and put his head down. For months of training he was doing this until we switched him from a D ring snaffle to a pelham. He respected the tougher bit (he was also very hardmouthed), and has never even attempted leaning since.

However, I have heard that working on tons of transitions helps. Also, riding spirals and working up and down hills is supposed to help the horse build his hind end. And half-halts whenever he starts leaning. My instructor always had me pull Rusty up with one rein everytime he got heavy. This does correct them, but Rusty was an extreme lean artist. :) Try those ideas.
    04-14-2012, 10:16 PM
It's natural for a horse to pull his head down a little at the canter, but if it's that much, I would advise practicing really good contact at the walk and trot first, then trying it out at the canter. Good luck!
    04-14-2012, 11:02 PM
This is just FWIW, based on a sample of 1...

My mare will sometimes pick up a nice, relaxed and fairly collected canter. Other times, she gets excited and goes way forward. When she does, she sometimes stretches her nose down to the ground. And I mean inches from the ground. The first time she did it, I thought something had happened to her - like a stroke or something. We were going at a fast canter, but her nose was just a few inches from the ground.

My other two don't do that [edit: in fact, one gelding tends to start with his head high, and THEN he moves to level], and we start the canter with slack in the reins. Also, I ride her with an Australian saddle and a western approach to using reins, altho with a simple snaffle bit. So it is NOT a case of her leaning on my hands. Not with a loose rein!

What I do is remove the slack and then pull her head up some. I try to shift MY weight to the rear, and then use whatever force I need to pull her head up to level. Then I milk the reins, very slight pressure on alternating sides in synch with her shoulder moving forward. She will then settle back, slow down some, and take up a canter about halfway between the collected canter she sometimes takes, and the very forward canter she takes the other times.

I've been thinking about it this week, and think she needs more work cantering on a lunge line - although I've never seen her put her head that low with a lunge line. I also think I need to work on shifting my weight further back. It is pretty easy to pull her neck level, so she isn't forcing the issue.

I don't know if that helps in any way. It freaked me out the first time she did it! It looks and feels really weird. Good luck!

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