Horse pushing his head towards the ground while riding? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 05:57 AM Thread Starter
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Horse pushing his head towards the ground while riding?

Hi everyone,
When I'm lunging and riding my young gelding, whether he's in a walk or trot, he's been pushing his head toward the ground as if to get to the grass, but not actually extending fully to the ground. At first I thought he could just be trying to eat while he's working, but he's also been doing it while in the sand arena, and on the rare occasion that he's actually able to snatch a mouthful of grass, the movement of his head toward the ground feels slightly different (if that makes any sense). Any idea why he could be doing this, and how I could stop him? I wouldn't mind him doing it but it's been pulling the reins through my hands and sometimes pulling me almost out of the saddle.
Thanks in advance!
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post #2 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 06:11 AM
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I'd have to see a video of this, but, from what I'm reading, this is a good thing and you don't want to stop it. He is stretching down, lifting his back and engaging his hindquarters. All those are good, no great!, things!

While wouldn't allow it during a serious workout, I will allow it afterwards as a reward. Don't stop him from doing this, but limit it more to your terms if that makes sense. When he's doing it in a serious workout, push him forward more with your legs and keep your hands steady. He'll forget about stretching and move forward and give to the bit. Once you achieve what you want, relax, let your reins out and let him stretch.
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post #3 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 06:27 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CLaPorte432 View Post
I'd have to see a video of this, but, from what I'm reading, this is a good thing and you don't want to stop it. He is stretching down, lifting his back and engaging his hindquarters. All those are good, no great!, things!

While wouldn't allow it during a serious workout, I will allow it afterwards as a reward. Don't stop him from doing this, but limit it more to your terms if that makes sense. When he's doing it in a serious workout, push him forward more with your legs and keep your hands steady. He'll forget about stretching and move forward and give to the bit. Once you achieve what you want, relax, let your reins out and let him stretch.
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Thanks so much for your quick reply!
So I'm glad it's not a bad thing he's doing, but I'm just curious as to how I can keep this from affecting my seat. The only real problem I have with it is that it's either pulling the reins out of my hands so I have to quickly scramble to gather them again, or it's actually pulling me forwards and almost out of the saddle. Sometimes if I'm trotting he'll do it and I'll almost get thrown over his head! Haha I'm not the most experienced rider in the world, so it's really making it difficult to stay balanced if he does this while in a trot.
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post #4 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 06:48 AM
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As said, you actually want to encourage it, when he stretches down let the reigns run through your hands to keep only a light contact and keep going forwards.. that is relaxing for them and also strengthens the back muscles so you can ride safer.
It can possibly be due to him wanting to escape the contact, but cannot say much without a video..
The horse I ride stretches rarely, he mainly tosses his head about when the owner rides him, as the contact is too much, and we are about to get his teeth done too..

You should just work on balancing yourself in the saddle better no matter what the horse does,and not hold on to the reigns too much.. its extremly good when a horse stretches forward without a trainer riding him, sso be happy :) don't make him stop doing that, unless suddenly you work with a trainer with more correct positioning of his body.
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post #5 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 07:01 AM Thread Starter
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Again, thanks for the help! I'll definitely keep all your advice in mind next time he does it :)
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post #6 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 10:36 AM
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It could also be bit evasion.
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post #7 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 11:01 AM
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Stretching the head way low does not round their backs. See here:
"The thought that the lowering of the neck does increases the range of motion of the horseís thoracolumbar spine is also inaccurate. Measurements have been made recording loss and gains in vertebral mobility when the neck is lowered. The experiment involved five specimens. All the five specimens gained vertebral mobility between T6 and T9 when the neck was lowered. T6 and T9 is the front part of the withers. Such gain of mobility is mainly due to the fact that the supraspinous ligament, which is the continuation over the tip of the dorsal spines of the nuchal ligament, is still somewhat elastic until T9. One of the five specimens lost mobility between T9 and T14 when the neck was lowered. The other four specimens did not gain vertebral mobility in the same area, associated with the lowering of the neck. Another specimen lost vertebral mobility between T14 and T18 when the neck was lowered. The other specimens did not gain mobility in this specific area when the neck was lowered. All the specimens lost vertebral mobility in the lumbar vertebrae. The five specimens gained mobility in the lumbosacral junction. This was explained in a previous publication and is the reason why uneducated observations lead to the belief that the lumbar vertebrae flex when the neck is lowered."
Stretching the Neck
"One of the most common deceptions is the belief that the lowering of the neck flexes the lumbar vertebrae and increases their range of motion. The optical illusion was explained in 1986 by Jean Marie Denoix. The lowering of the neck reduces the mobility of the lumbar vertebrae. This is true for every horse. Stiffening of the lumbar vertebrae hampers proper dorso-ventral rotation of the pelvis and therefore sound kinematics of the hind legs. In order to compensate for the stiffening of the lumbar vertebrae, the horse increases the work of the iliopsoas muscles, which swings the hind limbs forward. Since the iliopsoas is placed under the lumbosacral junction, increased work of the iliopsoas muscle does induce greater rotation of the lumbosacral junction. This lumbosacral rotation does give the optical illusion that the whole lumbar region moves. In fact, the lumbar vertebrae do not flex. Instead, the horse compensates for the rigidity of the lumbar spine, that was created by the lowering of the neck, with greater intensity in the lumbosacral junction that is situated behind the lumbar vertebrae. The theories of relaxation, stretching and greater mobility of the vertebral column are naÔve interpretations of a mechanism which in fact, is working exactly the opposite way."
Equine Back Research

When a horse stretches their neck down almost to the ground, or is "sometimes pulling me almost out of the saddle", it isn't a good thing to encourage.That sort of motion puts the snaffle bit against the teeth, and allows the horse relief from the bit by resting it against the molars. My mare did it often enough, combined with stretching her head out in a run, to become very good at getting the 'bit in her teeth' - which is why I now ride her in a curb bit. I can ride her in a snaffle and she'll do fine - 98% of the time. But she knows what she needs to do if she wants to totally ignore the bit, which is unsafe for us both.

I can't give you good advice on how to stop your horse from doing this, but I sure would not encourage it. Some lowering of the head is associated with relaxing parts of the back, so some can be a good thing. Lowering it almost to the ground while pulling hard on the bit, however, is not good. IMHO.

I'm not a pro, I don't train horses, I'm not highly experienced - so take this FWIW.
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... Energy is an admirable thing, but the energy of stupidity seldom avails much..." - On Seats and Saddles (1868), Francis Dwyer, Major of Hussars (light cavalry)
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post #8 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 12:15 PM
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That is why a video is needed, to see how it actually happens, if the rider affects the horse, or it is actually lowering it just to the point where it does stretch the whole body, of course, there are many reasons why a horse will pull its head down, sniffing the dust is way too low, theoretically the muzzle should lower to the level of their knees, not lower, to stretch out..
that is one video that seems to explain it quite well...
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post #9 of 11 Old 09-08-2013, 06:32 PM
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I would agree that it sounds potentially like an avoidance, yes you want stretching down but he needs to understand he can't pull you out of the saddle, which suggests he is heavy on the forehand rather than stretched down and engaged behind.

I would try just pushing him on gently when he does it but making sure there is not an increase in pace by using your seat and don't pull but set your hand for that brief second so he can't pull you. If you are lunging just drive him forward a bit gently.

Since he is young, and therefore impressionable, getting a trainer to observe and offer their opinion even if only for one lesson may be valuable.
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post #10 of 11 Old 09-14-2013, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saddlebag View Post
It could also be bit evasion.
This is what I was thinking, if he is pulling hard enough to yank the reins from your hands. It could be you are moving against his head and not with it. I had this problem, but once I realized what I was doing wrong it was easy to fix.

Also, don't balance with your reins, that puts unnecessary pressure on his mouth. Balance with your legs and your core.
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