I know Arabians naturally carry their heads high, but what is the best way to get a decent head set? I use a running martingale when riding, which helps. I also lunge with side-reins. But I want her to behave when other people ride her as well. Suggestions, insights, advise please.
There are a million threads on "head set" - all of which come down to: if the horse is correct, its head will be correct. That means the horse must be using its body correctly.
Head down =/= correct. Problem is that most people think "headset!!!!!!!!" Not "correct body!!!"
Want to crank your horse's head down? Be my guest. But anyone who knows better will see that false frame.
Instead, learn how to ride the horse correctly back to front and from your seat and leg and your horse's head will become a barometer of success.
Forget the head. Concentrate on the body. When the body is correct, the head will automatically be correct. Posted via Mobile Device
Eeeeeeeeek!!! No!!! Do not drop your hands! Keep them up and drive from your seat and leg into your correct hand.
Seat and leg! Horse's body! Forget your hands and this awful notion of "head down." Posted via Mobile Device
JustDressageIt - Thanks for your help. I never thought of it that way. I tend to be very light with my hands and try really hard to drive with my seat and leg. I haven't gotten the hang of getting the horse to engage her hindend and get it underneath her the way she should yet.
Any breed of horse will have a proper head set if they are carrying their body correctly- the head follows the hind. Like JDI said, don't worry about forcing her head down into a certain head set- work on teaching yourself to get her to go properly, driving from behind. Her head set and correct frame will follow.
Here is a link to a small article on "creating a frame," which might help you. The Perfect Horse: How to create a frame
A high head is not a bad thing, especially for an Arabian. Trying to keep the head down of an Arab is not going to happen. It's not a natural position for them and it messes with their gaits.
So my advise is to ride your Arabian for what he is, work on softness throughout the body, flexion of the neck, obedience, openess of the hips and shoudlers, and general correctness of the gait and he will be fine. Don't worry so much about his head, he's not going to ride like a quarter horse.
If they are running around with a high head you'll end up with a sore backed horse , and you have one that is paying more attention to the environment than to you. High head set is fine once the horse has the strength to do it without a hollow back. But most horses never really get to that point.
Do you have any pictures? A 'high headset' means different things to different folks. This is Mia (my Arabian mare) totally relaxed:
This is Mia in a normal riding position:
This is Mia when she is concerned about having another horse near her, but not so much as to stiffen her back..or at least not very stiff. Any higher would get her a stiff back:
I don't have any pictures of her on full alert with her back hollowed out...we're usually kind of busy at that point. Let's just say I sometimes am tempted to bite her ears at that point...
I think it is more useful to pay attention to how she is moving and balanced. How stiff is her back? Is she moving loose, or with tension? At a canter, she used to stretch way out and get very heavy on the front - to the point I was worried we might flip. I will insist on a higher head at a canter because it helps her to shift her weight back, and I'll accept any tightness in the back in exchange for a safer balance. And as her balance is getting better, she is starting to do it right without getting stiff in the back.
As a suggestion, pay attention to how YOUR balance drives her balance. Where your center of gravity is, how much weight you carry in your rump vs thighs, how freely you move with her - those all play in to how she balances. And your goals in riding will affect what balance you want from her. Dressage is very different from speed. Don't look at other horses heads, but focus on what your goals are, where your horse is at right now, and how your balance and motion can help move her in the direction - over months or even years - in the direction you want.
All just IMHO. Mia and I are obviously a work in progress. Or I hope we're making progress...