I always have to squeeze and pull back a little to ask him,
If you're pulling back, you're riding front to back. Forget about his head and think about the rest of the body. The head "coming down" is merely an after affect of his hind legs coming under his center of gravity, which raises his back and shoulders, and the head comes down due to the newly taken shape of the horse's frame.
Instead of squeeze and pull back, try using flexion and bend. Most people who ride giraffes are riding dead straight horses. When the horse is first learning bit acceptance, a certain degree of bend is needed. When walk on contact (can feel the mouth but enough rein where nose can poke out a tad) practice flexing his head just enough so you can see in left eye and nostril, then straighten and do the same thing on the right. It's a very subtle rein and inside leg movement. What you're trying to get is a tiny degree of bend in the body. You can either practice it at the halt, walk or do shallow serpentines. You will find that, each time you flex/bend, your horse will start to reach into the contact rather than you having to take it. Make sure to never never never pull on the reins. Put them out there for him to take. Keep your fingers closed, thumbs up and feel your horse's mouth with a nice elastic contact. Once you get a feel for it at the walk, then you can try it at the other gaits. If you resort to pulling, you're just asking for a fight with most horses. Nothing good can come of it except for a pissy horse with a sore back.
I would totally agree with Kathy, things like martingales and draw reins are there to be used a couple of times to help fix a problem (draw reins at least, never found a use for martingales that good hands wouldn’t fix in the first place) and then put aside. Given that I wouldn’t totally agree that they are, or should be, a Band-Aid, to just cover a hole in the horses training, but that is usually exactly how people end up using them. Don’t be too worried about it, Kathy has given you some good advice up there, look at what you are doing with your hands, look at why things are good at a walk, trot etc, and see if there is any difference in what you are doing at a canter. If there is no difference, go slow and let the horse come to the solution; go trying to force it through a few contraptions strapped to its head and you will likely just get a fight on your hands.
Kay, I have been a Dressage rider for a number of years. I have never felt the need to use a martingale to teach a horse to 'accept the bit'. The only time I have employed the use of draw reins, was on a particularly unconfident off the track thoroughbred who was terribly nervous about lowering his head and neck, and carrying himself. Draw reins for two rides gave him the idea that he COULD drop his head and neck. After that I never used them again.
The problem with these gadgets when used for a situation SO simple as a rider error, is that they end up as bandaids every time something goes wrong. Draw reins, when used on a horse that really would be perfectly fine without them, or with a rider who does not have experience in their use, teach a horse to evade the bit. Yes, you may get a 'pretty head set' but the horse is not working anywhere near correctly.
Martingales are great for horses that will toss their head to dangerous levels. NOT for strapping their head down to 'teach them' how to 'accept the bit'.
This is a bandaid, a short cut, and will lead to long term education and balance problems.
As a rider, I would MUCH rather learn how to ride by taking the long route, than slapping on a piece of leather and 'faking it' to achieve a short term solution.
I didn't say use draw reins, I said if your brave enough. My suggestion is a running martingale. It is a tool that is isd with the snaffle in training to aid with the snaffle to make the horse submit to you and the reins. I am not an inexperienced rider or trainer. That is just my opinion. Maybe you have a different opinion, but there is no right or wrong way between us Posted via Mobile Device
These are just opinions. Please don't take any of this advice as right or wrong. Try all of it!! Experiment because depending on your horse, different solutions will look better! Posted via Mobile Device
A running martingale does not restrict them I'm any way inless you are pulling on it or the horse raises its head out of the comfort zone Posted via Mobile Device
Well, this is where you're mistaken.....you say a running martingale does not restrict them in anyway UNLESS you are pulling or the horse raises its head out of the comfort zone.......to me it sounds like this horses head has a comfort zone of 'up in the air' therefore it will be restricted by the running martingale....
In theory, a running martingale should provide a place with a release from the pressure if the horse keeps his head below a certain point.
What I dont' like about them it that it takes what should be a direct line of contact and feel from the elbow through the hand to the bit, and puts a "kink" in it, when activated( a downward pull literally puts an angle in what was a straigtht rein to the bit) . It translated the pressure from a straight back and very adjustible one, to one that pulls downward on the bars of the horse.
This is much more uncomfortable for the horse and builds tension in the horse, expressed in the jaw and neck. Horses that spend much of their ridden time in running martingales (or draw reins) often have enlarged muscles on the front of the neck, and this is from them bracing to protect themselves. It becomes a rigid way of holding themselves and can translate into a very hollowed out and stiff back, with the back muscles all firing. This is just the opposite of what the OP is striving for.
You may say, well, the martingale doesn't come into play unless the horse raises his head. True, but if it is adjusted where it comes into play soon enough to teach somethign, then the contact on the bit will go from direct (hand/elbow/straight line = good) to (downward on bars = bad) very quickly, and then back off, on, then off, on then off as the horse moves around trying to find release from this> If the rider does not have very good feel and ability to follow the horse , the connection gets so jumbled that it makes for very bad communication.
If you use the martingale much looser, then it doesn't even come into play until the horse's head is way up. This might be the lesser of the two evils. But, then, why have it? If the hrose throws it's head up enough to break your nose, put a standing martingale on it. Otherwise, if it puts it's head up, you DON"T try to pull it back down by lowering your hands. NO
You follow it up. With your hands, keeping a steady but unrewarding contact on it, until . . . It looks for a way out from the contact by lowering it's head. And I don't mean a total lowering, I mean it flexes a bit at the poll andjust even THINKS about bringing its' head down. THEN you release and reward. YOU TEACH it to bring it's head down using YOUR hands and your unwarped direct line contact to its' mouth.
A running martingale that is being used to get a horse to drop their head is being used incorrectly as a gadget to mask a training hole. The correct use of a RM is for a horse that throws his head wildly and may hit the rider in the face with it. If it is adjusted tight enough that it is not allowing him to carry his head "like a giraffe" then it is adjusted wrong and you are using it incorrectly.
This martingale is adjusted correctly. Note the correct line from elbow to bit, and the way the rings of the martingale can easily reach the throat latch of the horse.
This martingale is not being used correctly. See how the rings can't meet the throat latch of the pony? Also note that if the rider was to take up correct contact, the line from elbow to bit would be broken.
Running martingales are not used to keep a horse's head down into a headset, they are a piece of safety equipment. Any other use is a gadget, and should be sorted out by training and not a band-aid.