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High Head Set

This is a discussion on High Head Set within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Horse training high head
  • High set neck dressage horse

 
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    01-01-2010, 04:44 AM
  #1
Weanling
High Head Set

One of the things I'm trying to work on with my OTTB mare is her headset. I know she can carry it nice and low, because she does when I walk her around to warm her up or cool her out, but when we trot she jacks it up, and at the canter it's not quite as bad, but still not as low as I'd like. I'm not really that concerned about "prettiness" right now, I just don't want her to be able to evade my cues (and develop unsightly under-the-neck muscles...eww).

Here are some things that I've thought about:

A. Her teeth don't seem to be bothering her, (she doesn't drop grain or chomp on the bit) but I'm going to get them floated in the spring, just in case.

B. The person who owned her for a few months before me rode her in some sort of weird (no offense to anyone) saddleseat elevated bit. So I think that might contribute to the problem. The fact that my mare dealt with it without trying to dump them constantly is a testament to her temperament, in my opinion.

C. I've been lunging her with success. I'm going to add in side reins and see if that helps.

D. If side reins go well, I'd like to add in draw reins while I'm riding her. I realize that they need to used with care and I shouldn't become completely reliant on them. I've used them before. I just think that it might help me communicate to her what I want.

Is there anything that I'm missing in my game plan? Is there anything else I need to consider? Advice? Cautions? Anything? All wisdom is appreciated.
     
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    01-01-2010, 04:49 AM
  #2
Yearling
Your riding... just something to think about. Are you completely balanced?
     
    01-01-2010, 07:55 AM
  #3
Weanling
I personally would suggest against side reins and draw reins. I know there will be many different opinions here, but a true headset comes from the back forward. Its not just a matter of the horse learning flexion and how to break the neck, that method is actually not good for the horse. You need to teach your horse to track evenly through the legs, allow her to release the topline, engage the abdominals, and lift the back, lifting the neck through c6 and c7 to get that thing that everyone refers to as a headset. A good headset isn't the start of a good horse, its the end result of a well trained horse horse, working correctly physically. Its not a fast process, however people have learned to look at the headset for the "beauty" of the ride, ignoring the negative effects that the forced headset has on the rest of the body. Like mentioned above, your riding ability is also important here, as it is a direct influence on your horse.
     
    01-01-2010, 09:54 AM
  #4
Trained
Quote:
Your riding... just something to think about. Are you completely balanced?
That is exactly what I was thinking. Instead of pointing your finger at the horse, stop and look at the 3 others pointing back at you.

If your mare carries her head normally at the walk, and while you are leading her, I'd be questioning your seat.

It is a possibillity that she is dropping her back, to evade your seat - and when she hollows out her back, her head goes up.

I am also going to assume that she has no topline - no topline means a weak back, neck, rump.

Sorry, I have to leave for work -
     
    01-01-2010, 01:12 PM
  #5
Weanling
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlitterBug    
I personally would suggest against side reins and draw reins. I know there will be many different opinions here, but a true headset comes from the back forward. Its not just a matter of the horse learning flexion and how to break the neck, that method is actually not good for the horse. You need to teach your horse to track evenly through the legs, allow her to release the topline, engage the abdominals, and lift the back, lifting the neck through c6 and c7 to get that thing that everyone refers to as a headset.
But how? That's my question. What can I do to start this process?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlitterBug    
A good headset isn't the start of a good horse, its the end result of a well trained horse horse, working correctly physically.
So does that mean I shouldn't worry about her headset right now, since I'm still working on teaching her more elementary things like more refined steering, setting a pace at the canter, leads, etc?

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlitterBug    
Its not a fast process, however people have learned to look at the headset for the "beauty" of the ride, ignoring the negative effects that the forced headset has on the rest of the body.
Like I said, I'm not concerned about the "beauty" of the ride / looking beautiful to others. I just worry about her over-developing those muscles underneath her neck instead of those on her topline, and it's easier for her to evade my cues whenever her head is that high in the air.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FlitterBug    
Like mentioned above, your riding ability is also important here, as it is a direct influence on your horse.
Well, I'm not going to say I'm an amazing rider - I'm not. I've taken lessons for about two years and ridden at my university for three years, so I do know something. I know that if I had gotten a typical OTTB horse with a typical OTTB temperament, I'd probably be severely injured by now, but Lyra is very willing and not mareish at all. I bought her as a long-term project, and I'm in no rush to go anywhere with her. I'm just trying to figure out what I can do to be a better trainer. I didn't think to examine my riding first, and that was stupid. If I find a clip of me riding her would you be able to point out areas that I need to improve?

One last question: so you don't think the saddleseat type bit that her previous, brief, owner rode her in could be part of the reason for her headset?

Quote:
Originally Posted by MIEventer    
That is exactly what I was thinking. Instead of pointing your finger at the horse, stop and look at the 3 others pointing back at you.

If your mare carries her head normally at the walk, and while you are leading her, I'd be questioning your seat.

It is a possibillity that she is dropping her back, to evade your seat - and when she hollows out her back, her head goes up.

I am also going to assume that she has no topline - no topline means a weak back, neck, rump.

Sorry, I have to leave for work -
Yes, she does have a weak topline. When I got her she was severely underweight, but she's gained weight and muscle since then, just not that much.

So what can I do better with my seat to keep her from evading it?

Anything else you feel like saying after you get back from work would be greatly appreciated. =)
     
    01-01-2010, 01:47 PM
  #6
Yearling
RL,I am going to try to talk about the process from a Western training point of view.
This is not something that can be covered in a couple of paragraphs and is much easier in person.

You might have heard the statement "You can not have vertical flexion until you have lateral flexion".

Obviously the horse can eat off the ground and all horses do have the ability to put their head down.
The key is to get them in the mood to do so.
You have to start getting the braces out of the neck and have a horse free and willing to bend left to right with minimum pressure.
This is started from the ground and progresses to the mounted position.

Pain is usually the first thing that stops the horse from lowering their head but fear,anxiety,nervousness all contribute to their lack of willingness.

As the head and neck bend and become free,then the head will in many cases just drop and relax.
At this point the OTHER rein is brought into play just a touch.
This produces a momentary "Tuck" and then you as the rider release as a reward.
You might only get one stride in this position before the release.
This is what you build on and it improves as time goes on.
This is the "Work".
You (as the trainer) build up to these moments and help your horse learn that it is comfortable to travel this way and they are safe.
     
    01-01-2010, 01:54 PM
  #7
Trained
Does your flex her head laterally and vertically? Do you have control of her front quarters and hindquarters independently? How much time to you spend at the trot without asking anything else of her?

If she won't flex vert and lat then you won't be able to lower her head even with drawreins and if she will you won't need them. If you can place her feet where you need them she will soon relaxe and put her head down because you won't need to pull on her head as much. The more you trot her without asking her for anything else the more relaxed she will get about it and her head will level out.
     
    01-01-2010, 01:56 PM
  #8
Trained
Marecare also offers great advice.
     
    01-01-2010, 02:34 PM
  #9
Foal
If your horse was ridden saddle seat she may be trying to do what she thinks you want her to do. You can teach her to lower her head with one easy lesson and then help her to strengthen her topline both on the ground as well as in the saddle.

Place a snaffle bit in her mouth (full cheek or dee ring) and from the ground apply downward pressure with the rein. As soon as her ears move the slightest bit down, release all pressure instantly. Continue this pressure and release until you get her head to the ground. When she will consistantly lower her head to the pressure try it from the saddle.

Apply pressure (upward to start) to the rein and wait for the ears to go down. Again work it until she takes her head to the ground. Then move to the walk when she is consistant at the stand still. Then move to the trot and the lope (do not take it to the ground at the lope).

If her head comes up after putting it down just ask again. Leave her alone when her head is where you want and she will learn that is her safe place. Do not work her with her head way down all the time, you are just asking for it as part of this lesson so she will learn to drop her head to the pressure. As she learns to drop her head to the pressure your hand will come back to normal riding position.

If her head gets too low or you want it up, apply the pressure and don't release until the head comes upward (just opposite of what you did before). The horse will learn to search for the release, you have to be consistant in only releasing when you get what you are looking for. The horse will learn the difference even though it seems the same to you.

Give it a try and see if it doesn't help her learn to place her head where you want.
     
    01-01-2010, 02:46 PM
  #10
Trained
Good advice is being given.
The only thing I have to add is please contact a dressage trainer in your area, or another instructor that can actually teach the basics of riding, and take some lessons.
Although it is nice to get advice on an internet forum, the only way to get a true evaluation of what is going wrong and how to fix it is to have a pair of knowledgeable and experienced eyes on the ground.

Good luck!
     

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