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?
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?
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.
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?
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. =)