Keeping a horse's head set - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 02-17-2010, 10:50 PM Thread Starter
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Keeping a horse's head set

I have two horses, one being a Paint just about to turn four and one being a Thoroughbred around the age of 16.

I just got my Thoroughbred about two years ago and just started riding my Paint and while having the TB I have mainly been focusing on calming her down and getting her to the point where she doesn't want to take off when I mount or ask her to move. Now that I have her calmer to the point where she is able to W/T/C with a nice flowing rhythm, I still don't feel she is very collected.

I have gotten a fairly nice headset from her with a lot of patience and effort with her constantly wanting to throw her head up. Finally, she is able to hold it for a few seconds with me trying very nicely to urge her on to keep it. However, this does not seem to help. And so my question is, how can I keep her head set to the point where I don't have to CONSTANTLY seesaw my reins and urge her forward to keep it down. Is there a way or something I can work on to make her eventually keep it on her own?

Thanks! :)
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post #2 of 6 Old 02-17-2010, 10:55 PM
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Well for starters, you're riding her all wrong. Seesawing does nothing but give her something to lean in to and creates a hard mouth. You can't ask her to bring her head down from the front, you have to bring her head down starting with her back end. I can't remember the specifics of it, but search "collection" in the dressage forum and you will find lots of helpful threads.

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post #3 of 6 Old 02-17-2010, 11:01 PM
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Easy, don't see saw your reins. That isn't a frame, that is just pulling her head down. Get her shoulders moving and off the forehand. Get her hind end under her with good energy. Hold a steady and soft contact with both reins that moves gently with her motion. If it helps, you can try holding your hands farther apart at first. Make sure your position is correct and you are soft and open in your body. There are other similar threads that give pointers on how to get a good contact around the forum, these are just some of the general basics. The goal of a good 'frame' isn't to get a horse's head down, it is to get a horse carrying himself in a comfortable and supple manner.

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Last edited by roro; 02-17-2010 at 11:04 PM.
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post #4 of 6 Old 02-17-2010, 11:13 PM
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You need to go and have a look in the dressage section. You have your terms very confused. Collection is nothing to do with a pretty head. Collection comes from a horse that is engaged, has a soft and swinging back, is carrying it's weight over it's hind legs and has a soft forehand. This is achieved after lots of strengthening work involving many correctly ridden transitions, lateral work, and changes of rein all off the forehand and engaged. Collection will come once you have all of this established.

All you want at this stage is for her to start using her hind legs to lift her forehand, stretch her back and thus the 'head set' will evolve from this.
Go and have a look through the dressage thread, there have been some very good posts on there lately regarding your problem.

You will see that you will get shot down on the dressage forum for thinking that you need to 'seesaw' to get a horse's head down. This teaches the horse to evade the bit by backing off it, or will evade by doing what she is doing now, and tossing her head constantly. It is not possible to get a horse to maintain a steady 'head set' by seesawing unelss you seesaw until the head is down and mouth is gaping, then fix your reins and pull back so you jam the horse's head on it's chest. You'll get a nice 'head set' doing that, but you'll also create an unwilling and unsound horse.
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post #5 of 6 Old 02-18-2010, 08:34 AM
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Seesawing the reins is most likely what is causing her to toss her head. Don't seesaw. Instead, use a steady pressure & then release. Pressure from both reins equally at the same time. Then release both reins equally at the same time when she softens to the bit & gives her head. Collection is a whole 'nuther topic, but you need to learn how to use your hands correctly first before you start worrying about collecting your horse.

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post #6 of 6 Old 02-18-2010, 10:06 AM
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Also consider whether your horse is fit enough, or built appropriately to carry the frame you ask. It might be helpful to post a photo of your TB. Lots of TBs lack the muscling on their topline that makes it possible for them to easily carry a rounder frame.

The best solution for this is classical lunging, with a surcingle and sidereins, to getting her working actively and correctly, and to build the muscle she needs to carry a frame correctly under a rider. There's a great thread in this forum on lunging, where Mercedes describes classical lunging in detail, and recommends Reiner Klimke's book on the subject.

Another great advantage for you in this method is that you'll be able to observe her hind end and back muscles and tell instantly when she's working correctly, rather than struggling to feel it while wrestling with her head.

Once she has a good foundation on the lunge line, she will start to seek contact and offer more of a frame under saddle, a sure sign that your work has paid off.

After struggling through reclaiming my first OTTB, I worked all young TBs, off the track or not, this way. Life's just easier if they already understand what you're asking and are fit enough to comply.
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