Lowering the head

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Lowering the head

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  • Lowering horse head in trot
  • Why he lower his head when walk by me

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    12-30-2011, 04:22 PM
Lowering the head

I know this is a common question, I did read several old threads, but I am not sure where to start.

I would like Jayne to lower his head. I am not sure the best way to go about it though. At liberty, his head is up in the air, in the round pen, his head is up in the air, under saddle, his head is up in the air. The only time his head is NOT up in the air is maybe about a third of the time while being led, during boring walking on the trail when I am not asking anything of him, occasionally while walking serpentines, and when he's eating. His nose is typically at or just above the level of the point of his shoulder... I was hoping that with getting him working and comfortable, his head would start to come down naturally, but so far I'm not sure it's happening and I don't really want him to continue practicing going about like a giraffe. I'd prefer to teach him that life really can be easier if he'd just drop his head a bit, but I am not sure where to start. I am not asking him to collect, I know that a lowered head does not indicate collection at all.

I would like to eventually get him to the point were we can at least think about doing long and low work, but I don't know how to begin.
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    12-30-2011, 04:33 PM
I have similar problem in trot. For a long time I had no idea what to do about it. Assumig that the problem was in me I went to a trainer. I wanted him to see if my position in saddle can impede horse's movement. He said that it isn't because of me and gave andvice to try from ground work. To go next to her and to show her how to keep her head. I haven't tried it yet, because she still has problems with hooves and is not able to walk normally. Maybe this advice will help you. I am also curious what else can be done to lower horse's head.
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    12-30-2011, 04:33 PM
Apply pressure between his ears, say "down" and release the pressure when he drops his head, even just a tiny bit. Then, LAY ON THE PRAISE!!! It's going to take WORK. I suggest that you ask him to do this 5x/day in his stall. I've been training this on my 16"3hh gelding since last summer--I' 5ft 4in tall myself-- and he now knows to drop his head when I bring a rope towards him, and lets me lead him from his stall to the shelter. He also drops his head for the halter, but we're working on keeping the head down when I adjust it. The NEXT trick will be with the bridle. DD led him out of the stall the other day--she's been away at Law School this Fall--and was thoroughly impressed with his progress. YOU can do it, too.
I don't like giraffes, either. =D
    12-30-2011, 04:40 PM
We have been working on "put your head down" as a command during groundwork. I ask, then put a little pressure on his poll with my fingers or the halter, and he has gone from tossing his head to the point where he stands with his head nicely in reach and no tossing or anything while I bridle him (chronicled here, lol The Horse They Call Jayne), he'll now put his nose to the dirt if I ask that way. But once the feet move, up the head goes once again. Sigh.
    12-30-2011, 05:04 PM
Lunge him with saddle and bridle. Secure the reins loosely at the rings on the pommel. Ask him to move--you choose the exercise--then stop and praise lavishly every time he drops his head. You are retraining a very bad habit and it can takes sometimes 10x as long as the original good training SHOULD have taken. Continue asking him to drop down every time you put a halter on and lead him, too. Think of yourself: They say it takes people 2 weeks to establish a new habit. Give him AT LEAST that amount of time, but don't let up. He probably thinks that he's supposed to throw his head around and doesn't know how much you hate it. Once he learns to relax and drop his head down he'll feel better, too. Keep at it, don't give up, but I think you're going to be working on this until next May.
    12-30-2011, 05:17 PM
Having read your post I composed an answer but suggesting the use of a pessoa harness to a young rider is perhaps wrong of me. What you need is the help of a dressage instructor to bring the horse onto the bit and in a rounded outline.

Try looking up www.sustainabledressage.net and read up on: collection;on the bit;& rounded outline.
Then go find the instructor - a good one whom you feel comfortable with.

PLUS - a horse which rides with its nose in the air is stressed.
So check the teeth
check the back and the fit of the saddle.
ask someone to check the fit of the bit (always try to use a mild bit)
are your hands soft or harsh?
and learn about 'collection'

You've got a problem but if you can find the right teacher with hands on - then with time you can win through.
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    12-30-2011, 05:45 PM
Me personally I wouldn't want to make or force his head down with anything. Instead I'd be more focused on why he does it in the first place.

As Barry said, a horse with a high head could most likely be nervous, uneasy, on alert, stressed, resisting you (although there will be other signs if he's testing you), is he looking for his buddies? Etc etc. Some horses are more sensitive than others and will always be on alert. If you force his head down with a gadget, it may make him more nervous.
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    12-30-2011, 05:57 PM
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In this situation I wouldn't try just to lower his head - the first thing I'd do is to do groundwork with him - and myself! - that would help him to become relaxed. Then, after I'd have achieved this, I would try to combine trotting and relaxation, until the horse understood that it is really, really comfortable and rewarding to trot with his head low. I used to work a little with an arab mare with the exact same problem - and the greatest method for helping her with that was...for me to breathe really slow and deep, and to sing a slow, relaxing tune that would calm her down. Also, lots of relationship building to let her trust me and feel comfortable around me in all situations.
    12-30-2011, 09:23 PM
Originally Posted by Barry Godden    
So check the teeth
check the back and the fit of the saddle.
ask someone to check the fit of the bit (always try to use a mild bit)
are your hands soft or harsh?
and learn about 'collection'.
Teeth- yes, they are due to be done (will be in Jan) but aren't terrible.
Saddle- wintec/CAIR with an appropriate gullet per their measuring devise. Sweat patterns, feeling, etc seem to indicate it fits properly, though obviously it's not as nice as a custom fitted, higher quality saddle would be. No signs of pain, soreness or back issues on palpation.
Bit- french link snaffle, properly sized
My hands need work. While my hands are not harsh, they are way too busy and I know I confuse him, especially given his western training. I do not think I pull on his mouth overly hard, but I definitely do it more often and with less clear release than I should.
Collection is something that I understand only on a mental level at this point. I am working with a trainer, who is having me try a training fork, but want to learn enough so that we do not become reliant on gadgets or crutches.

Originally Posted by ConfusciusWasAGreatTeachr    
Me personally I wouldn't want to make or force his head down with anything. Instead I'd be more focused on why he does it in the first place.
I agree- I would rather figure out WHY his head is up, address it, and then teach him to keep it down. I know he spent the last two years being ridden at a place that routinely uses tie-downs. I don't know how much that may or may not have contributed. He is not looking for buddies or trying to escape... whenever he thinks I MIGHT cue him in some way, his head goes up. He is not a pushy horse, he is almost painfully anxious to try to do whatever he thinks I might want him to do.

Originally Posted by Saranda    
The first thing I'd do is to do groundwork with him - and myself! - that would help him to become relaxed. ... Also, lots of relationship building to let her trust me and feel comfortable around me in all situations.
How long do we need to work together to get this magical relaxation and head drop? He will lick and chew while trotting around naked in the roundpen with his lower lip bobbing, but his head is still up in the air... I think a lack of relaxation definitely plays a role at times, but I also think part of it is his habit. The rare times that his head does drop is usually because he's irritated and tossing it down, not because he's loose and calm.

We generally work together very well. He'll let me do anything to him while standing calmly, is good for everything. I know... practice, practice, practice. But practice just make permanent... and I don't want to further solidify an undesirable habit.
    12-31-2011, 12:29 AM
Typically a high head set on a horse is a sign of under developed back muscles and a lack of a topline. So it sounds like you need to work on his top line which includes lunging and lots of walk-trot transitions. Really get his back end working and using his back- when your riding him try and do 3 or 4 trot poles, raised cavalettis, etc. When you are riding him ( I'm not sure if you ride english or western?) but for english you really want to push them into the bridle and hold them there, so push him into it the bit with your WHOLE leg and body and really drive him from the back. When he finally does it- praise him, when you feel him go long and low, praise him immensely. As for lunging- please don't use side reins, they do nothing. Vienna reins/running reins work wonders and you can find them on dover for $50 or $60 and they actually ask the horse to put their head down and have some give to it instead of forcing the horse.

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