My horse won't bend at the neck - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 9 Old 08-22-2010, 08:39 AM Thread Starter
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My horse won't bend at the neck

My horse will give lightly when I am standing at either side or when we are stopped and I am on his back. But he will not give when we are walking or trotting or cantering when riding.... he stiffens up completely. Any ideas on how to make this happen?
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post #2 of 9 Old 08-22-2010, 08:53 AM
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To get the horse working in the correct outline in the front, you need to have them working correctly from behind.

I would stop concentrating on the horse's head. Keep your hands quiet unless you are actually giving an aid. Maintain a light contact, but only take as much rein as the horse gives you. Then use your legs and seat to gather the horse up underneath you.

It really does take you knowing what is going on to do it. If you want your horse to be able to be ridden like that, I would strongly advise lessons with an instructor that has a good knowledge base. There is a lot more involved than just getting the horse to carry their head in the right position.

Until you can get someone to help you like that, work on encouraging your horse to work forward. This doesn't mean racing. Just make sure that your hands don't impede the forward direction of travel. And have fun!
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post #3 of 9 Old 08-22-2010, 10:09 AM
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Are we talking bending laterally or vertically??

If we're talking vertical bend (i.e. outline, headset, "on-the-bit", etc.), you need lateral suppleness before vertical. I wholly agree with Chiilaa on the progression and necessity of working from behind. The head is the hood ornament, and if the horse is working correctly from behind will fall into the correct "set" on it's own. The "headset" is a result of correctly training the rest of the body.

If we're talking about lateral bending, as I initially assumed, the first step is to rule out any physical reason for the horse to be stiff and resistant to bending, any reason that bending while moving forward would be uncomfortable. Check yourself, and the way that you cue for a bend or a change in direction; are you as a rider allowing the bend? Bending isn't achieved through the action of the hands alone... the seat, legs, and the rest of the aids come into play as well, no matter what the discipline. The bend doesn't come from the neck alone, either. A correct bend around a turn involves the entire length of the horse's body. Here's an article that gives a detailed explanation of the aids for achieving the correct bend through a corner. Lesson 6 - on the aids - Classical dressage

Practice lots of correct turns. Figure 8's, serpentines (3-loop to start, moving to 4 or 5 loops as he becomes more supple), 20 meter circles. Try a long, shallow S bend down a long straightaway. No leg yielding, be sure that he's bending through the length of his body, and no dropping of the inside shoulder.

Best of luck!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #4 of 9 Old 08-22-2010, 05:51 PM Thread Starter
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I am not concerned with him giving his head or a headset, I am talking about his neck bending to left when I am cueing him to turn to the left.

As I stand on his left side and cue him, he will bend his neck all the way around and touch his nose to me, but when I do it in the saddle, he will only touch my toes when we are stopped. When we are moving, he stiffens.

Maybe this will help in the what kind of advice to give category.
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post #5 of 9 Old 08-22-2010, 08:57 PM
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Sounds like you just have to experiment to see where's he's locked up. Have you tried warming up at the walk using shallow serpentines? Will he follow the bend in that case? Maybe it's just a matter of working up from halt to faster gaits gradually. Do your flexion exercises at the halt and then use a light indirect rein to do the shallow serpentines at the walk. Once he's responding to those, move up the trot and vibrate the inside rein to keep a consistent degree of flexion where you can see his inside nostril and eyelash. If he's moving dead straight, he pretty much can't respond to your aids to turn because the cues from behind are blocked. Flexion is what opens the door to making all the aids work effectively.

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
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post #6 of 9 Old 08-22-2010, 09:59 PM Thread Starter
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Very nice. I will try shallow serpentines. I also will try my D-ring snaffle to see if I can accentuate the inside rein cue with the outside pressure of the D.
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post #7 of 9 Old 08-24-2010, 08:08 PM
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you could try using your legs more than your hands to bring him on the bit.
Does he pull on the rein?
if he does you are probably pulling his mouth a bit more than your supposed to horse only just learned to go on the bit and she is going perfectly :)
or try making your circles smaller then bigger to make him slow down and concentrate more...that was the problem with my mare.She didnt concentrate long enough and just wanted to go fast.
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post #8 of 9 Old 08-27-2010, 11:12 AM Thread Starter
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I tried all of this the other day and it worked wonderfully.... I used my legs to get his whole body to make a semi circle and then would release to let him know that was what I was asking for. As with everything new, I think it will take some more practice, but he got the idea and did wonderfully.

"Equine-facilitated therapy employs a form of biofeedback for practicing self-awareness, emotional management, and relationship skills that human role-playing exercises and discussion groups cannot begin to access." Linda Kohanov (The Tao of Equus)
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post #9 of 9 Old 08-27-2010, 01:20 PM
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i have a horse here at home and firstly the best advice i could give u is have a carrot in your hand and draw your hand back to his shoulders then give him the carrot do this every day this will help him strech his neck (you might need to tie him up to do this) if after 2weeks u still have no luck look at geting him checked out he might be sore and need his neck clicked into better joint :)
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