New Headset
 
 

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New Headset

This is a discussion on New Headset within the Horse Training forums, part of the Training Horses category
  • Horse working in a frame
  • Why do you use an extra rain on a headset on a horse

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    02-04-2013, 09:51 PM
  #1
Weanling
New Headset

I've been working for the past 3 or 4 months with my Arab, Image, on getting a proper headset. I'm so proud of him and I wanted to share how far we've come! He's 13 and has never had a headset except when his first owners used a tie-down. They used a Tom Thumb bit that he absolutely hated, so he'd jerk is head in the air to get away from it; their solution was tying his head down. His previous owners took away the tie-down and put a Dr. Bristol in his mouth (which I still use) but he was still scared of the bit and never accepted; in turn he would jack his head in the air to get away from any and all mouth contact. First we worked on teaching him that the bit is okay, then on to accepting it, then on to his headset. We originally wanted to train him to do hunter/jumpers, but after doing the bit training with him my trainer and I have decided he'd be a lot better for dressage
The first picture is us in a show a month after I bought him, and the 2nd and 3rd picture are from yesterday (he looks a lot more hunter than dressage in the 3rd picture, though, and ignore the fact that I'm riding dressage in a jumping saddle, haha). The 4th picture is just him looking cute It's poopy quality pictures, but I'm so proud of him; there were so many days I just wanted to give up and cry because I didn't think I had what it takes to help him through this. His trot is phenomenal and I've recently started working on his canter these past couple weeks, and he's starting to get a hang of keeping his headset at the canter.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg image12.jpg (48.3 KB, 526 views)
File Type: jpg imagine54.jpg (79.4 KB, 527 views)
File Type: jpg imagine58.jpg (77.6 KB, 520 views)
File Type: jpg imagine57.jpg (74.5 KB, 526 views)
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    02-04-2013, 10:09 PM
  #2
Trained
As soon as I read the title 'head set' I cringed ;)

If you want to do Dressage with this horse, throw away the concept of a 'headset' and think more about him being a fish, and you are the net. You need to 'scoop' him up from behind to lighten his forehand, rather than trying to pull his head down into a false frame which may look 'pretty' to the uneducated eye, but you will get absolutely canned by any judge worth their salt.

In the bottom photos, he is very much on the forehand and I can see that he is pulling through your reins.
Get rid of the Dr Bristol - they are not Dressage legal - and put him in a french link. It is a similar bit, with the double joined mouth piece, but the 'dogbone' lies flat on the tongue rather than on an angle as the Dr Bristol does, making the french link a less severe bit - and a Dressage legal one at that.

This is a photograph of my horse, warming up at a clinic. Notice the difference in his frame from your horse?
His hind legs are pushing him forward, while his shoulders are starting to lighten and he is not running through my hands, but is lightly accepting a contact, with a soft back.



That is closer to what you want to aim for at this stage. Once he can work in a frame like that, you can start to bring him up, or ride him towards long and low. Once you bring the horse into a 'higher' more advanced frame, working towards collection, the joints will bend more all the way through the hind legs while they take more weight than the front legs. The front legs will then lighten even more, so that you will eventually be able to ride the ultimate in collected canters - the canter pirouette, where any excess weight on the front legs will impede you from being able to perform the movement.

This is the same horse, starting to come a little more into collection, but being worked a little deep as a suppling exercise - he is a horse that naturally wants to be on is front legs, and be very strong in the hand as a result.


This work all comes from the hind legs. Getting the hind legs active, then you can start to get more bend through the horse's ribs, more suppleness through the neck, poll and jaw, swing over the back and then the horse will naturally come onto the bit. There is no pulling backwards or jiggling of the reins required, just consistent regular work, strengthening the hind legs and back until the horse can maintain that position while being soft in the hand and light in the shoulders.
My horse is training elementary/medium level Dressage at present, and I am still working on strengthening those muscles. I do not expect him to hold collection for more than a couple of minutes at a time in training, and in the canter particularly, he is only just starting to soften his jaw and poll to me, while remaining balanced over his hind legs.
     
    02-04-2013, 10:12 PM
  #3
Weanling
Welp, bubble bursted.
     
    02-04-2013, 10:15 PM
  #4
Super Moderator
I really like your horse and it sounds like you are starting on a journey of learning together. One step at a time.


Don't be upset by Kayty's comments. She is talking about your goal. She wants you to understand the really correct way to have your horse soft on the bit , without building in a different, but equally bad habit, from the giraffing that IMage used to do. Take heart. You are making changes, and it's a step that many, if not most, riders go through. Until you know , you don't know.

It's not wrong to know how to encourage the hrose to bend to the bit. It's helpful, in a way. But if you have a horse that does this but then leans forward (see pic #3) an comes behind the vertical, then you are really teaching the horse to be on the forehand.

It's not black and white. Read what she wrote and realize that this is what you will work toward , and that it doesn't happen overnight.
     
    02-04-2013, 10:19 PM
  #5
Weanling
I am not "pulling" his head down. He is still in training as it's only been a few months that we've been working on this so I keep low hands instead of any type of tie or bungy that creates a headset. I'm only doing dressage with him for fun, lower level. We can't push him too much through his hindquarters as he was born with a funny shaped coffin bone and it makes him stiff and my vet advised me not to. I was only sharing something that I've worked hard on and am proud of and was not looking for advice or for you to rain on my parade and make me feel like I don't know what I'm doing when I do =] I know that he looks too much on his forehand in that 3rd picture as I even stated something about it; hence he is still in training and has his moments.
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    02-04-2013, 10:20 PM
  #6
Green Broke
OP, I agree with Kayta has said. I'll add that I think your guy looked nicely flexed in the last photo (albeit not standing quite square and just a smidge behind the bit) - do you remember how he felt then and what you did just before coming to a halt?
     
    02-04-2013, 10:21 PM
  #7
Started
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustImagine    
Welp, bubble bursted.
Take heart, the sooner you find this stuff out, the sooner you can get to work on getting him moving correctly! I know a lot of dressage people with Arabians who get frustrated at the high head carriage, but I think you're best off forgetting the position of the head and concentrating on what the hindquarters, back and hocks are doing.

Great post Kayty, and I love how engaged he is in his back end and how soft (pretty much nonexistent) your contact is! Argh, I just love your horses, love your riding...move to Melbourne and be my instructor please?
     
    02-04-2013, 10:22 PM
  #8
Trained
I'm not being mean, JustImagine, I promise!
She certainly looks much happier in the recent photos - and it is great that you have her at that point rather than the first with her head in the air and a foul expression on her face. But now you have the chance to move up that extra step - in Dressage, and I suppose all other disciplines for that matter, it seems that every time you think you have climbed a mountain in your training, you look up and see that the mountain actually extends beyond the clouds. It is a continual process, you can never get to the very top of that mountain. Even at Grand Prix, there is SO much you can do to improve how the horse travels, improve its strength, its balance, the quality of the movements, the quality of paces and the freedom of the shoulders. It is never ending.
There is not much time for celebration before you have to get moving again!
I look back on the photos of my gelding, and think my god, how did I ever accept that as ok work? But then remember that each step is an improvement on the last. I have miles of work ahead of me, then a train ride, a flight, and a boat ride, then another set of miles beyond that, before I reach where I want to be. And when, or if, I get there, I'm sure that I won't be satisfied and will want to get even better and even more.
It is the nature of the sport, and it is why I love it!
     
    02-04-2013, 10:31 PM
  #9
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by JustImagine    
I am not "pulling" his head down. He is still in training as it's only been a few months that we've been working on this so I keep low hands instead of any type of tie or bungy that creates a headset. I'm only doing dressage with him for fun, lower level. We can't push him too much through his hindquarters as he was born with a funny shaped coffin bone and it makes him stiff and my vet advised me not to. I was only sharing something that I've worked hard on and am proud of and was not looking for advice or for you to rain on my parade and make me feel like I don't know what I'm doing when I do =] I know that he looks too much on his forehand in that 3rd picture as I even stated something about it; hence he is still in training and has his moments.
I did not say that you were pulling his head down - I said that HE is pulling through your hands. There is more weight in your hands than what their needs to be, because he is leaning on them.
From your use of the word headset and other phrases, it sounds as though you are focused primarily on where his head is, rather than the rest of his body. And please don't get me wrong, this is a VERY common train of thought that the majority of riders have. Learning to step up and ride the hind legs is a big progression and it will open up many doors for you.

If it is physically impossible for him to engage his hind legs and use his back I would be quite surprised. He should be able to maintain a basic level of engagement. He may not be able to work in collection, but he should be able to use his hind legs and swing his back, enough that you will both be much more comfortable under saddle.
     
    02-04-2013, 10:38 PM
  #10
Weanling
Thanks!
     

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