Relaxing/Breaking at Poll - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 02-18-2009, 11:22 PM Thread Starter
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Relaxing/Breaking at Poll

Dumb question, sorry.
Does it come naturally with collection? Or... what.

I don't want any suggestions of tie-downs or gimmicks to pull his head in, either.

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Last edited by Ne0n Zero; 02-18-2009 at 11:31 PM.
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post #2 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 12:41 AM
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You can teach for them to be soft through their poll in alot of different ways. I think it would be hard to teach collection, without having first taught them to be soft. There are alot of prior steps before collection. Teaching them to give to the rein pressure and be relaxed not only at their poll, but also throughout their whole neck can be done with alot of repetition. You can teach it in a halter, most likely a rope halter, by teaching them to back without tension in their necks. That the slightest intention from the human and the horse bends and moves backwards through his whole body. Or you can teach it in a halter while influencing the horse sideways, or even forwards. I personally don't believe a horse can be relaxed at his poll and be correctly soft unless his entire body is soft and able as well.
You can teach it from the saddle, too of course. At the standstill, apply even pressure to the bit, and wait for the horse to think of an answer to get rid of the pressure. He may toss his head, he may back up, he may ignore it. In any case, you remain the same until he softens his jaw and relaxes. Then you release. Once he has a basic idea of slight rein pressure means to soften, you can then incorporate it into the higher gaits. To achieve the entire body working as a whole, you can teach your guy that when you squeeze with your legs, his head/neck goes down, and a soft feel on the reins tells him to bend and be soft. The squeezing of your legs keeps his back end in tact with his front. It's easy to correct his headset by just focusing on the front end, but you are right in saying that it will be easier for a horse to do so if somewhat collected. Or together. An exercise that made alot of sense to me is this. Get down on your hands and knees. Drop your back, and notice what it does to your muscles and your neck. It will be difficult for you to lower your head in comfort. Now try to walk on all fours, and take notice how difficult that it. Now lift your back, round it up, and notice how your head immediately drops, and it is easier for your knees to come underneath yourself as you walk. Same concept in horses.
So when you teach your horse to be soft in his mouth, and to give to pressure, also teach him to keep his hind end coming forward so that he can comfortably lengthen his topline and be soft through his whole body.
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post #3 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 07:08 AM
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Originally Posted by Ne0n Zero View Post
Dumb question, sorry.
Does it come naturally with collection? Or... what.

I don't want any suggestions of tie-downs or gimmicks to pull his head in, either.

Correctly done collection will produce the right placement of the head/neck.
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post #4 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 11:03 AM
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Collection always comes last - always, always, always, always.

Why is it that we are being taught the opposite??? I was taught incorrectly as well - I saw people going around with thier horses "appearing" to be all collected..and I wanted that too. I rode front to back for years...but the day I found out how incorrect my training was - was the day I made sure I would change myself, to be a better rider for my horse...beacuse this is ALWAYS about our horses. They are the reason why we are here.


You cannot build a house from the roof down. You must build a strong foundation first and foremost....then when you have that strong foundation, then you can continue on building the rest of the house from the ground up.

A house without a good foundation, will be a strong, balanced, and centered house, that can withstand with correct cair and love.

You cannot pick up a Violin and play like a Violinist from the New York Symphony. No, although that may be the ultimate goal, we have to start with the basics, work hard and start from the ground up.

Same with riding - you cannot start with collection. Period. Riders who start from the front to obtain some sort of false idea of the horse working properly, is incorrect. We have to start from the gound up. For the horses benefit, not ours.

Top Trainers, Riders, Competators from all around the world preach this - because it is true.

seat to legs to hands to soften.

Education, Education, Education.

Always start with the hind end, legs, back, neck, jaw, poll.


Now for a horse to be soft at the poll, must be a horse who is soft, supple and not on the muscle. Right? Makes sense.........when you think about it...but when it comes time to doing it....ha ha.....

Again, it starts from back to front, but YOU as the rider plays a BIG part in this.

When I am nervouse, tense, frustrated - this shows through my body. I tense up, and therefore my shoulders, elbows do....and then my hands.

Guess what happens then? My horse becomes tense, on the muscle and stiff as well - and I loose everything. Back drops, head flys up, mouth gapes open and I have to stop, breath and start over again.

You need to learn the function of your hands. We need to learn to carry our hands. We need to learn to allow our hands to support, lift, to remain soft, to be giving, to be taking when needed. Our hands must always be functional aids.

They must be giving, they must take, they must beable to ask, be asked. They must beable to soften, be softened. They must beable to move with our horses motion. They always have to be functional aids to allow everything to work together.

For a horse to be soft, we must be as well. Wont happen if we aren't. That doesn't mean that we have no rein contact or drop our reins all together - but we must not be tense through our body which will relect through your horse.

Seat To Legs To Hands To Soften.

- engaging back end
- engaginge legs to track up
- rhythmical, forward motion, free horse to beable to move under himself
- back lifted, engaging topline
- topline muscles effect neck, neck effects shoulders
- hands must remain soft and supportive to allow energy to recycle
- horse will then search for contact

The moment your horse gives - you MUST give back. The moment you get the correct answer through your questions - praise, praise, praise, praise, praise.

Always start at the walk. If you cannot do it at the walk, you have no business doing it at the trot. If you cannot do it at the trot, you have no business doing it at the canter.

All 3 parts must work together to get the goal in the end. All 3 must work together in unison.


Here is a vid of me riding incorrectly.

What I have learnt since that video - is that you cannot ride front to back. Leave the face alone, soften through your body and ride back to front.

You have to allow forward movement, you have to allow your horse to move into himself and open up. You have to allow the back end to work, to their legs, to their spine, and then to their necks.

The more you piss around with their faces - the more backwards you are going.

For your horse to be soft at the poll, you must be soft and be asking the correct questions to get the correct answers.

All this will be better explained and shown through a competant, educated coach.
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post #5 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 11:15 AM
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For help with softening your horses mouth, I suggest you read the book Enlightened Equitation by Heather Moffit. This book actually made me realize that I'm forcing my horse to do things that he doesn't want to do.

With the whole softening of the mouth problem. To get the horse to soften up try lightly jiggling the reins. If he doesn't respond right away, try again in a few strides. I tried this with my horse and he almost immediately gave into my hands and lowered his head. He didn't fight me for the rest of the ride and even started to track up.

Since it worked for me, it might work for you.

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post #6 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 11:31 AM
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I got a lot from this thread... thank you so much for this information...

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post #7 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 11:58 AM
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MIEventer, do you have a video of your riding correctly for comparison?
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post #8 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 12:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Spyder View Post
Correctly done collection will produce the right placement of the head/neck.
Exactly. Put your hands in front of you, don't ever move them, ride to them and everything will work out peachy.
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post #9 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 12:40 PM
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Gosh, I wish I did have a good one. Most of my vids are older - but I have a few to show where I get good moments when everything falls into place.

This vid, working on rocking horse onto back end. Turn on the haunches, using outside aids, all seat and legs.

I am doing NOTHING with my hands, but being supportive. Supportive outside rein, allowing horse to use himself to come into the bridle himself.

You'll see moments where his back end drops, back lifts and drops softly into the bridle.

When you get those moments where your horse gives to you - give back with your inside rein.

The head comes last.

It takes allot of work. It just doesn't come from one day of riding - it takes lots of hard work to accomplish the ultimate goal.

Another one - seat to legs to hands. Driving the back end, tracking up, lifting the back, supportive thorugh reins, not demanding.

The horse will come down into the bridle themselves when you get the other aspects down.

We have good moments, we have bad moments. we have allot of issues....but it is a daily process of hard work.

Hand carraige is so important. Soft through shoulders, elbows into fingers. Carry them. Aid your horse.

The moment they give, you must give back.

You brace, they brace. You relax and soften, they relax and soften.

Last edited by MIEventer; 02-19-2009 at 12:49 PM.
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post #10 of 14 Old 02-19-2009, 12:49 PM
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MIEventer - I beg to differ. If you were doing nothing with your hands, they would be quietly and calmly in front of you. Instead you are riding around with your arms somewhere in the stratosphere and your horse does not look pleased.
Here is a video of a woman riding a young horse with really nice quiet hands that are cemented right in front of the saddle, right where they should be. Yes her reins should be slightly shorter to un-cock her wrists and her hands should be turned slightly up, but the point is that the horse is happy, relaxed and working very well forward from leg, to hand in a good frame. Like I say, do not move your hands and everyone is happy:
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