Teaching a youngster headset??

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Teaching a youngster headset??

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  • How to teach a horse a headset
  • How to teach A dressage headset

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    10-29-2007, 02:57 PM
Teaching a youngster headset??

OKay. I have a 4 yr old gelding, and I would like to teach him to get into a proper headset so he can do some dressage lessons. Right now we are just jumping, around 2-2ft6. He pulls alot and doesn't accept his simple snaffle right now, he's really resistant to being put into a headset. Help me.
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    10-29-2007, 03:16 PM
Eh...there is no simple answer to that. Its not just a matter of getting a headset; that's like trying to build a house from the roof down. I suggest doing a lot of reading (if you want some titles, I can give you a few to check out) and either taking lessons with a dressage instructor who has a school horse (preferable) or taking your horse as he is: if the instructor is any good, he/she will be able to help you work with the horse.
    10-29-2007, 11:03 PM
Consistancy is the key here.
First, if your horse is young, I wouldn't worry so much about the headset as impulsion and being forward. The headset can come later. If your youngster pulls a lot, you have to teach him (him, right?) the basics of self-carraige; don't let him pull on your hands, much less lean on them. He can carry his own heavy head, you shouldn't have to!
To get a youngster (or any horse, come to think of it!) to get a headset, they must learn self-carraige. You want your horse to be able to move freely and loosely through the body, with forward impulsion and the ability to supple to the inside and outside either direction, before asking for headset. Headset should not be a priority with a young horse. I would rather see a youngster with flowing movement and its head above the vertical than a short-necked, short-striding horse.
Okay, so onwards and upwards:
First off, for a youngster, you should be asking for a "long and low" headset, rather than your typical dressagey "chin tucked in" headset. By this, I mean I would like to see the horse round through the back and neck, with the neck low, and chin tucked slightly in - think hunter horse style, with the poll at the height of the wither. I do not like to see your typical dressage "swan" neck - that will come later with training.
Now comes the controversial part, where people argue whether to "check and give" with the outside or inside. I have tried both training methods, and for flatwork, or dressage training, this way works best. I took a clinic from Leslie Reid (a top dressage competitor from Canada) and she did things this way.
To do this: get your horse moving forward at a walk, and hold steady with your inside rein. Make a "checking and giving" motion with your outside rein - this is not a big motion, but more like squeezing the water out of a sponge. The horse should not resist this action, rather move into it. A good headset comes from leg, so you do not want your horse to slow down at all while you are asking them to give to the rein. Keep asking them forward with your leg, asking them to move into the contact, to move with your hand and leg in order to come down into your hand. They should be bending to the inside, not the outside.
This is a very difficult topic to explain without being there in a lesson, being able to see you and the horse. That introduction to giving to the rein is very breif, and I apologise for it, but I want to have fingers left after this post, not just bloody stubs.
If he already pulls, you might want to introduce him to draw reins. I know some people are very against draw reins, but I have had nothing but success with them. THEY SHOULD NOT BE USED AS TIE-DOWNS. If used correctly, draw reins AID in showing your horse the proper way to carry its nose - they show it the ground. They are a training tool that, if used correctly, can improve your horse's issues with self-carraige. Draw reins do not allow the horse to lean on the hands, insead they encourage the horse to use their own head and neck to hold themselves up.
I would strongly recommend some lessons with a professional trainer. Like I said, it is very hard to explain this without having the time to see you and your horse responding to the instructions, and seeing reactions.
I hope this helped a bit at least! "Centered Riding" by Sally Swift is a great tool in building a good foundation in dressage, so if you can get your hands on that book, I strongly recommend you buy it.
Best of luck!
    10-29-2007, 11:05 PM
P.s. You do not want to get your horse to "have a proper headset in order to do dressage lessons" - dressage will CREATE a proper headset! ;) The former is like building the house before the foundation, the latter is building the correct foundation for a gorgeous, sound house that won't topple with the first changing wind.
    10-29-2007, 11:45 PM
Ha, thank you for writing all that...I was way too lazy!
    10-30-2007, 02:53 PM
Thank you. We will be starting dressage lessons in a week and a half. I acrually just bought Centered riding, and just started reading it. He's doing a little bit better with the whole pulling thing, cause we have been riding him in the feild instead of the arena, and he's alot more relaxed in there. He's been ridden in draw reins once, and he did great, I don't know why my coach hasn't had us in draw reins since then. They really helped alot. I think I will have my coach do lessons in draw reins more often, I'm hoping that will make him better.
    10-30-2007, 03:14 PM
Good luck, have fun, be patient and savor the small victories:) A solid foundation is the key to everything...I may not agree with everything Walter Zettl says, but I love this quote: "Good dressage is like grass growing. You don't see anything happening, but over time it becomes more beautiful."
    10-31-2007, 09:02 PM
That's good to hear that you've used draw reins before - just a word of warning though, don't get attached to them!! Use them as a training tool then slowly wean him off of them (and yourself!) It is a quick fix to a problem, and a good aid in showing the horse what you want, but eventually you want the horse to be able to do it solo, without the aid of the draw reins.
Hope you have great success with your lessons - remember: dressage is the basis from which other disciplines can be reached.

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