How to correct a horse who goes behind the vertical.
My horse likes to tuck his head right in instead of carrying his head on the vertical, especially at the canter, even though my hands are soft and I am not pulling him back. I was told by a trainer to jiggle my hands when he gets too low so that I take him by surprise and he lifts his head (not too roughly of course), but that would look unsightly in a dressage ring. My friend suggested side reins too, but I would rather leave gadgets as a last resort. Would side reins help though? What can I do with my position to correct him? Please help!
Side reins won't help if he is ducking behind the contact.
Often a horse that comes behind the vertical is rider created, it may not be you, it could be a previous owner/rider that has had not so great hands and caused him to come behind the contact to evade the discomfort.
I suggest going back to absolute basics, and treating him like a pony club horse. Long rein, very forward, get him poking his nose out until you can keep a solid contact (even too solid at this stage) without him ducking behind. You can then start to refine this until he comes onto the vertical.
Working the hind legs will be your biggest helping hand, get him really motoring along.
Getting a horse to come up fromk behind the verticle is ooo much harder then getting them round an onto the verticle.
Forwards forwards forwards is what you need to do now, ignore where hi head is, pokey nose is good provided you can get that arse under him and send him forwards!
Send him forward and work on stretching him out. When you drop the reins he should seek contact, slowly work him back from there.
Primo can get a little evasive if I work to much on lateral or collection, sometimes all he needs is a good stretching trot circle to bring his head back into the game and release the tension.
Riding him more forward and maybe change him to a Fulmer with keepers - it's a very quiet bit which will help him to regain confidence in the bit.
When he gets too behind the vertical, legs on and lift only one hand up to the ears, this unlevels the bit in his mouth and should get him to lift his head.
Getting the horse from behind the bit is the hardest to do and will take time and patience.
Well....welcome to HF
When I am having this issue with my horse I push my hands forward and use my core to lift and push him up into the bridle. I sometimes need to use a bit of shoulderfore to help supple and get him engaging from behind up into my hand and into the bridle more.
It is important to remember to check your position when the horse drops behind the vert! What is your body alignment doing. Fix anything there and then go to the horses body alignment....fix things there
It is also very important to Release when the horse reaches into the contact. This is the reward.....
One thing to be aware of, and avoid, is letting him drop the contact when he ducks. (Sometimes if you turn him immediately, you will keep the contact, and also remind him that his act was not what you wanted.) I would do a little yielding work first on the ground: hold the bit softly in his mouth, and guide his head to the left, then to the right. This is to initially get him used to the feel of the bit on his lips, not the bars.
Then do the yielding in the saddle. I've seen horses (like my own) learn high-headedness or behind-the-bitness because of being started in running mertingales: there's too much pressure on the bars of the mouth. It hurts!
Working forward helped my horse, and lateral work helped her learn to accept the bit. And I had to be patient, patient, patient.
I'm thinking circles and spiral in/out are your friend here. Part of ducking behind the contact is not wanting to use the hind end. Staying on a circle will let you use the magic of the bend to get the horse into the outside rein. Give him enough rein to poke his nose out and then, depending on his way of learning, ride him extremely forward until he starts to reach into the outside rein, or ride a zillion half halts each with the intention of getting his butt engaged. Reward often. BTV is very hard habit to break.
Great, thank you so much everyone. So basically, I ride him around on a long rein and push him forward until he pushes into my contact rather than avoiding it? And then once he starts to accept my contact, I bring him in more? Is lunge work good for this too?
Personally I wouldn't vary the contact much. He needs to know what the contact is going to be and that it's always going to be consistent. He might be a ducker due to his last rider having busy or bad hands, so the last thing you want is to be all over the place. Just make it loose enough that he has something to reach into, but firm enough that it's there to reach into. Does that make sense?
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