I am working with a 5 year old thoroughbred gelding currently with bis headset. His compulsion is great, he's a very forward horse, and he has plenty of power in his rear end, he just always tries to go around with his head up in the air like a giraffe. I have had a lot of trainers work with me in the area, and all their answers have been to "use more leg and keep a steady hand." This works about 60% of the time, but the other 40% he just busts ride through my hands and speeds up, a half-halt will bring him back, but then you have to start the process all over again. Any tips on how to prevent this from happening, or maybe advice on other ways to get him to carry himself? I am an eventer if that helps. I'd really appreciate some friendly advice:)
Honestly, work with a dressage trainer - one that doesn't focus on "headset" because that is not important. What is important is getting the horse to work back to front and lift through his back; bending laterally and horizontally is very important. When the body is correct, the head will fall into place.
You can force a false headset and the body can be wrong; but if you get the body working correctly, the head will be correct automatically. This may take quite some time to achieve but I guarantee you will have a better horse in the long run rather than worrying about the head right now.
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Agree with Just dressage. 'Headset' should be a product of well balanced, true collection, not something you strive for.... or drive for - don't agree with the more leg/more hands either.
BUT before you continue working with him on training, do consider his physical wellbeing. Back, body, neck, even jaw problems can prevent a horse from being able to 'collect', as can hoof imbalance, saddle fit, teeth or bit probs...
Most likely what's missing is the proper bend, but definitely consult a good dressage trainer. TB's are masters at finding their way out of working properly throught their backs. When your horse finally tires of avoiding contact by going around like a giraffe, next tactic will probably be ducking behind the contact which is very hard to fix. They are very smart. A good trainer will get your on the correct path.
Yup, get a good dressage trainer (who doesn't crank their horse's face in towards its chest). With my friend's green 5yo TB I'm not even thinking about headset yet - she throws her head up and hollows out when she's tense and ready to go, so we just get her nice and relaxed at the walk and give her more and more rein til she's really stretching down and out for the contact. Once we have her so she is consistently working in a relaxed fashion and has started to build a topline through long and low, and plenty of nice and loose trot work (she's just coming back into work after a long spell), we will start to ask her to engage her back end a bit more, then a bit more. So long as she's nice and relaxed, her head should take care of itself.
It's about developing the muscles for balance and impulsion, and getting the horse's mindset right (nice and relaxed, confident, focused, and clear in what you want him to do). Putting the head in a "correct" position does not help self-carriage and only encourages the horse onto the forehand. :-)
There is always the idea that if a horse has a 'headset' then it is on the bit.
The horse needs to work through its back and to do this it first needs to learn to go long and low.
Then the headset comes easily and naturally.
You've probably already checked this, but if not, heads all the way in the air often means they have a painful back. Check the saddle fit with a professional or see if he does it trotting in hand with no tack on. They shouldn't have their head all the way in the air - if it's just up higher than a typical dressage rider likes to see then that's up to you and your training, but if it's All the way up in the air something hurts.
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