High Headed Horse
I recently started riding this lovely horse who has beautiful gaits and is very responsive, but has a tendency to hold his head quite high and sometimes even horizontal to the ground. This is most prominent when he is hot and sensitive. During canter, he will round up more; it is the most problematic in trot. Any attempts to get him to lower his head with half halts only causes him to trot faster and snatch at the bit, and gentler half halts will not produce any effect.
Please help. He's quite a good horse with nice conformation and high potential.
My first things to check would be his tack and teeth - I would suspect the latter moreso than the former as he is evading contact by holding his head.
Once you know that both of those things are 100% fine, then look at training.
**after you have checked him out**
Lots and lots of transitions. If he is round at the walk, ask for the trot and keep asking for him to continue to stay round and loose instead of bracing.
Once he keeps it, transition to walk again and repeat.
I would lounge him first to knock the edge off of him. Then I would work on the "quarter horse trot" a.k.a the trot where you drop your hands and he will drop his poll. Don't brace against him. Do this until he is very loose and has his poll horizontal to his withers(it will seem very low.) Next, slowly raise you hands, his poll will come up with it. This should be continually over a couple weeks. Give and take with your hands(like you are squeezing a sponge) to let him get vertical. Over time, he will be very versatile, flexible, and easy:) I had a horse with this problem and she is now number one in the state in first level, about to continue to second level. Hope his helps!:)
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Commandolover Dropping your hands will only bring the horse into a false outline. you will drop his head but not bring his back end under him. you can get away with it at the very low levels perticularly unaffiliated but it sets you up for difficulties later on.
OP your best bet is lots and lots of transitions. As carl hester says you need to ride 300+ transitions in a session, in reality this means never going more than about 6 strides without asking the horse to do something be it change gait or to lengthen or shorten. Realy making the horse think will take the Fizz out of a horse very very quickly.
Engaging his back end will bring his head down.
What I do with my horse: I draw his head to the inside while using my inside leg to keep him on the rail, he often keeps his head nice and balanced this way. If that doesn't work, you can also wiggle the inside rein, but still remember the outside rein contact. Circles and transitions, that's all I've got to say. And I agree with others, checking him out first would be good.
I'd say you're at the bottom of the Training Pyramid.
Seek first Relaxation and Rhythm. I lump them together, because I feel you can't get rhythm without relaxation; however, a steady, even, (we used to call it "stabilizing") rhythm CAN induce relaxation, and steadiness.
I would do a lot of walking. However, I had a horse who was easier to get settled when starting with trotting. I wouldn't try lowering her head or anything until she was more relaxed.
Do lots and lots of long and low (L&L), especially at the trot. In fact I would probably not canter for about 2-3 months until you can get a good L&L at the walk and trot.
Now long and low when done properly is not the peanut roller of western pleasure - with the horse on it's forehand. L&L horse should first (as another poster stated) be coming actively from behind, stepping to about the middle of it's belly. Ask for L&L an a circle - 20 meter to start.
Straight lines make it easier for horse to run and giraffe (which is what your horse is now doing). Think inside leg (at girth) to outside rein. Use outside rein to conatin the shoulder because you don't want the horse to pop the shoulder, you want horse to be "straight" on a curved line (think bananna shape is correct versus question mark (part of body straight part bent in one direction). Use inside leg at girth to prevent horse from coming inside the outline of the circle and outside rein to keep horse from falling "out" of the circle.
When horse speeds up use the rythm of YOUR posting to set the speed. If he trots fast (because he's out of balnce and/or it's easier for horse to do so) You must IGNORE his rythmn and maintain the correct rythmn. Yes - it will be VERY uncomfortable to post slowly when he is "running" at the trot. Use something like "Jingle Bells" to help establish the rythmn for you and the horse (and since you are singing it horse will soon realize the song matches the posting rythmn and start following the rythmn).
Teach horse about half halts (search posts as I have posted many times about the proper way to teach a horse - and rider - how to half halt). Use half halts with posting to get and maintain the rythmn (he won't magically stay with your rythmn and never run at the trot again - you will have to work at it).
Once you've got a nice balance trot going THEN ask for the L&L. This mans it will disrupt his balance (again) and he'll start to run (again) but now you should have the tools to fix that issue.
What breed is he? That could affect how "easy" it is to get him to put his head land neck down. My dressage horse is half Saddlebred, so she naturally holds her head and neck higher, especially at the trot. She learned very quickly, as has a great form now, but if I gave her the opportunity, I'm sure her head would be right back up.
Just a thought! :-)
Make sure his back, saddle and teeth are all Ok first and foremost. Lunging with sidereins on in a long, low outline will help to build up muscles to make it easier for him to come rounder when you ride him. When riding, use lots of inside leg to push him into your outside hand. This will flex him to the inside, which really encourages them to come into a nice outline. Make sure your inside rein contact is also consistent. Leg yielding on a circle (start on a 20m, spiral in to a 10m or smaller then leg yield back out to a 20m) is a great exercise to get him responding to inside leg, and create flexion and bend through body which should result in roundness if your contact is correct! Good luck! :)
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