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IslandWave 01-07-2011 08:29 PM

Teaching horse to lower head
I'm a short person, even in my work/riding boots, and I have a 6 year old dinosaur mare that I have started undersaddle. The trouble is that she's 18hh and still growing. She's also a very suspicous, spooky, snorty, and alert horse (we're doing a LOT of desensitizing) so she does not naturally stand with her head anywhere near the ground. This can be bothersome when I am haltering and bridling her. Although she is a dear and doesn't mind me fumbling around on my tip toes, I'd like to teach her this so her future owners won't have the same trouble as me if they happen to be shorter than six feet. :wink:

I've never taught a horse to lower their head on command, so I would love some help! How did you teach this to other horses?

tinyliny 01-07-2011 08:55 PM

Little by little. You put your hand on the poll and press downward while at the same time pulling down on the halter via the leadline, and when she gives a tiny bit you stop all pressure. The trick is to NOT give up the pressure for all incorrect reponses; i.e. if she responds by jerking her head up, you follow her with your hand and keep the pressure on. If she pulls away, you follow and keep the pressure on. Doe'st have to be much pressure , but enough to cause her to search for a way out of the pressure. When she puts her head down, you release. All the way.
Once she starts to get it, add the word "Down" .
As she gets softer, you release only 50% and then you ask for a little bit further, then total realease. You keep adding to the amount that you are asking her to lower.

You can also encourage her to go down , all the way to the ground, by putting a cookie on the ground, but only after she has learned to respond to pressure on the poll and the lead. If she gets really soft, you can just use the lead lind pulling down.
Just take it in small incrememts and reward for small tries.

Hidalgo13 01-07-2011 09:00 PM

Oh oh! I have a video of exactly this I found not long ago...

It was very helpful and the horse used in this video is also young, spooky, sensitive. Hope it helps.

mbender 01-07-2011 09:07 PM

I would use a rope halter hook a lead to it. Just so you know you will get resistance so don't think your doing something wrong. Anyway, just take up the lead and tug gently but firmly down until she lowers her head slightly. She may fight it but don't stop pulling until she gives for even a second. As soon as she gives let go of the lead.

Repeat until she starts to realize she won't get a release until she drops that head. When you get threw she should drop her head to the ground. It will take time and patience.
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banman 01-08-2011 01:32 PM

well oyu can always you the pressure point on her pole but that is not much use if you cant reach it, one thing you can try it take a treat or some oats and mut it out in from of her when she puts her head down to eat it say head down and give her a rub, then when she gets that just make it lower and lower till it where you want it, then practise making sure she understands the commaned and is not just going for the oats or treats.:)

kitten_Val 01-08-2011 03:07 PM

I did it with the rope halter on. Just pull down slightly and as long as she gives (which is just a tiny hint at first) - release the pressure. Than do it again - pull, give, release. And again....

xxBarry Godden 01-08-2011 04:27 PM

Oh, may I as a mere male suggest that when she does bend her head upon request, you give her a little treat like a horse biscuit or a bit of apple - maybe even a carrot plus a stroke and a hug.

and say 'good girl'

A big horse like this will never do anything unless she wants to, and for sure you do not want her not to.

tinyliny 01-08-2011 04:35 PM

there is nothing wrong with giving a treat as a secondary reward. But the primary cue and the primary reward must be that which can be duplicated anywhere, anytime; pressure on the lead for the cue, release of pressure and "good girl" voice.
Since you objective is to get the horse to lower her head so that you can bridle/halter etc. you will want to be able to put your arm over the head, eventually. So, as soon as you get her to lower her head with pull down on the lead rope and her head comes into range of you being able to put a hand or arm over, you might start doing that, and encouraging her to keep her head down for more than a mear second. That way you will be able to get about the business of bridleing.

IslandWave 01-08-2011 06:25 PM

I can't wait to work on this now! Thanks all. I have a game plan now.
Oh and I will watch the video! I think the visual aid will greatly help me, too.

kitten_Val 01-08-2011 06:37 PM

Actually while I use treats quite a lot, giving a carrot for every tiny "give" is little too much IMHO. :wink: If/when she does it all way to the ground, than yes, treat could be appropriate (given she's not mouthy).

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