Opinions on Headset Expectations - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by cbar View Post
This is interesting and something I am actually working on with my mare. I am working with a western dressage trainer, so goal is similar to english style dressage, where you want the horse working in a more collected frame.

However, we are not trying to force my horse into this frame. We are trying to train her and show her that by lowering her head and working through her back, it will feel good for her. The biggest thing is if the horse is properly using their body. This could be the same for any discipline.

We are not using gadgets to force the horse in a frame, and when she is using herself correctly, the inside rein on a circle should actually be relaxed.

This could translate to endurance or trail riding - just teaching your horse to relax on trail and use themselves properly. Typically a horse is more relaxed with their heads more down. When they have their heads up, it is normally b/c they are alerted to something; and once their head is up they will hollow out their back.

So by teaching them to lower their head, they will usually relax. I know this works as my mare will start chewing and yawning when we do work like this.
Just remember, a horse needs to be ridden back to front, so just lowering the head can relax a horse, but in dressage you want the horse to be tracking up under themselves. So leg, then hand...
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post #12 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by AnitaAnne View Post
Just remember, a horse needs to be ridden back to front, so just lowering the head can relax a horse, but in dressage you want the horse to be tracking up under themselves. So leg, then hand...
I agree 100% with this - a horse can look collected/have a lowered head and be relaxed but still be heavy on the forehand.
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post #13 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:19 AM
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Gaited horses would be more like dressage horses. This is something my hubby has worked years on with his trainer. Most gaited horses have necks that tie in higher than a stock horse and therefore have a higher head set. Hubby takes weekly lessons (and sometimes is not really consistent) and had to help teach his mare to work under herself to get a smoother gait. She now does it as soon as he pics up the reins. If he is not consistent with his seat and legs she gets strung out and choppy and will pace or trot. Hands are there just to guide not to pull the head into position
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post #14 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by carshon View Post
Gaited horses would be more like dressage horses. This is something my hubby has worked years on with his trainer. Most gaited horses have necks that tie in higher than a stock horse and therefore have a higher head set. Hubby takes weekly lessons (and sometimes is not really consistent) and had to help teach his mare to work under herself to get a smoother gait. She now does it as soon as he pics up the reins. If he is not consistent with his seat and legs she gets strung out and choppy and will pace or trot. Hands are there just to guide not to pull the head into position
there is a lot of similarity in gaited and dressage, but I am careful when to admit this and to who
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post #15 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 09:59 PM Thread Starter
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Very interesting responses, thanks everyone!

Out of more curiosity - because I've had different people tell me very different things about my horse in particular - what do people think of my mare's natural headset/frame? She highly prefers to move out with her neck up and nose out like the first photo and my profile pic. Probably has to do with being 1/2 Arabian, it's just where her neck is set, I believe. If I drop my reins, she'll move exactly like that all day, it's where she's comfortable. She will collect without hesitation like in the second photo if I ask her to, but will only stay that way for 10 seconds or so before returning to her natural frame if I leave her alone. (I apologize for the poor first picture quality, it's the best I have of her moving the way she wants.)

There are people who have told me her natural movement might not display the prettiest headset or frame, but if it's where she's comfortable, it won't hurt anything, and that she will still build muscle where it matters. I have had other people tell me that they would like to see her always go like the second photo, because it will strengthen her topline, and the more she goes that way, the more she'll want to go that way.

Essentially all of my training has been with English people who want to always see every horse either collected - not high-level-dressage-style collected, but more hunter-style or very low-level-dressage collected - or stretching down. So I'm trying to see things from a different perspective after 10+ years of being spoon-fed that all horses need to go that way.

We don't show and don't have any plans on showing, so we're not trying to win any awards in the looks department. This is strictly keeping my horse's best interest and strength in mind. We do almost all of our work on the trails. Personally, I have no interest in constantly asking her to collect for months until she maybe does it on her own, so right now she's going the way she wants to go. For the sake of my horse, and not the sake of any judge's expectations or what is "correct" in any given sport, which way would you ask her to go? Is there any real benefit to collecting her if she prefers not to and we're just doing trails?
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post #16 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 10:38 PM
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I don't like to see any horse going with their nose up and out like that, too easy for them to evade the bit in such a way that you cannot have any control, if they choose. It also seems that those who are moving like that, are more on the forehand and paddling. I prefer to see higher head/neck horses to move like the pics I post of my 2 Arabs, but maybe not so far reigned back. I felt they both were behind the bit at the time those pics were taken and have worked not to have them back like that over the long haul. But that is a natural set, when they are on the bit and working back to front.
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post #17 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:08 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Dreamcatcher Arabians View Post
I don't like to see any horse going with their nose up and out like that, too easy for them to evade the bit in such a way that you cannot have any control, if they choose. It also seems that those who are moving like that, are more on the forehand and paddling. I prefer to see higher head/neck horses to move like the pics I post of my 2 Arabs, but maybe not so far reigned back. I felt they both were behind the bit at the time those pics were taken and have worked not to have them back like that over the long haul. But that is a natural set, when they are on the bit and working back to front.
On the contrary, I have found - for my mare at least - that she listens better when she's on a loose rein and allowed to put her head where she pleases. She'll gladly neck rein and turn off of leg, and will listen to a light direct rein if/when necessary. But if I ask her to collect or work while "on the bit," she is much more likely to get worked up, ignore all cues and push through the contact. Similar to an OTTB feeling direct contact and thinking "go." This is applicable to both bitted and bitless, though she can get much more upset with a bit, which is why I ride her bitless.

Where can I find the pictures you posted? Edit: My bad, those photos did not load while I was reading on my phone earlier. I see them now.
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post #18 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:39 PM
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I am completely out of my lane here, but to my amateur eye she looks more collected and “together” in the small picture and in your profile picture. The big photo just looks...unnatural - somehow. Maybe because she is so downhill. Ok, I’m gonna go ahead and get myself back into my lane, please don’t all shout at once.
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post #19 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dreamcatcher Arabians View Post
I don't like to see any horse going with their nose up and out like that, too easy for them to evade the bit in such a way that you cannot have any control, if they choose...
Bandit being his normal self:






Nothing about his nose position makes him uncontrollable. A horse CAN learn to evade a snaffle bit by sticking its nose out, but horses also elevate their head as required to see where they are going. They have a narrow, horizontal band in their eye that sees at near human vision, and can only adjust for distance by changing the tilt of their head. A horse using it as an evasion needs to learn new habits, but that isn't all that hard to do.


The problem with this position is the horse is driving downhill. She looks better with a more elevated head. Collection is best viewed by the back - is the horse lifting at the withers? Is the horse tucking under some with the pelvis?


"Is there any real benefit to collecting her if she prefers not to and we're just doing trails?" - @Aprilswissmiss

Collection isn't important for trail riding. If you want to cover ground without wasting energy, the horse needs long, flat strides. Coiling under and lifting at the withers is energy wasted unless there is a reason for it. It doesn't make the horse more maneuverable nor does it make it easier for the horse to carry weight.
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post #20 of 48 Old 01-03-2020, 11:52 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by bsms View Post
"Is there any real benefit to collecting her if she prefers not to and we're just doing trails?" - @Aprilswissmiss

Collection isn't important for trail riding. If you want to cover ground without wasting energy, the horse needs long, flat strides. Coiling under and lifting at the withers is energy wasted unless there is a reason for it. It doesn't make the horse more maneuverable nor does it make it easier for the horse to carry weight.
Thank you. This answers my question directly and lends some clarity in the show world where her "collected" picture would be the highly preferred frame. She is certainly not built like a downhill horse, but I do agree it does look like she is more downhill in the second picture, perhaps even more on the forehand than in her natural headset.
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