Opinions on Headset Expectations - Page 4 - The Horse Forum
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post #31 of 48 Old 01-04-2020, 08:44 PM
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Have you ever tried riding her on the outside rein only? Not saying itís necessary, it would just be interesting to see how she responds. She sounds like she would like that. Just get her on a circle, establish the bend, move your outside hand slightly closer to the center of her neck but donít cross the middle line and release the contact with the inside rein.

(I am amazed at our collective ability to imagine and get invested in horses weíve never laid our eyes on. I am itching to try this technique with this particular horse on the other side of the world. Silly.)
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post #32 of 48 Old 01-04-2020, 09:53 PM
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Originally Posted by Aprilswissmiss View Post
1) Any horse, so long as it is relaxed and balanced, should naturally hold its head below its withers
The only time I have ever seen my arabs with their heads below their withers was if they were eating. Even cruising around the pasture on their own, their heads/necks are above that level. That has more to do with their conformation than their state of relaxation.

When traveling down trail, I want my horse to find the most comfortable/sustainable way for them to travel, and most of the time the horse can pick that without my interference. Is it the outline that most people want in a show ring? No.. but most people don't spend hours showing with no break.

I have exactly one picture on trail where the horse is "on the bit" and I have gotten compliments from non-distance riders about how lovely the mare looks:



I have to laugh, as the reason the mare is 'on the bit' is because she was acting up! Knowing she was a well-trained ex-eventer, I was using some lateral work to get her refocused on me when we came around a corner and the photographer happened to be there!

I cannot imagine sustaining that position for hours.

The same mare, in her normal trail 'frame:'



Let your mare tell you what position she is most comfortable in for traveling down the trail.


There is no joy equal to that found on the back of a horse.
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post #33 of 48 Old 01-04-2020, 10:31 PM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Horsef View Post
Have you ever tried riding her on the outside rein only? Not saying itís necessary, it would just be interesting to see how she responds. She sounds like she would like that. Just get her on a circle, establish the bend, move your outside hand slightly closer to the center of her neck but donít cross the middle line and release the contact with the inside rein.

(I am amazed at our collective ability to imagine and get invested in horses weíve never laid our eyes on. I am itching to try this technique with this particular horse on the other side of the world. Silly.)
I have not tried that before, but knowing her, I'm certain she would do one of two things: turn in the direction of the outside rein (she will roll back to the outside to change directions readily even if she's close to the fence, it's something I've taught her before to keep her thinking instead of running), or evade the pressure completely/tense up from confusion and just leave the circle. There is the possibility that she'll interpret it as neck reining toward the inside, since the outside rein would probably push against her neck being so close to the center, but I think her aversion to direct contact will override her cue response like it usually does.

If she feels the direct outside rein and inside leg, she will probably translate that as "turn to the outside" since if I'm not asking her to bend, I mostly use legs to ask her to turn. Plus, the outside rein is a non-traditional way of asking for a bend that she doesn't know; she is only familiar with one rein paired with the same side leg. But there's also a good chance she'll get upset or confused at my hand pulling from close to the center and just think I'm pulling back in general (especially in a bitless bridle), which could definitely make her upset. She doesn't do anything dangerous or stupid when she gets upset, she just gets stiff in the neck and more forward and blows through cues.

It's unfortunately something I can't try right now because of the mud in the center of the arena I mentioned in the previous post that currently prevents me from doing circles. It's also something I'm not keen on encouraging, because she already enjoys looking toward the outside at the scenery she wishes she could be exploring instead of the arena!

Before I figured out she doesn't like to bend to the inside at the trot during mud season because she doesn't want me to pull her into the slippery center, I would ask her for an inside bend and she would just parade around the perimeter of the mud with her head and neck entirely rigid, completely ignoring contact. At first I was like, hellooo, are you listening?? But then I realized I was the dummy because I should have been listening to her very understandable concerns in the first place. Duh. "Mom, I'm keeping both of us safe from slipping in the mud and hurting ourselves. Hellooo, are you listening?? Guess not. Fine, I won't listen either, but I'm still keeping our butts from falling in the dirt." What do they say, a gelding does what you ask but a mare takes care of you, or something like that? She teaches me so much more than every other horse I've ridden in the past 10+ years combined.
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post #34 of 48 Old 01-05-2020, 02:26 AM
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Until you have safe ground to ride on, asking your horse to do things that are hard for her might be unfair. I do hear you talking in a way about her disliking this or that. And you not wanting to work her through those things. Horses can dislike a new thing for awhile , then learn to accept it, as long as you are fair. They know FAIR, you betcha!

Phantomhorse used rein and contact to get her horse thinking more back toward her rider. This is a GREAT thing for both horse and rider to learn. You can be a passenger , but you need to be able to get your horse to soften and think back and let you mold his body, for short periods of time.
Looking at your avartar photo, Your horse has a bit of a bulge on the underside of her neck, meaning that that muscle is overdeveloped. That is the muscle used when the hose lifts the head braces the neck but pushes forward too, usually against a restraining hand, or sometimes a tie down or side reins.
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post #35 of 48 Old 01-05-2020, 03:20 AM
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I tend to be of the third mindset, but It depends on what goals you have for your horse. Dressage headsets are more upright, while western headsets tend to be lower, so these need to be achieved by the horse. I do think, however, that training into/with a 'frame' should be comfortable for the horse and not forced. A horse should comfortably be capable of both headsets in schooling and a horse should also be able to choose a longer frame or higher frame, when appropriate. Depending on conformation, one or the other may be easier for the horse.

I generally don't like to school in a shorter Dressage frame for an extended amount of time and I allow changes in frame length over the ride, as well as stretches when my horses indicate that is what they want. Sometimes I even allow them to go hollow, which is usually my indication that they need a break. I find my horses are much happier and more willing this way. I think of it as if I were weight lifting myself. There comes a point when you absolutely need to take a break and the horses also know their limits, whether physically or mentally. I feel that resistance to the bit can often occur when we push past the horse's limits.
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post #36 of 48 Old 01-05-2020, 04:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phantomhorse13 View Post
The only time I have ever seen my arabs with their heads below their withers was if they were eating. Even cruising around the pasture on their own, their heads/necks are above that level. That has more to do with their conformation than their state of relaxation.
You know, Iíve always been confused with ďthey need to stretch their neckĒ - my mare spends most of her time stretching her neck. If sheís awake, sheís either eating or looking for something to eat. I really donít see what those few minutes of her stretching under saddle will accomplish. Maybe other horses arenít gluttons like my mare.
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post #37 of 48 Old 01-05-2020, 07:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phantomhorse13 View Post
The only time I have ever seen my arabs with their heads below their withers was if they were eating. Even cruising around the pasture on their own, their heads/necks are above that level. That has more to do with their conformation than their state of relaxation.

Let your mare tell you what position she is most comfortable in for traveling down the trail.
^^^^This.

My thoughts exactly. Iím glad a professional endurance rider put into words what I was thinking.

If any of my horses heads, thru my life, were below the withers they were either rock climbing, grazing, drinking water, or sick.

As a lifelong trail rider I do not believe in forcing a horseís head into an unnatural position.

I also would never buy a horse whose head did appear to naturally always want to roll peanuts. I- just - do - not - like - the - look.

A Good Horseman Doesn't Have To Tell Anyone; The Horse Already Knows.

I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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post #38 of 48 Old 01-05-2020, 11:42 AM Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tinyliny View Post
Until you have safe ground to ride on, asking your horse to do things that are hard for her might be unfair. I do hear you talking in a way about her disliking this or that. And you not wanting to work her through those things. Horses can dislike a new thing for awhile , then learn to accept it, as long as you are fair. They know FAIR, you betcha!

Phantomhorse used rein and contact to get her horse thinking more back toward her rider. This is a GREAT thing for both horse and rider to learn. You can be a passenger , but you need to be able to get your horse to soften and think back and let you mold his body, for short periods of time.
Looking at your avartar photo, Your horse has a bit of a bulge on the underside of her neck, meaning that that muscle is overdeveloped. That is the muscle used when the hose lifts the head braces the neck but pushes forward too, usually against a restraining hand, or sometimes a tie down or side reins.
That profile pic was taken before I adopted her, so it's not the result of how I ride her. She was essentially a pasture ornament at the rescue because no one enjoyed riding her; they found her to be too forward-thinking. She develops more top neck muscles with exercise, easier to see in the second photo I posted.

I had that mindset for a while, that direct rein was fair, and she should learn to accept it. And honestly, it just made our rides horrible and unenjoyable for both for months. If I rode her like I would an English-trained horse, she would feel the contact (no matter how soft), shut down, stiffen up, get antsy, and blow through cues. And a horse that's shut down is a horse that's not learning. I don't know what happened in her past to make her so averse to direct rein, but neither of us enjoy it. I mentioned before, she absolutely will soften, think, and let me shape her, but only with the occasional soft guiding direct rein combined with other cues that she responds to much better.

I'd rather have an enjoyable ride and a supple, happy partner than try to fight with her for months to "teach" her something we don't need - because that's what it would come down to, fighting. Just because I'm riding off of other cues rather than direct contact doesn't make me a passenger. She will bend with leg and a light inside touch, stop off of seat alone, turn on a dime with neck reining.

Phantomhorse used rein and contact on a well trained eventer that learned long ago to accept contact. That works great for that horse, but not so much for mine.
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post #39 of 48 Old 01-05-2020, 12:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aprilswissmiss View Post
That profile pic was taken before I adopted her, so it's not the result of how I ride her. She was essentially a pasture ornament at the rescue because no one enjoyed riding her; they found her to be too forward-thinking. She develops more top neck muscles with exercise, easier to see in the second photo I posted.

I had that mindset for a while, that direct rein was fair, and she should learn to accept it. And honestly, it just made our rides horrible and unenjoyable for both for months. If I rode her like I would an English-trained horse, she would feel the contact (no matter how soft), shut down, stiffen up, get antsy, and blow through cues. And a horse that's shut down is a horse that's not learning. I don't know what happened in her past to make her so averse to direct rein, but neither of us enjoy it. I mentioned before, she absolutely will soften, think, and let me shape her, but only with the occasional soft guiding direct rein combined with other cues that she responds to much better.

I'd rather have an enjoyable ride and a supple, happy partner than try to fight with her for months to "teach" her something we don't need - because that's what it would come down to, fighting. Just because I'm riding off of other cues rather than direct contact doesn't make me a passenger. She will bend with leg and a light inside touch, stop off of seat alone, turn on a dime with neck reining.

Phantomhorse used rein and contact on a well trained eventer that learned long ago to accept contact. That works great for that horse, but not so much for mine.

I found the exact same thing on my first horse, who had developed bit issues (gaping avoidance) after working with a trainer. Unfortunately, I stayed with the trainer for a while, as I didn't know better at the time and eventually left after a few years. I had the same mindset as you at the time and was too stubborn to fully go back to basics and forget the frame. We pursued dressage, so contact was necessary to pursue those goals. I was surprised that the instructors I had thought the contact was fine and normal. The ride never felt great though and the issue would always appear whenever my horse became stressed or frustrated.



It took me and embarrassingly long time to go back completely to basics, on the ground, and not focus on headset. Once I did, I was surprised at the change in my horse, who no longer even attempted to gape and always searched for contact, even at the buckle, at the canter. I was surprised that it really didn't take as long as I'd thought either. The ride was not only pleasant, but easy. The topping on the cake was both the physical and mental changes I saw in my horse. He developed way more muscle in 3 months than I'd seen previously in that duration and he was actually enjoying the ride. Each ride felt better than the last and we could then accomplish our goals in schooling in half the time it previously took us.
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post #40 of 48 Old 01-05-2020, 01:28 PM
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Horses have the neck muscles they need for what they do. If one rides a certain way, their bodies (and necks) will adapt. A little. They spend most of their time unridden. Not sure any photo tells much of a story.

Bandit and his body is shaped mostly by his food and the large percentage of time I'm not riding him. Seems to me we look at neck muscles like a bodybuilder looks at biceps. But this was one of the greatest heavyweight boxing champions in history:



Doesn't look very formidable compared to a bodybuilder, but it would not have been prudent for a bodybuilder to tell him that...
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