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Hi there!! I am new to the forum. I recently purchased a BEAUTIFUL percheron/OH cross mare for mostly pleasure riding and the occasional local event or hunter pace. She was used previously as a carriage horse and a fox hunting horse. She has this habit of getting WAY behind the bit, almost to the point of touching her chest. Mostly this occurs when I am asking her to round and except the bit. I have worked her gradually with VERY little contact up until this point because of this problem just to get her moving foward with out argument. My trainer seems to think that this problem is mainly a carriage horse "habit" and we are not sure how to tackle it. I was wondering if anyone has ever dealt with a horse that used to pull but you are now using for riding? How can I get her to except the contact and realize she doesn't have a HUGE carriage behind her to pull?

Thanks for your help!!
Stori
 

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It is more likely a habit she has learned to avoid the hands of a poor driver.

A driving horse should be no more behind the bit than a ridden one... The same concepts about how a horse should travel apply, at least according to our driving coaches.

It is hard to give helpful advice in this situation without seeing you ride her... You may simply need to work on creating more impulsion from her, rather than thinking about headset and "contact". IME horses which tend to travel behind the verticle have often been taught to carry a "false frame" and are not moving properly in the first place.

Do you work on long and low work much?
 

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I'm not familiar with "long and low". Could you elaborate on what that would be? I do think she tries to form a "false" frame. I almost get the feeling that maybe some training devices were previously used on her to get that head set. It's usually when I get great impulsion from her that she DOES this habit. I can collect her back down, say at the trot, and she will immediatly except the contact, but when I ask for more foward movement, she then goes behind bit. She also seems to get more on the forehand when this occurs. So when driving, is the contact between riders hand and horses mouth on the same level as when riding? I have always just assumed there would be "heavier" contact while driving and that maybe she is trying to escape the pressure. Thanks for your input thus far!
 

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Here is a pic of us at rest. Notice the slight slack in the reins, because as soon as I lift my hands, that nose will tuck in =/
 

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I don't know much about carriage horses but I ride dressage and work with some amazing instructors (USDF Certified Instructor/ Trainer & the other trained with Mette Rosencrantz and the German Reitlehrer FNa€ Pferdewirtschaftsmeister, Michael Lieberg). Anyhow, I've been taught that the head is the last thing we want to focus on. Work from behind and move to the head last. The problem is not the horses headset, shyness of the bit, etc... the problem is probably the drive from behind. Ride with less hand, deeper seat and stronger core, and drive with the legs.

Do lots of circles. Figure it's going to take time. Take baby steps and remember that the end result of a spectacular moving horse (one with impulsion, submission, suppleness and suspension) came about through years of unspectacular gymnastic work and exercise.

She is a beautiful horse. Good luck.
 

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Eriray has put my thoughts a different way.

A driver should strive for lightness of hand as much as possible... Subtle hands make for softer driving horses.

Long and low work would be the start of developing the topline and self carriage require for more collected work. As Eriray has said, headset or head carriage will come when the horse is really using itself properly... Lifting the back in order for the hinds to step under and through to create impulsion.

In the beginning the idea is to teach the horse to carry it's head low while maintaining impusion (length of stride). This will strengthen the muscles required to hold a "true frame".
 

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all said about driving from behind are correct. I will also add that one of the most difficult evasions to correct and fix is being over the bit.

Separate your hands when you sicrle and use a leading rein on the inside of the turn (at first) and no contact with the outside rein.

A carriage horse, propeerly driven, should not be over the bit. In fact, a carriage horse should look a bit like a dressage horse without a rider if properly trained (and not pulling a very heavy load). Impulsion is still key.
 
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