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Discussion Starter #1
Alright, so Its at the point now where I want to lower my geldings headset a little bit--He's an OTTB, on the track for nine years, so at anything above a walk his head is sky high, unless of course we're in the round pen and he's being frisky, then he breaks very nicely at the poll, lowers his head to level with his back and does whatever kick out/jump move he wants to do. I ride western, and I ride in a hackamore. So what can I do to get him to lower his head, either from the ground or in the saddle? He free lunges, but he does not lunge well on a line (even in a round pen).
 

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Put him in a snaffle & teach him lateral & vertical flexion. Breaking at the poll is just another way to say vertical flexion, but remember that lateral flexion needs to come first. I don't think the hackamore will be very effective in teaching these things.
Lateral Flexion is The Key to Vertical Flexion with horses
 

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Discussion Starter #4
And how would I do this in a hackamore? If he even thinks he sees a bit on his bridle he starts having a royal fit--it took three people to put a bit in his mouth the last time I tried it (one to hold him, one to hold his head, and me to but the bridle on). I know he does not have teeth issues.
 

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And how would I do this in a hackamore? If he even thinks he sees a bit on his bridle he starts having a royal fit--it took three people to put a bit in his mouth the last time I tried it (one to hold him, one to hold his head, and me to but the bridle on). I know he does not have teeth issues.
you need to fix this problem before worrying about a lower headset.
 

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With my reiners they all are taught to lower their head when you sweez them with your legs. They are also taught to relax when you pick up the reins. This all starts at the stand still then moves up into the walk and then on up into the other gates.
 

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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
you need to fix this problem before worrying about a lower headset.
I don't see it as a problem, since he responds perfectly to a hackamore. He rides in a halter better than he ever did in a bit. To me, putting a bit in his mouth is not something that needs to happen for him to learn something. Since he is an 11 year old OTTB, I'm sure he had this problem on the track and they just dealt with it accordingly

nrhariener, HOW is this done? Thats what I want to know, is how to get him to lower his head.
 

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Your reins are decoration. A correct head set comes from correct training and a good circle of aids. As your horse becomes more responsive to your seat, leg and weight aids he will learn to come from behind and stretch to your contact.
To help him learn this, side reins while lunging is helpful as long as they are never too tight and you keep him moving forward.

Good luck!
 

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Discussion Starter #9 (Edited)
To help him learn this, side reins while lunging is helpful as long as they are never too tight and you keep him moving forward.

Good luck!
I was thinking of using those, but can I use side reins with a hackamore? I use the English kind, so the shanks on the sides where the reins attach provide a little bit of rotation/leverage/stopping power....if I attach the side reins won't they rotate?

Also, could I use something like a martingale/tie down? It wouldn't be a permanent staple, just something to get him into a lower position so he could learn it. Standing/Walking, he often drops his head low or at least keeps it level

Also, to nrh--to him, side pressure means 'go forward'--if its at anything above a walk, his head shoots up.
 

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I think the bit is an important training tool and you won't be able to get the kind of refinement you are looking for without using one.

The comments made so far along on this thread tell you what is possible for a finished horse (lower head with leg squeeze, reins as decoration). In order to get a horse to that point, a lot of work needed to be done with the horse riding in a bit.

Since your horse responds perfectly to a hackamore, I guess you shouldn't be having any problems with headset or otherwise.
 

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I was thinking of using those, but can I use side reins with a hackamore? I use the English kind, so the shanks on the sides where the reins attach provide a little bit of rotation/leverage/stopping power....if I attach the side reins won't they rotate?

Also, could I use something like a martingale/tie down? It wouldn't be a permanent staple, just something to get him into a lower position so he could learn it. Standing/Walking, he often drops his head low or at least keeps it level

Also, to nrh--to him, side pressure means 'go forward'--if its at anything above a walk, his head shoots up.
Using something like a standing martingale will only teach him to yield to pressure and brace with the underside of his neck while tucking his chin in. You want to use something that restricts upward movement of the neck, and allows the horse to stretch down and find contact. As far as attaching the side reins, I would do so in a non-leverage way. Even attaching them to a halter would be good.
Really I can't stress this enough - when you are in the saddle you need to be in control and not let the leather do the work for you. I have heard a million times "oh this gadget isn't forever!" and within months it's on the horse every day. If you really feel you need something then a running martingale could help under saddle if used properly. Just don't let it end up that you ride around with your hands by your ears. Keep them low and near the withers and with a correct rein length, the horse will correct himself when he puts his head up.
However, this will only correct excessive head raising, in order to get a consistent and correct frame you must still ride!

Good luck.
 

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I have to agree with GottaRide that you would benefit from the use of a soft O-Ring snaffle. Regardless, he should be able to lower his head and accept the bit (getting him to lower his head with pressure from you palm on his poll should help you with that). Refusing to be bridled isn't something he should be able to get away with.
I had a gelding much like yours, who's head would go straight into the air. Within three days, he would lower his head and help me pick the bit off my hand with no resistance.

Like nrhaReiner, I also use my legs to associate dropping their heads. I start using the reins to ask them to break down at the poll and round out, while also using the leg signals (I use a very slight bumping motion to differeniate between the cue for walk).
Continue to do that, using the reins less and less. It shouldn't take long before they figure out that the "bumping" is que for dropping their heads.

You may have to either have him backed up to a fence or in front of a fence to keep him from either walking away or backing up. You don't want to be switching from your asking for a headset to correcting their movement too much, so another block for their movement would be beneficial. :)
 

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Oh, I forgot a something else I wanted to say! LOL

Personally, I don't like hackamores. I think Bosal's are great, but not hackamore. The mechanics of them are rather... unpleasent.

I would avoid using a tie down or martingale's, although I do use draw reins to help me reinforce what I'm asking of them. Usually by 2 weeks or so, you can take away the draw reins and have a fairly nice headseat.
 

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I don't think you need a bit to work on this. Also, if you mean the kind of hackamore with the metal that digs into the head, I'd lose that too! It sounds to me like your horse's head is an indication of his mind, and that would mean you need to work on getting his confidence. Force won't do this. Have you taught him to lower his head with a halter on, with you on the ground? To me, that would come first. Slow, quiet work. When he yields to pressure as you gently pull on the halter, release immediately and praise him. At his age, a treat might be more convincing than just verbal praise. Anyway, be patient! After a little of that, go for a ride, and see if you can do the same thing under saddle.
 

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Discussion Starter #15 (Edited)
He does not refuse to be bridled, he refuses a bit. The bit I had him in was a plain D-ring snaffle. If fit him perfectly, and yet every day we would have a fight that lasted anywhere from 10 minutes to a half hour--with a hackamore, he drops his nose right into it without any sort of command. He doesn't just put his nose up, he thrashes, backs up, moves side to side...he actually clenches his teeth as well (I've had all four of my fingers wedged into his mouth and he still wouldn't open).



Thats the hackamore I use, and I agree with you--rope hackamores make me feel icky, but I think that one is actually pretty harmless. Even if the lining on the noseband wears away, its still a much broader surface of pressure than a skinny piece of rope.

I'll have to pick myself up a pair of draw reins (maybe with the christmas money I get) and work with him then.

Beling--If you've ever seen a horse race, "heads up" with their noses out and their backs hollow is exactly how they run, so its not really an indication of pain, its just how he's used to moving, and thats really the problem here...he is a race horse, not a riding horse.
 

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I'm really cringing right now for your poor horse! Sorry to be a hag on this thread, but you have to know that there are so many things wrong with the way you want to ride your horse. Draw reins with a hackamore? Very scary.

What you want to acheive (lower headset) is really very easy & every horse should be capable of doing it. Your methods to get there will not effective, and quite possibly will be harmful. You want your horse to use proper body mechanics, yet you seem to want to use all these "band-aid" fixes to get there. One day all of those band-aids are going to fall off & you'll see a festering wound.
 

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I like to use the snaffles and side reins, too. I know you are dealing with an ex-race horse, but maybe even if you use a different metal/shape of mouthpiece, for instance, instead of a stainless plain mouth snaffle, get a copper roller mouthpiece. It will taste and feel a little different, and really help him get over the idea that bits equal racing.

Letting him work in side reins is a very good way to teach him to give his face, they are much more consistent than you can be. I do suggest frequent breaks if you see any "giving" as the muscles take time to adjust to the new movement and you don't want to over tire him and make him fight it.

Look for that first softening, then stop and remove the side reins, let him trot a few rounds without, then hook them back up..I use that method when starting youngsters. Helps condition muscles, and lets their minds digest it for a moment before proceding. That's my 2 cents worth anyways.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I'm really cringing right now for your poor horse! Sorry to be a hag on this thread, but you have to know that there are so many things wrong with the way you want to ride your horse. Draw reins with a hackamore? Very scary.
If you paid attention to my previous responses, I asked if that would even be something I could do. I didn't see a response to that particular question, so I assumed it would be. I know my horse and the second he seemed to be not taking something well or not responding the way he should be responding, I stop. I do believe that its an easy thing to achieve, but I also think there should be more than one way to get him to do it. This thread is asking for opinions, not criticism in how I choose to handle my horse....which you really know nothing about.

I have considered using something like a rubber bit, or even something with a low port to give his tongue more room but the problem is getting it in there in the first place. As I said, he even sees a bit coming towards his mouth and he freaks out. When I did manage to wrestle the d-ring in his mouth, he was fine with it, but seemed to play with it excessively like it was making him nervous. I prefer not to have a thirty minute fight every day with my horse or make him a mindless mess.

Basically what everyone has said here is that I have to stress my horse out in order to get what I want out of him. Is there anything that I can do in the saddle then to get him to keep his head low?
 

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Ok please do not put draw reins on your horse. Please. If you must use a running martingale then do so. For lunging use only side reins. Otherwise you are just pressuring the horse un-necessarily and backing him off of the contact.
The Hackamore is fine. Really, I agree with you there. I have ridden my horses in bit-less bridles and hackamores and they are fine. Just dont add anything else that acts to pull the horse's face to their chest as the hackamore has enough of that action.
 

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I wouldn't be worried about riding issues, like setting his head, until his ground manners, like letting you put a bit in his mouth, are perfect. If he resists putting the bit in, chances are he'll resist other things --- like you trying to set his head.

Practice making him lower his head from the ground by squeezing the pressure point behind his ears. At first, he'll resist and make a fuss. He may make a huge fuss. Keep at it, though, cause once you have his head low, you can try bridling (with the bit). If he throws his head up (which I'm guessing thats what he does) or tries to get away, make him put his head down and try again.

Once you have that down, THEN try working on undersaddle stuff.

Good Luck! :)
 
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