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Discussion Starter #1
I posted before about Spot being high-headed... I have some photos now to back it up. Do you see the ewe neck? I understand these are "at liberty" but this is pretty much what he looks like when you put any sort of pressure on the reins. No, his teeth are not back and he has no pain issues. He's just extremely evasive of the bit and VERY forward, so you almost HAVE to have constant contact. I really wish I could get him to use his hindquarters more. Any quirks/tips are welcomed.









Here's how he holds it at a relaxed walk (proof he is not pure giraffe!)

 

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Poor guy, not to be mean, he is almost like those long neck dinosaurs (i hope you take this as a joke!). I love his coloring though.
Really the only thing I can recommend for him is to make sure he doesnt develop tons of muscle under his neck because that will just make it worse. You want to try to get him to carry his head slightly arched and that will help build muscle along the top of his neck. I hope that makes sense. I will try to find a picture if that will help.
 

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I have no advise to add but I wanted to say I just love the way he is almost all white with just the little bit of brown.
 

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No, I don't see a true ewe neck... I do see incorrect musclature due to the way he seems to try to carry himself. He needs to learn to find his balance through bringing his hinds through and lifting his back.

His evasiveness may be coming from that constant contact with his mouth. I own a very sensitive mare who would get into exactly this sort of circle and it was actually starting to carry into her way of going at liberty too.

We went through a few coaches before coming across one who put us back at the walk, and only working off the inside hand and leg to start. We would start on a circle and bring my inside hand to my hip while releasing the outside hand and pushing her body out with the inside leg (so the circle would not get too small). Whenever the mare would start to reach down and out, I was to "give" with the inside rein and go "straight" until she raised her head again... And repeat the process.

It didn't take very long for her to realize this was really a better way of travelling... And there was no more constant contact battles.

Here is a pretty "average" moment from early last year, I think (ironically she IS a Saddlebred)


And from mid summer this year... We have progressed further but I haven't had a chance to get photos
 

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You can really see the change to her whole attitude... A much softer, more relaxed horse is presented.
Really you will want him travelling something like this (reaching out a bit further would be better... And walking a bit more forward, This was taken 5 minutes or so into us starting this exercise... So we hadn't mastered the whole concept, and would be what I call "baby steps") every ride, for at least half the ride until he understands that you asking with your seat and inside leg means "come down here, and stretch out".


If he is as smart as he looks he will figure it out in no time because it feels good for them, physically and mentally. In refusing to play the pulley game with her we have eliminated her tension about being ridden. Head low is a position that releases calming endorphins, so it promotes a more relaxed way of going. It isn't a concept "new" to many riders, me included, but it's funny how sometimes the obvious becomes invisible when you are living in the moment.

In addition you could try getting a coach who can show you how to double lunge or ground-drive to help him come to terms with the concept... My coach also has a single line lunging exercise we have been using with much success on my older Saddlebred mare to encourage her to drop long and low to really stretch her back without requiring a rider (due to her PNH background this mare finds double lunging and ground driving very confusing) The single line goes through the ring of the bit to the girth of a saddle or surcingle down level with the elbow. This provides release when the horse drops low, and bears contact when the head comes up without allowing the horse to learn to brace on the bit as they can from standard side reins. From there you need to maintain impulsion (and remember that only a few minutes of solid lunging is worth at least twice that time in the saddle... And a proper warm up is needed before stretching exercises to, minimize chances of injury)
 

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What TheLastUnicorn posted is exactly what i was trying to explain in my post. She did a great job!
 

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Thanks so much for the info TheLastUnicorn, I definitely want to try that with my mare. Subscribing to this thread.
 

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Yes, Unicorn's description of "long and low" riding is critical to developing the horse's ability to lift the neck from it's base (between the chest). By doing this, he can then actually lower the top arch of his neck and lessen the "S" look of his neck. I think much of it is due to his confirmation. His lower neck comes out rather low on the body, and curves more down and outward (kind of bowes outward) which makes the upper curve shorter and sharper, more "ostrich-like". The excersize she described is just perfect for your situation.

Also, check the saddle fit. That dressage saddle just might be a bit too wide in front. It appears to sit a wee bit low in front, though I can't really be sure from the photos. But if it sits too low and puts pressure on his wither bones, that would encourage hollowoing out. Again, I could not be sure from these photos.

He's a beautiful horse. Love his head!
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I've been able to read these replies but unable to write one of my own because of how busy I've been - but thank you very much for all the advice!

Just a little background info - Spot is 18 years old and has been owned by the same person since he was 5, up until I bought him on 9/30/11. Aside from trails he never really did much with his old owner (who is also a friend of mine) but he definitely KNOWS a lot. He 'fakes' a frame if you hold him back - that ugly curvy neck thing they do that makes their neck look a hundred feet long - He knows leg pressure, knows his leads, can jump, barrel race - you name it. He's extremely versatile, but somewhere along the way his foundation was pulled out from under him and he was ridden in an inverted/hollow frame almost all the time. She rode him in a Tom Thumb and since he was so forward, a tight rein was kept, which led to him evading the bit, I'm sure. He was ridden like that for thirteen years. I don't think I ever remember him not having a shanked bit in his mouth.

I am definitely going to try that exercise that Unicorn suggested. I'm excited to start, hehe.

The saddle doesn't touch his withers - it actually fits him pretty well. He's got HUGE shoulders and high withers, and I paid more for this saddle than I've ever paid for a saddle just because it fit him so well. He's got tension issues, but I don't think they're related to the saddle because this is how he's been since I've known him (the past 4 years).

OH - also, this might be something that influences this 'high-headed' behavior: My friend says that he was abused before she bought him. He was aggressive toward people (he still pins his ears/acts grouchy when people come around, but doesn't offer to bite or kick... my friend calls it 'buffaloing'). I notice that whenever I pick at him - for example, if he's walking too fast with me on the ground and starts to pass me, I wiggle the lead rope - he will throw his head very high and get a terrified look in his eye. He isn't head-shy; I can swing my arms around all day; however if he feels like he's done something wrong he will react by throwing his head as high as he can in the air and he gets wide-eyed and scared. He's a big horse, and I'm sure that in the past putting his head up in the air got him 'away' from the people picking on him, but I'm 6'2 and he'd practically have to rear up to get away from me :p

Thanks for all the comments on him! I'm lucky to have such a unique horse.
 

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Sounds like what was more or less going on with my mare... She was very "forward", but it was always rushy, jumpy, quick... Not a true forward. Her tension wasn't tack related, but every coach we have used has checked that anyhow because that is what the behavior "looked" like. She has never been abused (she had a wonderful, knowledgable home before I got her), she just, for whatever reason, never worked through her tension undersaddle.

She came around really quickly to this exercise, she is 6/7 years old this year, and only been ridden for 2 years... So I put this down to the fact that her muscle memory had not been holding the inverted frame long, so it was easier for her to learn better posture.

I also have that older Saddlebred mare which we work on the same stuff... She doesn't move tense like your boy... Just inverted... You would think that would mean she was easier to work through, but she has obviously been going incorrectly for a longer time, and would rather just bend her neck and head than actually lift her back in order to avoid the real "hard" work. (for this reason she gets lunged, properly, more than ridden in order to help her build muscle and balance without the interference of a rider's weight to make it harder for her)

Along the same lines, I have a paint x, about 8/9 years this year, I have owned him his whole life, used to go well... But I have allowed beginners to ride him for the past three years and he has decided that it is "easier" for him to go around like a bit of a giraffe unless someone experienced is on him to remind him of where he should be travelling.

I guess my point is... All horses can develop holes... Sometimes those holes can really make you scratch your head and wonder what the heck happened to make the horse think it needed to go that route. It doesn't always mean someone without knowledge did something "wrong", sometimes it is more of a case where our bad habits get the better of us, sometimes something we do triggers a long ago memory for the horse, sometimes the horse is simply looking for a way to avoid doing as you ask (be it due to pain, the memory of pain, confusion, or a lack of fitness... Or whatever). It doesn't really matter, as long as you know the hole exists you can work on fixing it.
 
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