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Old 12-27-2013, 06:40 AM   #1
Tosch
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Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: A German in Switzerland
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Default How to raise the horse's head?

A brief introduction and then an question..
I started horseback riding about 25 years ago while living in California for 2 ½ years. Due to life’s circumstances I repeatedly had to stop riding for some years then got back into it, always having to start over again. Last time I started again was in 2011/2012 and in Aug 12 I got myself a then 10 yr old QH gelding, who also had been shown some in local reining shows here in south Germany. We had quite a few downs. I have been working on riding with my seat and my body, and on using signals (just moving the reins and changing the bit’s balance) acc. to Bruce Sandifer's style. I am developing a balanced seat and feel my balance and timing getting better with each ride. Lately he has gotten incredibly light. But – when I lope him in a circle (and he seems to be nicely relaxed) he still likes to put his head reining style low with his chin to his chest, all with no (!) pressure or tension on the reins. How could I help him overcome this and raise his head?
BTW: I ride him in an o-ring snaffle because it is the bit I am most familiar with and I want to feel confident that I can get done what I want before I move on, possibly to headgear I have no experience with (hackmore)
I really appreciate any pointers you can give me. Thank you.
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Old 12-27-2013, 06:17 PM   #2
Jimmy
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Originally Posted by Tosch View Post
A brief introduction and then an question..
I started horseback riding about 25 years ago while living in California for 2 ½ years. Due to life’s circumstances I repeatedly had to stop riding for some years then got back into it, always having to start over again. Last time I started again was in 2011/2012 and in Aug 12 I got myself a then 10 yr old QH gelding, who also had been shown some in local reining shows here in south Germany. We had quite a few downs. I have been working on riding with my seat and my body, and on using signals (just moving the reins and changing the bit’s balance) acc. to Bruce Sandifer's style. I am developing a balanced seat and feel my balance and timing getting better with each ride. Lately he has gotten incredibly light. But – when I lope him in a circle (and he seems to be nicely relaxed) he still likes to put his head reining style low with his chin to his chest, all with no (!) pressure or tension on the reins. How could I help him overcome this and raise his head?
BTW: I ride him in an o-ring snaffle because it is the bit I am most familiar with and I want to feel confident that I can get done what I want before I move on, possibly to headgear I have no experience with (hackmore)
I really appreciate any pointers you can give me. Thank you.
Tough over the internet to demonstrate riding techniques. It is not just what you do, but what you do with everything else you do.
That being said, here is what I do. I do a lot of work at the trot. I encourage the horse to stay up at the poll, and elevate the neck, while keeping his throat latch open. I lift my hands, so that the snaffle lifts up into the corners of the mouth, not the bars. You can get a soft feel and have the horse's head up and out a little, just as you can when down and in. In order to do this, you have to establish a very light contact that activates the horse, as much as it contains him. When you move into the lope, you have to ask him to stay up.
It is my opinion that teaching a horse to drop the nose down and in excessively leads to difficulties later on. For a horse to collect eventually, he has to stretch up in front, not go down....
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Old 12-27-2013, 09:59 PM   #3
Jan
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When he drops his head, make contact with his mouth, with a lift in your hands, and "set" your hands, just enough so he realizes that position does not bring comfort, and enough so that he begins to search by moving his head to other positions.

If he goes lower or sideways or sticks his nose out to the front, hold your hands steady, not giving to him at all. Don't fight with him, don't add pressure or pull--that might make him resentful and he will learn that your hands can't be trusted. Let him create his own pressure by running into your immovable hands. Let him realize that it is his own choice to either lean on your hands or to yield to them.

Any time he goes up a bit, no matter how slightly, he will find relief from pressure. You can add to that by giving slack and sitting very still. If instead, your hands go up when he comes up a little, and you give in to that temptation to add a little upward pull, then he won't find the instant release of pressure.

If you want his head higher, or he starts to drop it again, repeat, so he learns that a higher head position is where he finds relief and comfort. If you give him slack when his head is down, you are reinforcing that as the place he finds comfort. It might take lots of repetition to unlearn the position he has learned. Once he has learned the position you desire, you can trust him with more slack.

You might have to start by releasing for ANY change of position, just to acknowledge his "try" and to let him know that, yes, you are asking him to search for a different position. Once he starts searching, you can be more specific about what kind of a try you will release for.
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Old 12-28-2013, 02:10 AM   #4
Tosch
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Jimmy and Jan,
I thank you both for your replies. I know it is not easy to explain in writing what one exactly does with the reins his seat etc and of course there is the feel one cannot transfer with words. You both did a nice job explaining your thoughts and I do have an idea what to look for and what and how to do.

You know, in a way I take his lowering the neck and head - although I do not like nor want it - as a "compliment". I see it that I finally have regained a "good" enough seat that triggers/ reminds him of training he had (although this training/head position I do not like).

Now that I know what I have to pay attention to I feel I can work on it with a chance of change.

Thanks again!
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Old 12-28-2013, 10:04 AM   #5
Tosch
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Thank you again Jimmy and Jan

When I was riding today I paid closer attention.
I did what Jimmy was suggesting “When you move into the lope, you have to ask him to stay up”. It worked!
The 2 times his head came lower than I wanted while he was loping I did what Jan said:” When he drops his head, make contact with his mouth, with a lift in your hands” It worked, too!
I also tried to lope him with a bit more lift in front/in the shoulders. A few times I squeezed him with my legs to animate his hind legs to reach further and a time or two I “lifted” his belly in the cinch area by touching him there ever so lightly with my spurs.
When I paid closer attention I was able to see things developing. Now I have to practice paying this kind of attention!
It was a good ride.
I also thank Corry who wrote me a long email in my native German which I will answer.

I now can continue on in my riding journey.

I wish you all a Happy New Year!
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Old 12-28-2013, 08:49 PM   #6
Baquero
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Without getting too wordy in this, I really like what you said. I was taught early on that an elevated poll comes from setting the horse in the proper position. A lot of riders today try and force a horse into the bit, they set the bit and drive the horse into the bit to make him round up. There are other ways to go about this, but you have to learn from the principles. By driving him into the bit you are forcing the horse to put his hindquarters up under him, he is lifting the ribs, this makes his front end light and naturally his head stays elevated but the nose begins to drop because of the muscles he is using and the poll rounds. It doesn't help much to have his nose in, if his ribs aren't elevated. The horse doesn't work well when his back and top line are out of place, or if his weight is on his forequarters instead of the rocking back on the hind quarters.

It takes time for horses to develop the muscles to carry themselves this way. Ask for it for a few strides, get him to understand what it means to collect and how to carry himself. Gradually you can begin to ask for more and he will understand that this is how he works balanced. Overtime you will teach this to him by getting with his feet, he will need to be in this balanced position to perform certain maneuvers properly. Only reiterating what you have already said, just wanted to recognize what you said. I have met a lot of riders who don't understand this, they just try and place the horses head in the correct position. This creates a "false collection" The headset is only part of the equation. From what I have learned and do with my horses, the headset is a result of the preparation you have done with the horse. He holds himself this way as a result of the way you ride.
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Old 12-28-2013, 11:24 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Baquero View Post
Without getting too wordy in this, I really like what you said. I was taught early on that an elevated poll comes from setting the horse in the proper position. A lot of riders today try and force a horse into the bit, they set the bit and drive the horse into the bit to make him round up. There are other ways to go about this, but you have to learn from the principles. By driving him into the bit you are forcing the horse to put his hindquarters up under him, he is lifting the ribs, this makes his front end light and naturally his head stays elevated but the nose begins to drop because of the muscles he is using and the poll rounds. It doesn't help much to have his nose in, if his ribs aren't elevated. The horse doesn't work well when his back and top line are out of place, or if his weight is on his forequarters instead of the rocking back on the hind quarters.

It takes time for horses to develop the muscles to carry themselves this way. Ask for it for a few strides, get him to understand what it means to collect and how to carry himself. Gradually you can begin to ask for more and he will understand that this is how he works balanced. Overtime you will teach this to him by getting with his feet, he will need to be in this balanced position to perform certain maneuvers properly. Only reiterating what you have already said, just wanted to recognize what you said. I have met a lot of riders who don't understand this, they just try and place the horses head in the correct position. This creates a "false collection" The headset is only part of the equation. From what I have learned and do with my horses, the headset is a result of the preparation you have done with the horse. He holds himself this way as a result of the way you ride.
Many get their horse's nose to drop down and in, thinking that is the soft feel. Then, in order to "collect" them, they drive the horse into the bit, which they have to hold to keep the horse in place. It is not a light system, it is heavy and forceful. The horse gets trapped between legs and hand. A trap is not a pleasant place to be.
When you ride a horse so that he is up and light in front, it is so much easier for him to be able to rock back or use his hind end. "Driving" him is not necessary. This rounded back idea has been proliferated in the reining world as if it is gospel.. So you you see stopping pictures of horses that look like hogs bucking. The style and fashion of the day dictates that these horses must keep their head and necks down, and be driven up into the bit. I am rejecting the whole premise. The main problem I see created in horses these days is from the attempts to get horse's head down, and curled in from the get go. This is not the way to make a bridle horse, in my opinion. It takes any signal out of the whole deal.
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Old 12-29-2013, 07:32 PM   #8
Jan
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Baquero View Post
He holds himself this way as a result of the way you ride.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimmy View Post
When you ride a horse so that he is up and light in front, it is so much easier for him to be able to rock back or use his hind end. "Driving" him is not necessary.
I think how you sit is very important to getting collection. The horse's body should mirror our body, so we need to look at our posture. It's hard for the horse to be up in front if we are "down in front"--slouched, looking down, head not up over our shoulders.

When I am walking, I like to think about what I want my horse to do. I practice standing up straighter, holding my head up better and not forward, chin in just a tad, lifting my belly and ribcage, keeping my back "soft" not rigid. I think about my center of gravity--instead of striding out with my hips and shoulders pushing forward and my legs long, I tilt my pelvis under like I want the horse to do, keeping my hip and knee joints "soft" so I am stepping "up under myself" like I want the horse's hind legs.

I keep my elbows bent while walking as if I am holding the reins in front of me. As I stand up taller and lift my chest and belly, I find that my "reins" come up a little higher too (so I'm not holding my "reins" down low by my imaginary "horn"). Holding my "reins" too low brings my shoulders down and forward.

Then I try to get that same feel in the saddle. I don't know if I explained that in a way that anyone else can relate to or if that sounded totally weird, but it definitely helps my riding! It also improves my posture while walking, so I'm thinking good posture might be a lot like collection. There are actually lots of ways to practice your riding while walking, or at work if you sit on a stool.

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So you you see stopping pictures of horses that look like hogs bucking.
And when they are "loping" (if you can call it that) I think they look like buffalo running.
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Old 12-29-2013, 08:09 PM   #9
Baquero
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Originally Posted by Jimmy View Post
Many get their horse's nose to drop down and in, thinking that is the soft feel. Then, in order to "collect" them, they drive the horse into the bit, which they have to hold to keep the horse in place. It is not a light system, it is heavy and forceful. The horse gets trapped between legs and hand. A trap is not a pleasant place to be.
When you ride a horse so that he is up and light in front, it is so much easier for him to be able to rock back or use his hind end. "Driving" him is not necessary. This rounded back idea has been proliferated in the reining world as if it is gospel.. So you you see stopping pictures of horses that look like hogs bucking. The style and fashion of the day dictates that these horses must keep their head and necks down, and be driven up into the bit. I am rejecting the whole premise. The main problem I see created in horses these days is from the attempts to get horse's head down, and curled in from the get go. This is not the way to make a bridle horse, in my opinion. It takes any signal out of the whole deal.
I said I wasn't going to get wordy but this is a great discussion and I think I will say a few (maybe a lot) more words. Being soft in the poll should be like reaching down to the feet, by being soft in the poll they are soft in their feet. So many worry about the placement of the head, as if the vertical face is what we are seeking. Not all horses are going to be vertical nor do they all need to be. The vertical face is a result of being soft in the poll and forward movements in the hindquarters. For a horse to be able to do some of the advanced maneuvers he has to have the shoulders lifting and the hind quarters reaching. If you just pull his head in and down you won't get the balanced action you will need out of the horse.

One way that trainers do this today is by setting the bit and driving them into the bit. As mentioned this pushes the hindquarters in to begin reaching and lifts the rib cage. Some call this "framing a horse" they put him in the frame and teach him to work in this way. The horse learns that he can work freely within this frame. Overtime they work to allow the horse to find the balance that he works off in this frame and preserve the lightness in the poll. A horse needs to be soft in his ribs, and his neck to be able to perform. Not overly soft in the neck and stiff in the ribs, or soft in the ribs and stiff in the neck but soft in both parts of the horse.

Really the best way to achieve this is to teach your horse to work off of his hindquarters in as much as he can. He should walk off, lead off, and trot off with impulsion from his hindquarters. But you should also be able to feel the front of your saddle lift as his shoulders lift. The head you don't want to drop, instead you want it raised with a soft poll above the withers. Remember this is the end goal, this isn't what we achieve on young horses. We want him to be able to carry himself (self carriage) in a "frame" or manner in which he can with as little effort as possible respond to the signals or cues we ask him. This requires the horse to learn how to shift his balance; whether this is to do a lead change, stop, spin, or change from a lope to a walk. This change in balance starts with the snaffle, hackamore, or bridle, when you pick up the reins it signals to the horse to collect himself because it's time to work. The bridle isn't everything but it is the beginning to the process.

On another note, the jaw is closely related to the poll. You want the jaw to be soft and loose, not braced. This is one of the many reasons why spade bits have crickets and lots of copper in the mouth to allow the horse to works it's tongue (which ties in with the neck) and relax it's jaw. Much of this may not make sense in the way I explained it, but it is what I have been taught. This is a great discussion, I would like to see Jan walking around town someday wondering what that looks like. But you are very correct the way that you sit has a lot to do with the way a horse carries himself. He is trying to balance your weight on his back and will respond differently to the way that you sit. Wendy Murdoch has done a lot of research about this, it is fascinating stuff!

In the end we want our horse to position himself in an athletic stance. Similar in some respects to in basketball when the coaches teach a player to squat down on defense hands out, he moves faster backwards, forwards, laterally, and vertically when he positions himself this way.
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Old 12-29-2013, 11:44 PM   #10
Jimmy
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Here are some examples of what I am talking about.
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