Why I Like a Horse To Keep His Head Down

In the show ring, there are fads, I don’t really care about fads, I like what works best for me personally. The fad can be the horse keeps his head so low he can roll peanuts with his nose, or the head set could be just above the withers.  I prefer a horse to keep his head just below the withers.  All caveat’s aside, I like the way it looks.  I don’t like to look at a horse who’s head is in the air, his gut hangs out, and his back is swayed.


A horse with his head up just irritates me to no end when I see a horse travel that way and here’s why:


  • It’s poor posture and is unhealthy for the horse’s back.
  • The horse doesn’t pay attention to his rider, instead he’s busy looking around.
  • It shows me the rider has not achieved real feel with her hands and legs to help the horse move to the best of his ability.
  • It’s unbalanced.
  • It’s just plain ugly.
  • If the horse has his head down, he will be able to more easily lift his shoulders ultimately being able to achieve collection.


Before a horse spooks, he usually is looking around not paying attention to his rider. If the horse is taught to continually keep his head down and wait for the next instruction from his rider he trusts his rider and will be much less apt to spook.


It’s much healthier for a horse to travel with his head and neck level, his back arched up (kind of like a cat when he stretches but not so severe), driving from behind and not dragging himself along with his front legs.


Try this, pull your stomach in tightly using your stomach muscles.  Now, put your head down toward your chest and do it again, it’s much easier right!  The same thing for the horse.   When his head is down, it’s much easier for him to collect himself.  That is why I am constantly saying, put the horse’s head down.


Conformation plays a part in the horse’s head set, but every horse can drop his head to eat grass so no excuses. To learn the steps to teach your horse to put his head down check out my post See Saw That Head Down.


About Deanna Castro

Deanna Castro has been training horses and riders professionally for over 18 years. She trains riders in Horsemanship, Western Pleasure, Showmanship and Trail Riding. Deanna is married to Native American Horse Trainer Fredi Castro and she is the author of "Six Weeks to a Better Horse".
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6 Responses to Why I Like a Horse To Keep His Head Down

  1. Popstar(omg) says:

    If you have poor posture would the horse have poor posture too and if so why does that happen

  2. I agree with your reasoning and enjoy a relaxed and listening horse, anywhere, but especially on the mountain trails where anything can happen. Good advice!


  3. dcastro says:

    Hey Popstar, that name is cute by the way… Thanks for the question. If you have poor posture the horse would too the severity of his posture flaw would depend on how balanced and strong of an athlete he is to begin with. The best way to describe it is, if you would be carrying someone on your shoulders and that person on your shoulders had really bad balance it would affect you. The same thing with the horse. Some horses are more balanced than others from training or confirmation just like people.

    Pamela, thank you! I notice that the best trail horses are the ones who ride comfortably with their heads down in the arena. They pay attention to their rider and watch the terrain in front of them unfazed by anything else.

  4. Kim Fronheiser says:

    Very good advice, like always!!

  5. Sabrina says:

    I personally like riding with the horses head just above his withers…and when showing I like it even higher…but then that’s what I think looks best with an Arab. :)

  6. dcastro says:

    Sabrina, yes, Arabs are a whole different thing. The shape of their neck, etc. I really don’t have much experience with them. The little I did, they were like the energizer bunny they kept going and going and never really got tired, but I still had them put their heads down to pay attention just not exactly as low or like a quarter horse.

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