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.