The Proper Way for Your Horses Head While Riding

This topic contains 3 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  G & S 2 years ago.

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  • laurenm0831 Original Poster
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 0

    So I have a question on something I’ve been confused on for a little while. My old trainer told me that when riding, if a horses head is down, it means he is relaxed and comfortable with you riding him, and is a good thing, etc. But, a different trainer told me when a horses head is down it means he is about to try and buck you off, or that his head should always be carried “up”, and not straight/horizontal, like the other trainer told me it should be, and said the head being down would be bad. I’m not sure if it could be different depending on discipline (the first trainer, who told me it should be down, was mostly western and the horse was trained for western pleasure, but I was riding English style, but the second trainer is English and this horse was hunter/jumper, not sure if this matters though). Any help would be appreciated in clearing this up! Thank you!

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Head position varies with discipline, and with what is natural for the individual horse. The Thoroughbreds I have known tended to carry their heads lower than the Arabians I now have, and the Quarter Horses lower yet. If your horse is properly collected and paying attention, I would not fret over it, unless you are showing and even then it can vary depending on what the judge happens to prefer. Not very helpful. As to bucking, my Arabian gelding can buck very well with his head up. Ear position is very important, and you should also be able to feel what your horse is thinking with your legs, seat and hands. If he wants to buck, you should be able to tell before he can act. If not, where his head is wouldn’t be a factor. In the Dark Ages, when I showed hunters, the preferred position was neck extended more or less level with the withers, and a relaxed but collected horse. I don’t know what is in style nowadays. And, even with the same discipline (pleasure horse, for example) some breed shows are looking for a higher head carriage than others. So, if you are riding just because you enjoy it, and you and the horse are both comfortable and you get the response for which you ask, it is not a thing I would obsess about.

    It is never the horse's fault

    TBeventer TBeventer
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 22

    Horses should be able to carry their heads in different ways during a ride. Both are true regarding your question on keeping their heads low. Yes, horses that stretch their head and neck low are stretching through their back (topline) and are often moving in a relaxed manner. You will see horses break into a trot and stretch out their neck on the longe line sometimes after they’ve been cantering and bucking for a few minutes. Yes, horses have to put their head down in order to transfer the weight to be able to buck.

    G & S
    Topics Started: 16Replies Posted: 249

    While I totally agree with both posts so far, I do think that I would put a slightly different spin on it. When riding an English discipline, the horse should be at the end of whatever length of rein the horse is given, so that if the rider opens his/her hands, the slight tension that the horse puts on the bit should gently slide the reins through the rider’s hands, until the rider increases the finger and hand tension so that the horse can no longer easily slide the reins through the rider’s hands. The horse should then stay with head position until the rider gently shortens the reins to bring the horses head up, at which point a horse that has been taught to stay at the end of whatever rein length he/she is given, will follow the bit back up. This is not necessarily true for the Western disciplines, as correct western riding has a slight loop in the reins rather than a straight rein from the rider’s hands to the horse’s mouth, with the horse creating this slight tension by always staying at the end of the rein length. A horse that has been taught to stay at the end of whatever rein length he is given is not necessarily setting himself up for
    a buck, because the neck muscles should be relaxed and stretching, while for the buck the horse has to be tensing (which shortens the muscles) as it is the tensed muscles that produce the buck. A horse who is jerking on the reins is not putting “light” tension on to stay at the end of the given rein length. The means that the rider has to know his/her horse and be very aware of what the horse is doing & thinking at the end of the reins. Just as the horse can learn to feel minute changes in tension in the rider’s body, the rider can learn to feel and interpret minor changes in the horse’s body, but it takes a lot of hard work and practice on the part of both the horse and rider to develop these 2 mirror image skills. This is not an overnight, or even a “30-day” fix, but most riders who achieve this have no doubt that it is worth the effort.

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