Head too high

Discussion in 'Problem Horses' started by pyretii, Sep 21, 2002.

  1. pyretii

    pyretii New Member

    I've just bought a new horse who was used for showjumping but he did some dressage and eventing. His previous owner rode him really tightly and drove him foward with spurs and a dressage whip and he went well. I'm quite a soft rider and I am finding him really hard too ride but fantastic in the bush, jumping, and on the ground and by no means am I going to give up. What happens is that we are fine in the walk and can acheive a 10/10 long walk but as soon as I trot or canter his ears go back, his neck tightens, he hollows his back and his head goes up in the air! Often I can get him down to a hack ring "on the bit" but it doen't last long and I want to acheive dressage "self carriage". He is also really strong and doen't respond well to the reins. He was showjumped in a pelham and a standing martingale but even that has no effect on the flat. He has had his back and teeth done and they are fine. I am riding him in both a loosering and eggbutt snaffle and have tried a standing martingale, chambon, and side reins though I am loath to use them as I want him to work at home like he would in a dressage ring though I am willing to work with anything. I have owned difficult horses before but this is really beginning to frustrate me! Does anyone have any ideas?

  2. widgelli

    widgelli Well-known Member

    Pyretti , it sounds to me as thought he is avoiding the bit , and to counteract this , you will need toride him through from behind.
    As I have said in many of my posts , ride a lot without stirrups. It will make you legs ache for a while that is for sure, so only do this for a while , then try and do the same thing using your stirrups.
    To do this , you stirrups will need to be at the lenght of just below your ankle bone , when you are sitting in the centre of you saddle with you legs down the side of your horse.
    This may seem to be a little long for a while , but once you are sitting right in your saddle , they will be fine.
    Another suggestion is to use a straight bit , so that the joint in the middle doesn't hit the horse in the top of the mouth where the bars are.
    If your work on this for a while , you will see that his head will come down and he should be much more relaxed. He has to bring his head down to counter balance his hind legs coming under him .

  3. Nikiwink

    Nikiwink Well-known Member

    Hi i learnt the following method from horse trainer Andrew Mclean on one of his clinics a couple of years ago and have since used it on several horses with great success. The horse though, has to move well off the leg.

    Basically at the halt take up a contact and put your leg on with increasing pressure. The horse will try and move forward but don't take your leg off. Basically your asking him to drop his head at the halt from the leg pressure. As soon as he drops his head at all take the leg pressure off. When his head goes up again leg pressure goes on again and so on. Most horse will only go a few steps forward or backward etc then they generally stop cause the leg pressure stays on them until their heads drop.

    This needs to be repeated at least 5 - 7 or so times (in a row) before the horse wil remember. And as long as your reflexes are resonably quick you'll need only light leg pressure.

    By doing this you can position the horses head low, high wherever.

    Once he does this at the halt move onto the walk and then trot and canter.

    Hope this might help

    PS it also works well in slowly fast horses - leg pressure means to drop the head &/or take more contact not to go faster.
    PPS i also taught a friends horse that was very goey to stop off knee presure doing this method
  4. Kateena

    Kateena Active Member

    and it works!!! That horse Nikiwink was talking about has now been sold to a 10yr old girl learning to ride!!

    Another question, what is your horse like to lead? if you lead him at a walk, trot and canter, does he act the same as when riding him?
    Try using gentle pressure to get him to lower his head when leading. It'll get him used to having his head down when in the faster gaits and allow him to relax.
    Just an idea......
  5. pyretii

    pyretii New Member

    I've tried doing the leg pressure thing but he won't drop his head. Instead he keeps backing up, going foward, and turning on the haunches and the forehand. What do I do if he won't stand still? Failing this I tried it in the walk which was a bit better and then in the trot. In the trot he will drop his head, then I release the pressure and soften the reins and he pulls his head down then throws it back up in the air again.
    He is great to lead but is a naturally tense horse and often holds it up to look at things but it is different when I'm riding him. When I'm riding him and he holds his head up he crams his neck in and puts his ears back aswell. It is worse in the canter than in the trot too. I've tried four different saddles and he wasn't really any better or any worse in each of them.

  6. Nikiwink

    Nikiwink Well-known Member

    You've got to keep the leg pressure on thru all the backing, forwards, side wards etc and only take it off when his head goes down. and then put it on when his head goes up again.

    You're right about it being easier at the walk and the trot.

    You said before that when his head is down and you release the pressure and soften your hands he throws his head up again. As soon as his head goes up again put the pressure on again and take it off when head down and on when head goes up etc. Unfortunatly horses learn by repition and it needs to be done consistently at least 5 times (probalbly more really)before he will start to keep his head down.

    To do this the rein contact should be at how you normally ride so you shouldn't have to soften your hands (i think) if the rein length is about normal 'contact' length or you may find you may have to try riding with a slightly 'stronger' hand (i mean slightly) until he responds especially if he was used to it.

    What do you want to do with him - eventing , dressage, bush work etc? i was meaning to ask you before?
  7. icebabie296

    icebabie296 New Member

    You said your horses ears go back whern you ask him to trot or canter, maybe his previous owner did that sort of work with him so much that he doesn't enjoy ios any more. Try spending a few weeks/months trail riding at a walk and slowly ask him to trot and canter him out there, asking him to keep in the position you want.
    And Good Luck to you
  8. pyretii

    pyretii New Member

    He's a showjumper but I really want to event him and do some dressage as that is what I enjoy. He has previously done dressage and eventing though and even some unofficial hacking. I might try doing the leg pressure thing in the bush. I've also tried leading him and he holds his head high in the trot on the lead and it takes all my strength to even try and get him to lower it.

  9. Kateena

    Kateena Active Member

    What kind of halter do you use? I've been alternating between the old webbed type and the rope halters and horses seem to be a lot more responsive in the rops halters, whether or not this is just because of the narrower band around the head or the positioning of the knots I don't know, but it works!!!
  10. Goldpally

    Goldpally Active Member

    It is both the positioning of the knots and the narrowness putting pressure on the nose if the horse mis behaves. I always use the rope halters and you will find that the majority would use them especially with young horses. They are also cheap and easy to make which is good too !!
  11. pyretii

    pyretii New Member

    Yes I'm using a rope halter and he still doesn't put his head downin a trot or canter even when you lead him, though he does in the walk. I've been keeping doing the leg pressure and it works better in the bush and at the walk. We were getting somewhere yesterday and he was relaxing most of the time until we cantered and then I couldn't stop him. So we had to spin in a circle and after that he ran everywhere and held his head really high and fought me for the rest of our ride!

  12. Mel

    Mel New Member

    Hi Pyrettii,
    Have you had his teeth checked? Does he have any pain in the TMJ joint when you put pressure on it? Ears back and avoidance sounds like it could be pain.

  13. beccy

    beccy Well-known Member

    he may hold his head high, just through his own natural head carrage. If that is the case, he is going to find it really uncomfortable to allow his neck muscles to lower, as you will be fighting not just his own preference but also his own conformation. How does he carry his head arround the paddock?
    Horses ridden in spurs, tend to have little respect for any leg contact, and can take well over a year before they become light and responsive again...depending on how much "desensitising" he has had. The use of spurs really seem to loose a lot of sensitivity nerves out of the horse.
    But to keep him light you have to be light. You will get a much better horse out of it in the long run. still use the slightest leg touch as you would normally, but if he doesnt respond to it, then you will need your dressage whip to say "hey i said something, yes that was a command, not a nagging bump!" just the tickle of the whip end will make him go "oooo" and you may need to use voice command to re-educate him once again to becoming light.

  14. The Old Grey Mare

    The Old Grey Mare Active Member

    this may sound silly, but how developed is the underside neck muscle? if the neck underneath is muscled you will have to change this to be nice & slack with the muscles on the top of the neck being the "used" muscles. I saw a friend riding a green horse a couple of days ago & the filly had a tendency to walk/trot around with the head in the air, pulling the reins. put some running rings on & OK as some extra leverage for you to use. these rings do not need to on forever, just until you get the desired result. My mare had the head in the air & mouth open when first being ridden seriously. put rings & a noseband on, hey presto all OK now. lasted for about 2 - 3 weeks before she could be ridden out with no problems about the head. mind you she was only a 2 yr old at the time & so had no pre-existing problems/worries. if the neck is muscled up from underneath you would need to work the neck to being correctly muscled. maybe the horse does this as is most comfortable for him & this is probably the way he has been ridden before & so knows no better.
    hope this helps & gives you something to use
    good luck
  15. sil

    sil Gold Member

    Two things:

    1. Get a physio for your horse.
    2. Trying to force a horse's head down doesn't work.

    After physio rebitting and remouthing is a good option. It's not as complex as you may think, I do it here and there are others out there that will do it too.

    After that work he will have learnt to yield to contact instead of fight it. A relaxation in the neck will have a good effect on the rest of the spine and ultimately it will help him relax overall.

    ~ Do as much as it takes, do as little as it takes. ~
  16. Veronika

    Veronika Active Member

    Hi, my horse has always liked to put his head in the air, and on occasion, still does. The thing that has helped me is doing Pareli, especially the pasenger game. It calms him down and develops his trot. the idea is that you're in an area or huge round yard and put the horse in a trot. Then he can go wherever he wants but it has to be in a trot...you can only touch the reins (and in a pareli class it would be the rope and halter) when he breaks stride. after a while the horse learns that he can hold his head at a more comfortable position and he doesn't have to fight the rider (not you but probably the previous rider). Keep him at the trot for as long as you can until he wants to stop (that can be 30mins later) after he's ready to slow down do a little bit longer and then relax, sit down into the saddle and let him come down to a walk. Do that for a while and then slowly pick you contact for a little bit and let it go again, until you can do it with full contact. This is not a quick fix but i've seen it work - i've had it work.
    You also mentioned him running through you after a canter...are you sure you're not riding my horse because i have the problem every time! he just wants to keep going. I've been trying something else that I've learnt out of Pareli for this, and that's to try and make your horse remember to think after a run. With Barney, making him walk backwards works the best. i'm not talking about only a couple of steps but 50 - 100m (an added bonus is that it really works their backside for that nice rounded look later on!) at a time then let him walk forwards again. if he's still jigging and carrying on - i make him walk backwards again and again and again. i'm sure (hope) that in a little while i won't need to do it for that long. Other things would be to make him walk in the bush rather than on the path so that he's got to look more where he's going rather than going forward fast (remember to put some boots on him if you want to use this method to guard against cuts), or get off and walk with him for a while or make him go side-ways from the ground. The idea is to get them to think again.
    Sounds so easy - but such a challenge.
    happy riding.
  17. valdez

    valdez Well-known Member

    Please dont teach your horse to go backwards like that, Later on it may become a problem. It certainly doesnt help with impulsion and forwardness later on. My instructor would kill me for doing that. The idea of keeping your horse thinking after you come back from a canter is a good one though, ask him to do something harder so he has to think a bit.

  18. Arnie

    Arnie Gold Member

    Arnie used to be just like that. This might sound wrong but this is what I've done. When his head was up in the air I'd have a good amount of pressure to his mouth. (when his head was too high and all else failed) Some times I was there for ever holding onto his mouth. Until he dropped his head I released it all. I've now do it the correct way and don't use that method at all but hey anything is worth a try. Now I just gather up my reins and he's down. My pressure is very minimal because I ask him to turn with my legs (although the last few rides i've had were crap) Remember I don't do this method anymore I don't want to loose the softness in his mouth...

  19. Veronika

    Veronika Active Member

    I don't actually ask him to go backwards from his mouth, mainly because i'm riding in a halter. It comes from another part of the training. I forgot to say that i also make barney stand for at least half a minute before and after.
    Usually in that state, the horse doesn't care about impulsion if it's totally gone "left brained" where it only wants to run.
    I've tried so many things, Valdez, and with my horse there is noooooo problem with forwardness and impulsion. His favourite pastime is going faster. The logic behind this method is that in a backwards the horse is made to think because it's not a totally natural thing for it to do. Additionally, he can't go backwards fast, however, he can go backwards with impulsion. I have to go backwards such a long way because he's still so ingrained in his left brain (probably because he is only 5) but i've seen other people who have used this method for a while now, who only need the horse to go back a couple of paces. None of these horses lack impulsion or forwardness. What we ask is that when we want you (the horse) to come down in fizz (or life) by first relaxing, if you don't we stop, take a breath and go forward, if that doesn't work, we stop and go backwards for a way, stop, and go forwards with control.
    It always depends on the horse and i have tried other methods and this one has worked the best so far. it won't work on all horses, but it's just something else to try...
  20. bjl

    bjl New Member

    If this were my boy I'd be lunging in a chambon. It's a good idea to have someone who is familiar with one to help at first, To introduce him, just use it loosely at first so it doesn't scare him, but it gets them to lower the head, come over their back and use their hind quarters properly, really stepping under themselves. I started my t/b off in it and it's worked a treat, he's soft, round and will lower at the first ask. (Pity he's such a terrible coward and takes flight at nothing). He doesn't go far, 3 staps max, but the departure is VERY FAST.


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