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Horses’ Head Position

December 24, 2008

Horse trainer Martin Black responds to a head position question.

When horse trainer Martin Black wrote about horses’ head position, a reader submitted a question about her specific situation.

Now, Martin responds:

Question:

I’m 38 and have a 4-year old filly with a pretty rough trot. She has a nice headset at a walk and lope, but her head comes up for the trot. Bear in mind that while I had horses for several years growing up, I had no lessons or opportunity to learn from other horse people, so while I can stay on a horse pretty good, the more I learn about horses and riding, the more I realize that I am really a novice and in need of lessons.

My friend has been helping me some with the training of my filly, and she has used draw reins on her with some improvement. She thinks the filly just needs to learn collection. I don’t want to ignore any possible health issues or the fault being my riding. She gets seen by the vet a couple of times a year, and he keeps a good check on her teeth, so if you could point me in any other directions, I would appreciate the advice so we can get to a more comfortable ride for both of us.

Rachel Smith

Answer:

For me to see the whole picture, I would obviously need to watch you ride your horse and try to see what I believe might be the horse’s perspective on the matter. Saying that, and with some points that you made, all I can do is give you my best guess.

You stated that you were a novice rider with a younger horse, whom I would also consider a novice. The trot is rougher than the walk or lope, and the rider’s timing may not be as good in the trot. When we have a situation like you described, the more weight the horse has to deal with and the more the timing is off, the more discomfort there is for the horse. When a horse is uncomfortable, his head goes up. It could be a number of other things, but this is a possibility that could easily be overlooked.

It would be very simple to test my theory. Just observe as your horse as she moves at liberty in the different gaits. If the head position at the trot is the same as it is when you are riding, the cause could be soreness or something not related to your riding. If the problem is more obvious when the horse is being ridden, then the riding is obviously a problem for the horse. Many times, the cheapest and quickest solution is to look to ourselves, find what’s causing the problem, address it, and the problem will go away.

Martin Black

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