Horses’ Head Position

Horse trainer Martin Black responds to a head position question.

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:


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


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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4 thoughts on “Horses’ Head Position”

  1. My three year old pleasure horse hits behind at the jog and lope,any suggestions? We pulled her shoes and she still does it, we have had her high in the inside, level it doesn’t change anything.

  2. If her shoulder is really straight, and not sloped well, and her back is short, she may not be able to get her front legs out of the way in time due to conformation. There is little you can do about that, but you might try squaring off her back toes which could help. I once owned a horse with a similar issue and it did help him.

  3. wendy ;your 3 year old simply lacks the strength and training to be able to conduct herself properly in the gaits you are requesting;what she needs is nothing to do with your farrier ;or i venture her confirmation ;she simply needs time and a proper training regimen and i guarantee she will lose the problem;happy trails BAZIL

  4. My pleasure horse was 4 years old when I bought him and he had little if any ground manners. He also overreached at the lope. Rounding off the hind helped , but what really helped was all the groundwork I did. He is 8 years old now and I can’t remember when he last clipped his heels. Spend time teaching him to yeild his hindquarters, forequarters, backing up with you on the ground. I used Clinton Andersons techniques. He has a DVD that teaches you how to teach your horse. Good Luck Bonnie

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