We all like the relaxed, natural head carriage. I use the words natural and head carriage instead of “head set” because my horses do it on their own from learning it on the ground to being rewarded when they are being ridden and holding their head naturally low, relaxed and comfortable. I don’t use straps or ties to get them to do it forcefully. It’s all learned from the ground then praised when ridden. It’s a longer process how I achieve it that I explain in person at my clinics. Today I’m just giving you an overview of why I teach this “low and slow” and how it effects the horse in a positive way which promotes calmness and fluidity in movement.
I first start out with lunging normally. The horses are young and want to buck and play in the beginning I don’t hinder that. Let them get it out so they can “find their brain” and be ready to learn. Once they know what to expect when lunging (going in a circle on a line or loose in a round pen) I lunge them until I see signs of relaxation. These signs will be brief so I keep a close eye and when I see what I’m looking for I ask them to stop and stand. this helps them process what they just learned and not feel rushed into the next step.
This is where I see the most mistakes with people who have lunging issues or non relaxed animals. They don’t stop their horse they run ahead of it and make it change directions multiple times while lunging. This, in my opinion, isn’t doing anyone any good. This raises the horses blood pressure, adds anxiety, and doesn’t allow the horse to process or learn. This is also very hard on young horses legs to stop fast and turn repeatedly while lunging. It’s a common mistake that I see every time I visit a boarding stable.
That being said once the horse has been standing patiently I then reverse the horse and ask to change directions and lunge again until I see the relaxed signs then stop and we are done. The time frame all depends on the horse. I’m not a “clock watcher” I end when the horse is ready weather it takes 20 minutes or two hours. I’m on the horses time.
Once a horse is moving naturally relaxed, low head carriage and attention on me I start to incorporate that same carriage while under saddle. This way as a young horse learning to be ridden it will still carry itself relaxed and low. This type of body posture for the horse builds his back up and allows him to carry a rider with ease. He’s using his hips to power himself, his neck, level with his back, for balance and his back is arched and strong under the rider. He will have developed muscles from ground work of learning how to move this way well before being saddled so he’s prepared physically before being ridden.
This is another example of how my methods “set horses up to succeed” from starting always with ground work.