It’s not a “head set” it’s so much more!

Softness is sometime commonly referred to as a “head set”. Which is like comparing oil to water.

A “head set” is forced, uncomfortable to the horse and achieved quickly. and incorrectly by forcing the horses head “down” which isn’t down at all it’s a stiff neck and hollow back and pinched throatlatch.

Softness is first achieved on the ground, preparing the muscles and showing the horse what we are expecting and helping the animal move correctly and comfortably first before ever asking them to soften under saddle. Softness takes conditioning, consistent release when they’re doing the right movements and short rides so we don’t make them sore. Just like humans they’ve got to get used to working new muscles also. Be patient and all good things come to those who wait.

Once the horse learns to carry themselves correctly without a rider then we put the surcingle on, a very soft bit they like, I prefer to use copper Snaffles. Then with just the inside rein tied loosely to the surcingle let them travel normally like this so they get used to the feeling of just the loose rein on them. Reverse and switch the rein always to the inside bend of the circle. Once they’re used to that just bring in the slack on the rein and send them back out at a walk first then a trot I never do this at a lope. Then little by little tighten it so they feel the pressure and find the release on their own JUST AT A WALK. Don’t force speed until the horse is very soft at the walk and dropping their head and carrying themselves with an inside bend. Then introduce the trot and don’t tighten anymore. Only tighten to where the horse feels the pressure and starts seeking for the release. When the horse rounds out it’s back and drops it’s head he will realize what is being asked and will start to soften.

Once softness is achieved from the ground then we apply inside rein and squeezing with our legs to ask for softness. Your legs will get tired fast. End on a good note and release at the slightest effort. The next day, do your groundwork again the same way, easing the horse into softness then once achieved, saddle up and review until the horse gets softer and softer everyday.

Softness at the lope is the hardest part it will all come with time don’t worry. Once the horse is ready to add speed they’ll let you know. They’ll be very soft in your hands and ready to “level up”.

Be patient this doesn’t come right away it takes months sometimes years but that’s how you get a quality trained horse v.s a forced and rushed horse.

It’s the best feeling after all the hard work and the horse is soft at all gaits and happy. My horses do it now just slight pressure of the inside rein and slight leg (depending on the horse).

First achieving softness on the ground on their own to build up the muscle needed before progressing to the next step
This is Jordan as a yearling. She’s been taught to carry herself this way for years so her muscles are used to this carriage.
Now with the surcingle, loosely connected to her mouth no contact and emergency quick release to the d ring on the surcingle.
Slightly more contact and that’s where she found her softness so I didn’t tighten it again. Always at the walk first, let them get used to it and find the release themselves.
Soft under saddle at the walk we don’t Fukushima speed until the horse is walking, inside bend, and dropping its head with slight pull from the rider. I prefer just wiggling my fingers.
Inside rein, inside leg, demonstrated here.
Note the roundness in the horses neck this is what it should look like from the saddle. Adding leg and pushing into this frame will allow the horses body to round out also and engage their hind end.
At all gaits eventually you want to see them consistently look like this with your inside rein and inside leg, releasing immediately pressure once the horse gives
Here is my gelding Leonard, he’s more conditioned and advanced in his training. Here we are demonstrating the softness achieved at the lope.

Published by Jillian

I specialize in problem horses, youngsters, horse rehabilitation and achieving softness and a better relationship between horse and their rider. I not only train horses but humans as well. Not your typical riding lesson but I can, if you so choose, teach you to train your horse! I’m always available to help answer questions or share photos or videos upon request to better illustrate my advice. I’ve mastered the “don’t break the bank” way of keeping your horse healthy and cared for while on a budget. If you walk into almost any large barn in Oregon you’re bound to meet a horse I trained or sold! I’ve trained over 623 horses and counting! I post updates as I receive them from clients and buyers. Thank you for taking the time to browse and hopefully learn something new!

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