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minih

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I am having problems with our gelding getting him to raise his head while driving. He fights to hold his head down even tho he has a fantastic chin tuck. It looks like he is putting his head down and barging forward even tho he is not pulling on the reigns. I am thinking of trying to fix this problem with a bitting rig??? I would like to see what every ones opinions are on this......

Thanks!
 

maestoso

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Most of the time, it is more comfortable for a horse to travel on the forehand, that is, moving heavy on the front end. When a horse is in the position you describe, that is usually what they are doing. It is easier for them, but not correct, and not helpful in building up the correct muscles. Your horse may be doing this simply because he is being lazy, but may also be weak in the hind end. To get a horses head up and body balanced they need to be working from the hind, not the front. You might want to start by making sure your horse has a generally decent fitness level. Lunging can help this. Walking and trotting up and down hills will also work the hind end. What you don't want to do is just start raising up the check rein. If your horse is not fit enough to travel with his head set higher, raising the check rein will just cause problems and possibly hurt your horse. If you are experienced with side reins, you could lunge your horse in side reins, starting long and low and then gradually tightening them a bit and attaching them higher on the surcingle. I would not recommend using side reins if you are not experienced, as they can do just as much damage as they can do good, if used incorrectly. You might want to consider getting some driving lessons with a trainer who is experienced in dressage driving.

Just keep in mind that what your horse is doing may not be a behavior problem or disobedience problem, he may not be physically capable of doing what you want right now. Driving in a correct frame and balance is hard work for the horse.

Also, be careful of the "chin tuck". Their head should be vertical, if the chin is tucked inward toward the chest, your horse is likely avoiding contact with the bit, which is another problem in itself, but can be helped by pushing the horse forward. This is why you should be experienced if you use side reins, they can make this problem ten times worse.
 

Marsha Cassada

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This reply is very helpful to me also. My new driving hrose is doing this and an experienced trainer told me he is indeed heavy on his front. I was also thinking it was a behavior thing, and he is improving greatly since it was pointed out what his problem is and ways to work with him.

Marsha
 

minih

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The fitness issue is not the problem, he is in exceptional shape and we laughingly call him the energizer bunny. He acts like he is nervous than anything and trying to put his head down and go. He is not your usual gelding, he is very happy to be in show routine, and very hardheaded. Quite the athlete, I just need to show him where to hold his head instead of bearing down.

I wanted to add we drove him all last year, he did well, but at Nationals he was too nervous with so many horses we scratched him. It seems like this habit is worse when he is nervous. I had hoped the winter off would help, but we have picked right back up where we stopped.
 
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maestoso

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He may be bracing against the bit as a result of him being nervous. I would try and figure out why he is nervous. Have you changed something? Are you asking more of him lately? Are you driving him in new places?

It may be that he just needs more exposure......?
 

Bluerocket

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With out a picture it is hard to truly diagnose the problem..

SOUNDS like your horse is "behind the bit" and running on his forehand -- e.g. avoiding contact with the bit and reins as much as he can.

Check his teeth first -- check the bit to make sure he is not being pinched and is carrying it in the right place in his mouth - -and it fits him properly.

If this is what he is doing and all the stuff in his mouth checks out properly --- you need to drive him "up into the bit" --- A bitting rig with an overcheck will only force this to happen in an unnatural way (IMO) by pulling his head up.

You can long line him and move him into the bit from behind - making him reach underneath with his hind feet. He will then come off his fore hand and will bring his head up with his head verticle. He has to be comfortable in the bit however to truly participate in this process.

Fixing a behind the bit is more challenging than an above the bit problem.

You might check out some dressage books to help you fix the problem.

JJay

PS Here is an article from the internet -- about riding a horse behind the bit

Behind the Bit

This is also called “over-bending,” “over-flexing,” or “over-collecting.” All of these terms mean the same thing. A horse is behind the bit whenever his face comes past the vertical. That is, rather than pointing his nose straight down to the ground, the horse begins to point it back towards his chest.

To the rider, the horse seems to disappear every time she tries to use the reins. He is quite literally backing off from any hint of contact by bowing his neck, dropping his nose, and pulling closer and closer to his chest. He successfully avoids all rein pressure by rolling himself up into a ball and burying his nose somewhere between his chest and his knees.

As a result, the horse that is behind the bit loses forward drive. It’s all but impossible to get him to move out in this position and he tends to get slower and slower. Very often he gets “stuck” and can hardly be made to move at all. He usually backs up very easily, however, and in some cases will begin rearing.

The worst problem with a horse being behind the bit is that so often the rider does not recognize it as a fault. The very low head carriage, the big arch in the neck, and the extremely light feel on the reins can fool her into thinking that her horse is now properly collected.

Nothing could be further from the truth. He is heavily on his front end and can feel no signals from the reins.

Devices intended to produce a low or “flexed” head carriage almost always produce an over-bent horse instead. Draw reins are particularly hazardous in this regard, since they have enough leverage to allow any rider to force a horse’s head just as low as she thinks she wants it. Long-shanked curbs with tight straps or chains can have the same effect, especially when used with a short running martingale.

Remember that getting behind the bit is an evasion. The horse has learned to avoid the rider’s hands or the device’s severity by ducking down low enough to escape their effects. He has learned nothing about collection or proper flexion, only evasion.

Small, compact horses with relatively short necks and backs are prime candidates for learning to get behind the bit, especially if there is any lack of forward drive. With such a horse, the problem is almost certain to appear if any heavy-handed training methods or devices are used.

To cure the over-bent horse, the rider must first educate herself on what a properly collected horse looks like from the ground and feels like from the saddle.

If her own behind-the-bit horse is the only one she normally rides, she should arrange for a lesson on a horse that does take proper contact. Such a comparison can open the door to understanding her own horse’s faults and learning how he should actually feel.

The first thing to do with an over-bent horse is get him to stretch his neck and move out. All draw reins, running martingales and leverage bits must be removed.

A large heavy snaffle is the ideal bit to use for this correction, because its big smooth surface is comfortable for the horse (he won’t be afraid to move into it) and it has no leverage to pull his nose down.

The rider will encourage her horse to go forward with a long, steady stride and will work him on a long rein. This means that the reins are taken up only enough to remove the slack and give the rider just the lightest feel of the horse’s mouth.

If the horse gets a little too high or too fast, the rider will not worry about it at this stage. Once the horse is moving forward with a good long stride and is no longer over-bent, he can be carefully slowed and his nose tipped back down with a mild, short-shanked curb.

Riders who show their horses in a double bridle can keep in mind that the snaffle should raise not just the head, but also the neck. The snaffle, thus, prevents the horse from getting too low while the curb does the work of tucking the nose.
 
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Keri

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I would start ground driving him again. Teach him to push with his hind legs instead of pull with his front end. I've had a horse do this before and I stopped all I was doing and put him in the bitting rig again. He pretty much needs to be trained the right way to pull and they only way to do it is start on the ground. This is just my experince though.
I started a horse last fall that was a backyard cart horse. Had no idea how to correctly pull a cart. So I did ground driving for a while and he's getting much better at collection and such (manners to say the least!).
 

minih

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JJay, I think you have hit the nail on the head. His teeth are in good shape, he was done by Carl not too long ago. He is doing exactly as you describe. I am going to go home tonight and read again what you wrote. I have been told that is what he was trying to do last year, his bit is a regular straight bit and should not be uncomfortable in his mouth..... I just need to try and teach him to pull different. Therein lies my problem. I will go out tonight and try the bitting rig while longing him. Do I just fix the overcheck up tighter-slowly over several sessions? Suggestions?
 

Katiean

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JMO. After you try checking his teeth and such I would try to double bit him With a light bar bit and over check him just in training. If he cant get his head down he might figure out he doesn't need to get his head so low. It is worth a try.
 

hobbyhorse23

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You've gotten some very good advice so far, wow.
Horses who go behind the bit are the one kind I don't have much experience with fixing so I wasn't going to add to this conversation but I did want to address this:

JJay, I think you have hit the nail on the head. His teeth are in good shape, he was done by Carl not too long ago. He is doing exactly as you describe. I am going to go home tonight and read again what you wrote. I have been told that is what he was trying to do last year, his bit is a regular straight bit and should not be uncomfortable in his mouth..... I just need to try and teach him to pull different. Therein lies my problem. I will go out tonight and try the bitting rig while longing him. Do I just fix the overcheck up tighter-slowly over several sessions? Suggestions?
Being a dressage purist my first reaction is to say "NO, no check! No bitting rig! It's a false fix! Argh!" and recommend all sorts of stretching exercises and long involved programs to rebalance him correctly.
But the fact is...if you're training this horse for the breed ring and have no interest in showing him elsewhere, frankly, the overcheck is a perfectly good solution. (Yes, I actually said that. Yipes!
) I've been watching Patty Cloke's training videos and she sees a young horse's efforts to bob their head as a request for support and balance and that's when she tightens the overcheck a little. It's to teach the horse "Put your head here. Good. Hold that." The check itself isn't used to hold the horse there so much as to prevent them from holding it anywhere else until they get the idea. Now that's not how I want to drive my horses because in the sports I love, flexibility and the ability to put the horse wherever you want them are very important, but it certainly works just fine for the breed ring where that elegant outline is the entire goal, in and of itself. The horse will probably still curl up when you take the check off but if you don't plan to ever drive him without the check that may not matter. *shrug* I know, I know, I'm a traitor to my cause.
Sorry guys! But honestly, there IS more than one way to do things! *LOL* Do the things everyone else is saying, and yes, tighten the check a little tiny bit to start with. See how the horse reacts. He still needs to learn to rebalance, but the check may help him learn to do that if properly used.

One other thing to consider (and here I'm back to my dressage roots) is that the straight bar bit may be too strong for him. Some horses like them but some don't and yours may be one of those who feels the bit is too intimidating and tries to back away from it. Have you tried a snaffle with him? That may not be the right fit either as it causes other problems so ideally I'd say try a Myler Comfort Snaffle or Myler Mullen Mouth if you've got them available. They'll give him the play of a snaffle without poking him in the roof of the mouth and he may be more willing to step forward into that contact.

Leia
 

whitney

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Leia your KILLING me over here!

Nope NO WAY NO CHECKS, I only use them to keep them from diving for grass.

Question for those who use checks. Does the horse stay collected and upright without them?

I wonder if pushing forward and half halts would work. Worked to converted a western pleasure horse to a dressage horse for me.
 

MiLo Minis

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I have run into this problem with the odd horse most often with a straight bar or mullen mouth - it seems that some horses just really like to lean on them. I would suggest trying different bits to see if you can get him to lighten up. I would also recommend trying sliding side reins set fairly tight to begin with to teach him where he is supposed to be putting his head with more giving contact than an overcheck will give. I don't care for straight side reins as they just tend to make a horse stiff.
 

hobbyhorse23

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whitney said:
Leia your KILLING me over here!
Nope NO WAY NO CHECKS, I only use them to keep them from diving for grass.

Question for those who use checks. Does the horse stay collected and upright without them?

I wonder if pushing forward and half halts would work. Worked to converted a western pleasure horse to a dressage horse for me.
Sorry!
You know I don't use checks eitiher but frankly if the horse is already being trained with one and will always be driven with one it seems a little silly not to factor that into the equation. It's a fact of life in the breed ring. *shrug*

Like anything, it depends on the way the horse was trained as to if they stay collected when the check is taken off. I've seen horses trained by a major local trainer driven without checks and yes, the geldings I'm thinking of kept their heads in exactly the same position and looked great. The downside was they had zero flexibility or ability to stretch (yes, I was allowed to drive one personally) but the outline was nice and the trot was still amazingly powerful. Other horses I've seen trained with overchecks will curl up when the check is taken off and they're excited. It really depends on the horse and the trainer just like anything else.

I think pushing forward and half-halts combined with a different bit is an excellent way to approach this horse.

Leia
 

whitney

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Whew thought you'd been lost to the "breed" ring!

Not naming names but I have seen exceptional trainer(s) that use checks and have exceptionally moving horses that with a little more time/engagement would have horses that would BLOW THE COMPETITION OUT OF THE WATER.

However the horses aren't being trained to push from the rear, (trainers worried about the "look" of collection without truely training a horse to collect and extend) therefore they just miss that extreme extention/collection that you know the horse is capable of. PITY!

Personally I think a dirt digger is easier/safer to fix than a cloud watcher.

Edited to add safer........................
 
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whitney

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Ok give WOMAN how is a cloud watcher "fixed"?

I've rode a horse that could run FULL TILT with his head in the clouds and no amount of half halting helped...............this was one of my 4-Hers saddle horses and the only way to stop that train was wrapping them around your leg and hanging on for DEAR LIFE, hoping they didn't stumble and create a human pancake.
 

squeaky

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As a little response to this statement, I think everyone needs to read the book "Tug of War: Classical versus "Modern" dressage" written by Dr. Gerd Heuschmann. Yes, this book is set for dressage, but the effects are the same as in driving. The author is a vet, and he goes over in detail how each muscle groups is effected by what type of body carriage, and how it benefits (or doesn't) the horse.

Living on the dressage farm, everyday I see how horses are supposed to move. While they aren't snapping their knees up to their chest, these horses are still incredibly beautiful to watch. While yes, the snappy knees are very flashy, I think that one could still win in Single pleasure classes with a horse that is truly collected. These horses have more power, and tend to have a more confident feel to them, then the ones that are being told to fly as fast as they can around the arena throwing their legs out in front of them.

I find that with the ones we think, with a little more engagement they could be better, these are the horses that actually just need to be restarted and taught the basics (i.e. relaxation, suppleness, straightness) before attempting to ask for more engagement. Remember, engagement will come as a result of collection and impulsion, which are the last two steps on the training ladder. To get these, one needs to take a long time and slowly build up the back and hind end muscles of the horse over a few years.

I haven't seen any of the horses referenced to in this post, so I am going off of what I have read, and what I feel needs to be changed in our world of driving. I think that if we don't try changing something soon in regards to the training of the horse, we will end up with several driving divisions in which nothing will have changed with how the horses are moving.

JMHO.

Amanda

Whew thought you'd been lost to the "breed" ring!

Not naming names but I have seen exceptional trainer(s) that use checks and have exceptionally moving horses that with a little more time/engagement would have horses that would BLOW THE COMPETITION OUT OF THE WATER.

However the horses aren't being trained to push from the rear, (trainers worried about the "look" of collection without truely training a horse to collect and extend) therefore they just miss that extreme extention/collection that you know the horse is capable of. PITY!

Personally I think a dirt digger is easier/safer to fix than a cloud watcher.

Edited to add safer........................
 

whitney

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I think both extension and collection on a well conformed/fit horse are noted when watching a horse play in their pasture.

That's what I'M looking for in the driving arena.

It's when we attach and tie things to them that we unbalance them and truely loose a horses beautiful NATUAL movement.

We have to strive to be NON EXISTENT to the horse.

That was DEEP. I'm gonna go out and play with mine.
 

hobbyhorse23

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*LOL* You guys are great!! Good post Squeaky, and I agree that book is excellent. I haven't purchased it yet but have read parts in my local tack store and it's definitely on my list.

Whitney, I'm on Squeaky's side. The challenge in training is not so much to be non-existent as to be completely in balance with the horse and teach them how to carry themselves with perhaps even more grace than they might naturally have shown. Kody's free trot has improved exponentially since he's developed the strength for a properly engaged working trot in harness and I know Susanne says Mingus's trot is much stronger now that he knows how to use his hind end. Not all horses use themselves correctly by nature; some need to be taught. There's a certain joy in helping them discover their own potential.

As for sky-gazers...you take them back to basics of course!
Lots of bending and softening from the ground, the same long-lining at a walk, then lots of long relaxed trot work teaching them to stretch down. Sliding side reins are (as MiLo said) very helpful in teaching horses to find their own balance. It's a matter of patience and persistence!


Leia
 

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