Working On Neck Flexion

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fourluckyhorseshoes

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I have noticed in pictures of my mini when driving he sticks his head/nose out a lot. Any suggestions of how to get his nose in? I have tried working with getting him to flex his neck and he does fairly well but it doesn't translate to a tucked head. I didn't want to tighten up his overcheck before knowing what to do first. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks
 

hobbyhorse23

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Tightening his overcheck is going to cause the opposite of neck flexion as it completely prevents the horse from tucking his nose. Overchecks are usually used for a horse who likes to over-flex to keep him from doing so!
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Pictures of your horse sticking his nose out would be helpful so we can see exactly what he's doing but my guess is he's never learned to push up into the bridle. He's willing to follow your instructions to flex his neck (from side to side, I'm assuming?) but has not been taught to lift the shoulder rather than just bending the neck.

The best fix for that is to go back to basics. Remove any checks at all for this work, or at least loosen the overcheck so much he won't hit it until his head passes his knees, and then practice driving him with good contact and having him go forward strongly. He should start tucking his head on his own without the check but if he's stiff and resistant you need to massage his mouth gently with little coaxing half-halts and practice bending in the corners of the arena to get him to soften to each side. Lateral flexion (bending to each side) builds longitudinal flexion (tucking his head in and his butt under him) and will help him build the strength he needs. See how as my colt bends through the ribcage his hind leg comes up more deeply under him, he lifts through the shoulder and his head naturally starts to tuck? This is a poor-quality video still from a drive just before dark on Monday (we were trying out the new show harness) but hopefully you can see what I mean.

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Once you've taught him to flex at the poll and push off his hindquarters you can start using the check again if you must and he should learn to push up into the overcheck for a higher headset. Checks really don't do a lot to teach good movement though- all they do is show the horse that you want his head up higher.

Leia
 
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brasstackminis

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I have tried working with getting him to flex his neck and he does fairly well but it doesn't translate to a tucked head. I didn't want to tighten up his overcheck before knowing what to do first. Any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks
When you are trying to get your guy to flex his neck, am I right in assuming that he is standing or is he walking or trotting? Like Leia said, the overcheck is not going to help you in this area. You need to first make sure that you have a nice steady contact. Some people will say 5-10 lbs of pressure...yea that never helped me.
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You need to always be able to feel your horse's mouth with a light pressure. At first, you will have to increase the pressure a bit and then ask for more forward movement. He will most likely resist at first, but if you keep the slightly increased pressure and drive him foreward, he will figure out that the release will come from his change in position. Lots of transitions and circles...not tiny ones but 20 meter circles, and half halts will get his rear in gear and allows him to lift his shoulder and push from behind. As riders and drivers, we often are so focused on the front and head, we forget that the power is in his caboose! You need to drive the rearend! What kind of background with driving and/or riding do you come from? It helps with the suggestions
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Also, is there a reason for your checkrein? I know that I attached mine (really loose) when I started driving my first mini because it came with the harness/bridle!
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Farina

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I too drive wth a very loose overcheck. I would suggest that you drive many figures eight at first t get him supple side by side. It is easier to stretch one side after another rather than stretching both for tugging the nose in. When you are driving your figures eight you both will reach a point where the horse lower his head and is searching for the "Anlehnung". He can hold this posture for a few moments at first but with time this endures longer and longer.
 

circlesinthesand

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When you are driving your figures eight you both will reach a point where the horse lower his head and is searching for the "Anlehnung". He can hold this posture for a few moments at first but with time this endures longer and longer.
Can you define what you mean by Anlehnung? I think I know what you're saying here but I have never heard that term used.
 

hobbyhorse23

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circlesinthesand said:
Can you define what you mean by Anlehnung? I think I know what you're saying here but I have never heard that term used.
It's part of the German Training Scale.
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The six goals are Takt (rhythm and evenness of the steps), Losgelassenheit ("letting go," submission, and relaxation), Anlehnung (seeking the bit and stretching to it), Schwung (impulsion), Geraderichten (true straightness), and Versammlung (collection). A great book for further discussion of these principles in relation to driving is "Carriage Driving: A Logical Approach Through Dressage Training," by Heike Bean and Sarah Blanchard, from which I quoted the above information.

Leia
 

circlesinthesand

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Thank you, I am unfamiliar with the German terms but I do know what you're talking about, Just wanted to clarify that the word meant what I was getting from the context. I understand the principles but in the more 'western' terms :p Long and low :D It's actually one of my favorite parts of training.
 

Farina

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Sorry, I beleved that these German words are well known...

I actually live in Germany and I am a former dressage rider I just stick to these words...
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hobbyhorse23

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I recognized it but couldn't have spelled it or told you which one of the principles it was without looking it up! LOL.

Leia
 

circlesinthesand

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I recognized it but couldn't have spelled it or told you which one of the principles it was without looking it up! LOL.

Leia
This was sort of my thoughts as well. I figured it was a dressage word and it certainly looked like it was German but what? I didn't know. I did a google search and it didn't give me anything useful. I'd rather ask than be confused
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I'm also a primarily western rider. My dressage knowledge is limited to a few lessons, a lot of discussions, some trial and error with my own ponies and a couple of books, so I hang on to the principles vs the words, they help me more in my own riding. I can call it anything I want and the horses wouldn't care ;) a rose by any other name...
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Farina

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I can say out of former knowledge and expirience that the German Training Scale is at least for dressage or driving CDE's is very helpful. It explains when and why some exercises should be choosedtoimprove the horse and why other stuff won't work. If you think it over you will have expirienced it all as well, but you couldn't put a name tag on it.

For example if the horse is still struggeling with the weight of the carriage and put his whole weight in the harness to pull you, you wouldn't expect him to search for the reins and to bend well. This is why his rythm and suppleness aren't there. A horse struggeling with weight for example will allways trot long - short and will not have an even rhythm. Because rythm is before suppleness and searching for the bit, without rhythm he can not bend well or he can't tug his nose in.
 

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