Dressage Horse Training:  What to do about a bobbing head?!?

Hello Everyone

For anyone who’s tracked my progress with Donzer one of our challenges has always been Donzer’s head.  At training and first level Donzer would always carry his head behind the vertical.  As he got stronger, Donzer would carry his head but when tired, duck his chin towards his chest for a quick break.  The real challenge began at 3/4th level when I was asking the question, “How do we start creating an FEI frame?”  I received lots of feedback on what you cannot do.  You cannot ride front to back.  You cannot simply create a headset.  You cannot achieve the correct frame with a small trot. So I was full up on what I couldn’t do and was light on a positive direction to move.  A few trainers said I could “fluff” Donzer up and this works for maybe a stride or two but this was not the final answer.  Losing your temper or making any kind of strong corrections with the reins was not working.  I’ve received guidance and now have two strategies to address a rude and/or unsteady head.

One, Alfredo Hernandez had me simply open my inside rein and hold until Donzer quit moving his head around.  To clarify, I had Donzer on a 20 meter circle with equal contact in both reins and while keeping the outside contact steady, just move the inside hand straight sideways.  What I found is the first few times Donzer would fuss and pull but each time he settled his head, I would move my hand back to his withers and Donzer would have immediate release.  After a few rides, when I started to move my hand to the inside, Donzer would settle because he is smart that way and wants to be ahead of me.

What remained after this gross correction was some head bobbing-not in a rude way but more unsteady.  This is where strategy two comes in to play.

Two, Judy Farnsworth explained that the head bobbing was a result of the hind leg not carrying.  It is very helpful for me to understand the dynamic of what is happening to be an effective rider.  To help Donzer carry himself, Donzer needed to find his balance.  Judy had me counter flex and leg yield together effecting a diagonal aid.  So, if I’m on a 20 meter circle to the left I would counter-flex to the right.  I then use my inside (left leg) at the girth (for some reason I keep moving my inside leg back towards the haunches and the aid works better at the girth) and move Donzer out on the circle in a leg yield.  I hold this correction until Donzer relaxes his neck and then move back to true bend.  Initially I did this on a continuous cycle because as soon as it was fixed the head bobbing began again and after a few rides; Donzer has learned this correction and is starting to find his own balance when he feels me start to counter flex his head.  I did this at the walk first and have added the same exercise at the trot.  As a rider this is a coordination challenge and I did the process at the walk until I created the muscle memory in myself.  That sounds grand.  I repeat this process each day in my warm-up at the walk and am creating muscle memory in my body.  I think it will take me at least the six weeks I’m here under daily observation to start adding this correction to my riding pattern.

Good Riding,

Tara, Author, Out of the Saddle: 9 Steps to Improve Your Horseback Riding

Out of the Saddle

Out of the Saddle

Share on Facebook
Be Sociable, Share!