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Discuss How do western riders train their horses to have that low headset? at the Horse Training forum - Horse Forums.

OK - so I'm an english rider and I'm pretty knowledgable about training horses horse ...
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    How do western riders train their horses to have that low headset?

    OK - so I'm an english rider and I'm pretty knowledgable about training horses horse to have an English type headset....but how in the world do western riders get their horses heads to be so low for such a long amount of time?

    Also, just something I was thinking about but not trying to say western horses don't work or are not being ridden properly....however, how can a western pleasure horse be truly collected with his head so low? In dressage and such, the neck/poll of the horse HAS to be up for his to be truly collected. So my thought it, do western pleasure horses truly have collection or just a softness to the mouth? Again, NOT trying to insult western people...just a thought in my mind.
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    Senior Member+ lvmypnt's Avatar
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    Done correctly, the headset will come after the horse is taught collection.

    Done incorrectly, they tie their heads down.
    Natural Horsemanship........It's not a NEW technique, it's an OLD way of thinking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lvmypnt View Post
    Done correctly, the headset will come after the horse is taught collection.

    Done incorrectly, they tie their heads down.
    Doesn't teaching collection take TONS of time though because they're having to use so much muscle?
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    Yes, tons of time and that is why some people will cheat with tying the heads down....its a lot less work.

    However, some horses will naturally have a low head set and collect themselves on thier own depending on their breeding and confirmation.
    Natural Horsemanship........It's not a NEW technique, it's an OLD way of thinking.

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    To move that slowly that correctly, they have to be truly collected.

    There are of course those who go around 4 beating and/or going around with hollow backs and dropped shoulders that need a little more work in the collection/correctness area, but a correctly moving pleasure horse is very highly collected.

    Pleasure horses bred for pleasure naturally have a lower head set just like dressage horses bred for Dressage have a naturally higher head set.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Arem View Post
    To move that slowly that correctly, they have to be truly collected. I'd disagree only because my mare is trained western pleasure (she's actually my mom's cause I don't ride western) and she has VERY slow gate but still has her head low and soft in the mouth...now is she collected? Not necessarily.

    There are of course those who go around 4 beating and/or going around with hollow backs and dropped shoulders that need a little more work in the collection/correctness area, but a correctly moving pleasure horse is very highly collected.

    Pleasure horses bred for pleasure naturally have a lower head set just like dressage horses bred for Dressage have a naturally higher head set. Yes, this is very true. Thanks for your input!
    If horses truly are collected with their head so low, don't you think it would be harder for the horse to collect since his head is so low and he's trying to bring his hind end under himself?
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    "Frame" and collection is something I've given a lot of thought to over the years. I love dressage and have a lot of friends who compete in that discipline and I'm always being asked how my horse can possibly be collected when her neck is carried horizontally rather than up and rounded. This explanation makes sense to me.

    A horse's body is of a finite length when measured in a relaxed/pasture state or when allowed to putz around. It's tough to illustrate without uploading doodles but let's show it as:

    | - | or, at worst, this | u |

    I think we can all agree that regardless of discipline, we want our horses to round their backs under saddle in order to effectively carry their rider. Whether it's a dressage horse being warmed up long & low or a western pleasure horse, we want this:

    | ^ |

    In this state, the horse shows a moderate degree of collection, keeps their back rounded and is able to carry their head and neck stretched out in front of them. The horse should be travelling correctly with the centre of gravity moving back off the forehand. For a western, horse, this is the "frame" we want but for the show ring we want increased drive from the hind end without increased ground speed, cadence or length of stride (i.e. collection). All of the push translates into slow, controlled movement and requires tremendous strength to do so while keeping the "frame" long.

    For a competitive dressage horse to correctly execute the required movements in upper level tests, this isn't enough engagement or energy. To use and control that energy, the "frame" must be shorter. Like a spring, the more you compress it, the more stored energy is available. In order to fit the horse into the smaller frame and keep the back up & rounded, the hindquarters must drop and the withers must elevate which forces the neck to come up and round resulting in this:

    |^|

    A good dressage horse will always have a higher degree of collection than a good western pleasure horse but the WP horse must always be collected in order to execute slow, correct gaits.

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    A correctly moving Western Pleasure horse is collected. Western Pleasure properly taught is all about collection. Ignor the head. Ignor it. Find a correctly moving WP horse and see what there body is telling you.

    They are bred to be able to move with there heads down. It doesn't affect their ability to collect if they are properly taught.

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    Unfortunately too many people do focus on the head, and not the correctness and the horse get's ruined too early. Seen very few that do it correctly.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MaggieSue View Post
    Unfortunately too many people do focus on the head, and not the correctness and the horse get's ruined too early. Seen very few that do it correctly.
    Couldn't agree more. I love watching the horses my trainer starts, as he never rushes anything and let's the horses learn proper collection, and then the head and neck come naturally. The horses are much happier being taught their job (be it western or hunter) in that way, and they also hold up a lot longer. It's not exactly "pretty" to watch at times while the horses learn balance and collection, and I know some less knowledgable clients think he doesn't know what he's doing. They just have to give him time. Some horses catch on quick, but not all.

    Unfortunately for some people he takes "too long" but I'd much rather have a correct horse long term for sure than one that's been forced into something. I've also seen him take "experienced" show horses and get them so they have a much more natural jog and no longer four beat. It may take longer to get the young ones going, but once they figure it out, everything is easier for all.
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