When we first meet a young horse, be it a foal, a yearling, 2 year old, 5 or 10 year old, it makes no difference what age the horse is, right from the beginning of their training the most important lesson to teach them is head position… It’s everything.
Note: It is necessary to know what effects the wrong head position has on the horse’s physical ability are going to be, for example, is the horse physically capable of doing the training and if so, how will that head position affect the energy flow throughout the horse.
If the horses head is high, the weight of the head and neck (which is substantial) push down and lock the horse’s knees (the jaw, neck muscles) the whole body goes into lock down mode.
The only way the horse can go forward is to leap and that is generally sideways and out one of the shoulders, which is extremely dangerous, especially, if you are trying to go forward.
Leaping is not rearing… Rearing is defensive and aggressive move… which can be extremely dangerous to riders and handlers.
Leaping occurs because the horse is being asked to go forward from behind, most likely with a lung whip, which in turn asks for more energy from the engine room (the hindquarters) that then sends more energy to the horses feet. The horse must do something with this energy. Either:
- they can drop their head and go forward which is what we are asking of them
- if the head stays high, then the horse’s feet/knees are locked up so to release that energy they will leap forward or even worse sideways.
- rear upwards which puts you in danger.
NOTE: A horse leaping and rearing is both upwards energy, this leaping makes going forward very difficult for the horse.
Rearing is backwards…
There is also a pirouette rearing. This starts on the ground usually the horse’s head is up or in a sideways over flexed position, a rider pulling down then locks both the horse’s shoulder and knee, resulting in a rearing pirouette.
A rearing pirouette is both a rear and a spin simultaneously whilst in mid air, this starts on the ground with one front leg (knee) locked with the rear end circling around the locked front leg. with the energy still being asked to come forward with his knee locked the horse can’t go forward.
- the head is high, the spinning hindquarters will increase in speed. The horse will rear with hindquarters moving around the pivot front foot this creating the spin as the horse rears, which then centrifugally throws the rider off.
- If the horse is over flexed and is pulling down the inside front knee will be locked if energy is increased, the hindquarter will circle around the locked leg becoming a pivot foot, like a cut screw in the ground. It is difficult for the horse to move as he is locked up the horse will then get frustrated, angry, and they may:
- Violently throw his head up. He may thrash his head around to gain freedom
- He can throw himself onto his side, hopefully the rider doesn’t get their leg trapped under the horse.
- Rear up and possibly tip over backwards… extremely dangerous
- Do a pirouette – rear, again very dangerous.
**NOTE – the thrashing around of the head usually means the horse is trying to run away from the rider’s or handler’s hands.
The horse is trying to re-establish his power over the human by regaining control of his nose.
**Remember – rearing is one of the horses most powerful tools. Rearing puts both the rider and handler in a dangerous position.
Rearing and spinning at the same time means the rider can be flung off by centrifugal force.
Rearing vertically upwards can send the rider over the point of balance and he can fall off over the rump and can also mean that the rider could be kicked or trodden on once they hit the ground, this is exacerbated, by the rider who is in fear of falling off, they grab the reins even harder trying to use the horses head and neck to brace themselves from falling off, which in turn can also pull the horse over their centre of balance bringing the horse down and over the rider.
**NOTE – rearing is usually caused by a locked front end. Either one front knee or both are locked.
A vertical rear – both knees are locked
A pirouette rear – one knee is locked.
**Head position is everything. The horses energy is like a stream. If the nose goes up the energy goes up. If the horse pushes down, the energy goes backwards.
‘THE HEAD POSITION IS EVERYTHING’
I know that I keep reinforcing the importance of the horse’s head position, however, when you realise the benefits of having the correct head position, then you’ll understand why.
To learn more about my training method and how the dance with your horse works, please see the video and link below, there you will find my Vimeo ‘videos on demand’, there you can rent or buy them, also, I will offer my series on high definition DVD’s for sale on my new updated website coming soon, I’ll let you know when it’s available, if you wish the purchase the DVD’s earlier, then I have a special offer for you, just reply to this post and I’ll send you the offer .
As always, I wish you all safe and happy riding, Shane
Very informative blog…. Great to know why a horse responds to certain cues I give him.