Head Games

(“Don’t be a head hunter.”)

Whether it’s politics or science or dressage, critical to learning is the ability to sift through volumes of information and place it all in some hierarchy of usefulness. Yes, some stuff can be discarded altogether if it’s just plain false. More often the problem is a factoid contains an element of truth if it is viewed in context. If it is accepted as a hard and fast law, sometimes it can lead you astray.

Case in point: concerning yourself with your horse’s head carriage. I remember even 50 years ago being warned by my teacher, “Don’t be a headhunter!”
That is particularly true if it causes a rider to fiddle or wrestle with the neck to establish a certain “look.”

But in all honesty you DO want a “certain look.” The complication is that the look is variable and that it doesn’t mean much if it is not established by “riding from back to front.” A recent article proposed that riders think less of their horse’s head and more about activating their horse’s back. I guess it’s a matter of semantics, but I feel most riders have a much better handle on where they put the head, and in so doing, they give the back a chance to swing.

“The hip bone is connected to the thighbone, etc.” I know that tune. Everything relates to everything else. I do know if the head is in a bad place, nothing good is going to happen with the back. The thing to remember if you’re thinking about your horse’s head is that there are many variables all of which affect the rest of his body. It’s much more than just superficially that he has his nose in. How high, how low, how flexed, how reaching out to the hand, how respectful and not pulling, how pliable in the jaw—these are all part of the feel which goes far beyond a simple picture.

All that said, if your horse’s head is in the wrong place, none of this will happen! When Occam whispers in your ear, don’t ignore him.