Lower Your Horse's Head
By Keith Hosman, John Lyons Certified Trainer
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Lower Your Horse's Head
Learn how to make your horse lower his head while standing still.
While plenty of my articles teach you how to drop your horses head while you're actively riding, (to travel in a more "collected" frame, to "calm down," etc.) this article will show you how to do so while you're standing still. There are two reasons you'll want to know this material: One, if you're standing around (daisy-chain style) hanging out with your equestrian buds, you'll want a way to tell a mischievous horse "quit playing games with that appaloosa and behave yourself. Drop your head, leave it there, quit antagonizing me and the appy." Two, you can take this material and extrapolate. Learn this routine at a standstill, mull over what you pick up and try the concepts out while walking, trotting, loping, spinning, barreling... etc. (Yes, the approach to bringing the horse's head down here is slightly different from the things you might try while moving but I'm not going into it because that'd be really, really boring.) Oh - actually, there are three reasons to learn this exercise: This is a pretty neat trick once you get it down pat and it makes you look really cool. (That's the reason I'd learn it, personally.)
I teach this routine to students in my clinics - and you would be amazed at how many observers will jump up, wanting to know how to do this themselves when they get home. Performing this "trick" on horses, teaching a horse to instantly drop his head after he's spent the morning with his head craned to the skies, is a great sales technique, frankly, for the Lyons methods. It's very simple, takes mere minutes to teach - and, if you read this and it ain't working later - you're either trying too hard or you're not applying enough motivation to your horse to "figure it out." More on motivation and what-to-look-for later. (As a rule of thumb, John Lyons' son Josh frequently teaches this in under two minutes... from the moment he first picks up the reins. Once practiced, however, mere mortals such as you and me should expect this to take... more than two minutes.)
Your goal will be this: When practiced to perfection, you should be able to pick up your reins gingerly with two fingers (like holding a stinky sock) to a height of about two inches - and the horse will drop his head like a rock in a pond. While reading and practicing this you should: Be thinking of how you can put these concepts to work for you (in whole or in part) when you're riding later.
What you should know about this exercise: If you own a gaited horse, practicing this material may make you think you've broken your horse, and not in a good way. (But you haven't, keep reading.) You'll teach the horse to drop his head when you pick up the reins - and at some point, maybe tomorrow, maybe next week, you may find him either carrying it too low because he misunderstands or because he's obnoxiously evading your bit pressure. Regardless of why it happens, (or to whom) remember that it's our release that tells the horse where to carry his head. If you work through this material and suddenly you've got a peanut roller on your hands, simply hold pressure on the reins till the head finds the level you're looking for (what's "natural" for your horse) and release your pressure. (So, nutshell: If you teach this at a standstill, and your horse begins dropping his head incorrectly later while moving, simply hold your pressure until the head is in the right position. Hint: You may need to lock your fists against the saddle to keep the horse from pulling the reins free, giving himself an unwarranted release.)
Hop on your horse, take up your reins evenly with both hands and...
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| Meet the author:
John & Josh Lyons Certified
Clinician and Trainer
Utopia, TX (Hill Country of San Antonio)
Keith Hosman is based in San Antonio, TX and is available for clinics, lessons and training. He frequently travels to Los Angeles, CA and Kansas City, MO where he partners with fellow clinician Patrick Benson for clinics and demonstrations. You can find him on Google+ and Reddit.
To see articles and training products related to the article you just read, see the following topics:
Bad Habits and Vices
Behavior and Characteristics
Calm Down Cue
Connect Rein to Ear
Connect Rein to Neck
Connect Rein to Nose
Demand Cue - see also Calm Down Cue
Head Down Cue - see also Calm Down
Lowering Your Horse's Head
Riding with Other Horses
Tie Downs or Training Forks - also see Martingales
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Lyons Training 101: Issue Thirty-one, Part 1
"John Lyons Horse Training: Teach Your Horse to Lower His Head While Standing"
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