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Vertical Flexion

Lowering the horse’s head and neck will relax an inverted horse and teach him to give to bit pressure. This is exercise also teaches the very beginning of collection.

Lowering the Poll

  1. To begin, stand at a halt keeping your reins long by holding onto the buckle or in the middle of them. It is important when you start this lesson to keep your reins as long as possible so your horse can learn that rein contact means to yield and lower the head, and no rein contact is his reward for doing so.
  2. Take up the reins in both hands as you normally would when riding and apply a soft contact on the horse’s mouth. Hold the reins, keeping a steady gentle pressure until the horse lowers his head a little bit.
  3. You will know when to release when you feel a slight loosening of the reins. When he does this, click when he is soft in the bridle and has his head in the correct place, then drop the reins and feed.
  4. What you are looking for is the horse to give at the jaw and poll. The neck will come down naturally when this happens.
  5. It is easier when riding in an english saddle to hold your hands farther back than you normally would and set them on your thighs. If the horse resists the contact your hands can be secure and not accidentally give him a release for pulling. If you are riding in a western saddle it can be helpful to set your hands on the pommel.
  6. Practice at a halt until you can gently pick up the reins and your horse automatically gives to the bit. You will know if you should move on when your horse lowers his head and tucks his nose in response to gentle rein pressure.

Problem Solving

  • If the horse resists the contact on the bit keep consistent pressure on the reins. Don’t pull back on the reins; set your hands and let him pull against you. Always click then release when the horse puts his head in the correct position.
  • Horses learn from the release of pressure not the application of pressure. If you release when the horse is pulling, lifting his head or putting it too low, you are teaching him that behavior is what you want.
  • If you don’t release right when he lowers his head and keep holding onto him he will soon stop trying and become dull. This is why it’s important to instantly reward the horse by dropping the reins and it also why you need to be accurate with what time you click.
  • Don’t hold the reins with too much pressure as that could cause your horse to toss his head or even rear. Instead, keep a light yet steady contact.
  • If the horse dives his head down every time you pick up on the reins don’t release the pressure until he raises it a little. Ideally you want his head and neck about even with his withers.
  • If the horse flexes laterally instead of vertically he may just be confused. Continue to hold both reins evenly and wait for him to figure out the correct answer by releasing when he straightens his neck.
  • Be patient. This process usually takes a couple of weeks before the horse is light in the bridle.
  • Practice this lesson at least three times a week on consecutive days. This allows the horse to get the repetition he needs to learn the lesson.