Dani is a great little mare to ride. She’s responsive and pretty calm most of the time. She doesn't throw her head way up in the air like Willy did but she’s still not as relaxed in her going as I’d like her to be. I’m not overly worried about headset since I’m not a big dressage rider but I've learned a lot of those principles behind dressage and many boil down to a horse utilizing their body properly. If they hold themselves in a certain way, which as a results means a lower head set, they are less apt to get injured when carrying a rider. The “frame” is not just for looks but mechanically lifts the back thereby enabling a horse to better carry the weight.
This is important for a trail and pleasure horse too. As I haven’t been concerned with her mode of moving thus far I decided to work solely on her from the ground to start. Julie Goodnight has what is called an elbow pull. When trainers “bit up” there horses for lunging work they often utilize a side rein to teach a horse self carriage and to lower its head. This works where a horse then learns that if they give to the bit they find release aka, the correct frame. I like the elbow pull, similar to a chambon rein where there is pressure at the poll and via the bit.
The elbow pull puts alternating pressure on the bit as the horses legs move the strap. Below Julie explains it best.
From Julie Goodnight:
"The beauty of this device is threefold. One, it is self-correcting meaning that the instant the horse gives the right way he gets slack. Two, the elbow-pull creates a rhythmic alternating pull, rather than a static pull on both reins (like side reins) and it is far more effective to use one rein at a time rather than two (a horse stiffens his neck and leans into it when you pull on both reins at the same time). And third, once the horse has learned to respond correctly and carry himself in a collected frame with no contact on his mouth, you can mimic this action on the reins when you are on his back."
"As you walk, you'll feel your hips moving in a side to side action which causes your leg to close alternately and rhythmically (R-L-R-L) on the horse's sides. When you want the horse to collect, you'll first feel the rhythm in your seat and legs and then increase the rhythm in a driving fashion, then add small squeezes with your fingers, alternating R-L-R-L, using the same side hand as leg. Your seat and legs will keep the horse moving forward at the same time your hands are applying resistance to his front end with alternating pressure and causing him to shorten his frame. It is critical that the horse finds a small amount of slack when he makes the slightest effort to collect and it is also critical that you time your hands with your seat and legs. When done properly, the horse will hold himself in this frame. Remember; don't ask him to hold it too long. You'll want to release the horse before he becomes uncomfortable and resistant and gradually increase the time you ask him to hold the frame."
So I've done several sessions with Dani, the picture and video are from the first session. She certainly had her head high up at times but she learned quickly where the release was. Obviously the next step is to ride and apply the “half halt” with her gait rhythm. I’m still not perfect at this myself but it will be easier to work with her on it with her knowing what the proper response is and knows what’s expected when I administer the cue. Doing the groundwork first will also allow Dani to work on her muscle development for this carriage without having the added weight of me up there.