In the time that I have ridden in AQHA horse shows, the amount of comments I have heard/seen criticizing the low headset of the quarter horses in these events has shocked me.
Firstly, let’s define a “low” headset. The top of the horse’s poll should be level with their withers, creating a sort of line that stretches from the poll all the way to the dock. Of course, head position is determined by the activity you want your horse to perform and their conformation. A horse that jumps will need a higher headset in order to see the jump, while a western pleasure horse should have a lower headset—and here’s why:
1. Balance. The ideal frame for a quarter horse in a hunter under saddle class is one in which the top of the poll is level with the horse’s withers. This headset creates a sort of line that extends from the horse’s dock to their poll, allowing the horse to balance through its midsection, not by using its tail. Additionally, when a horse that is built with lower neck conformation holds his head too high, he will hollow out his back, creating a strung out movement behind and a heavy step in front. With a lower head, the horse will round his back, driving forward into the contact of the bit.
2. Extension. A great hunter under saddle horse will have a long, slow extension of their legs. In the correct frame, the horse’s front leg should reach the ground under their nose, ensuring that the horse is balanced and driving forward from behind. In order to keep forward motion while setting a horse’s frame, the rider should encourage the horse into the frame, causing the hind legs to step into the footprint of the front leg.
3. Equanimity. This word translates to “level-headedness”, which is funny because its root has a sound similar to “equine”. It seems to be a sign saying that, with a headset that makes the poll level with the dock, the horse will be calm. But, if you don’t believe in signs, simple observation should suffice.
Now that you’ve heard my reasons, do you agree? And, do you know any other reasons why a low frame is good?
Written By, Isabel DeLano. Horses should carry their heads the way their conformation dictates, end of story. Share this on Facebook if you agree!