I'd like to share the following Post which was created on the Second Nature Gaited Horses Facebook page.
The following content is property of that page and is shared here for informational purposes only.
Let's talk about headset!!
And how it affects the use of your gaited horses body and what to look for in your gaited horses headset!
Let's talk about the bad first!
These are examples that I wouldn't want my gaited horse doing, things that are typically what I see while working with gaited horses and the things I work very hard to correct.
1. Broken at the third:
This horse is stiff and bracey, it has learned to avoid using the correct neck muscles by being held into this position for lengths of time this horse is likely hollow, heavy on the forehand and pacey this horse also tends to rubber neck and have and extremely short length of stride.
2.Pushing down at the base of the neck:
This is a hollow horse that has either learned to be above the bit to avoids pressure or hasn't learned to use its body correctly yet. This horse is also heavy on the forehand and likely taking short choppy strides from behind. The base of the neck becomes a big thick muscle which begins to make the neck look ewe.
3.Pushing down and bracing on the bit:
This is a similar horse as above however this horse is bracing on the bit and now
nosing out. This horse is again very hollow and stiff in its gait or pace. His is really pushing against the riders hands and not giving into pressure this horse tends to feel rushy and unsafe.
4.Broken at the third, behind the vertical and bracing on the bit:
This horse is forced into this headset, the rider typically has to hold this horse in this position in order to for him/her to keep this headset. The horse is heavy and feels like your carrying 100lbs on your forearms. This horse doesn't give to pressure easily and feels like he/she has no "power steering"
5.Behind the vertical and behind the bit:
This horse I would sometimes call "over collected" however this horse is not collected at all, as a whole. This horse avoids bit pressure by retreating behind the vertical. Not only is this horse avoiding the bit, he/she is also not using his/her neck properly. Most of the time with this horse any amount of bit pressure causes them to break at the third even with things like turning and stopping. This horse usually rubber necks and tends to have a horrendous stop!
Now for an example of a beautiful Headset and frame. A good example of a perfect gaited horse.
6. On the bit on the vertical and lifting the base of the neck:
This horse is using his/her body correctly. This horse is light and floaty on the forehand and really digging in from behind. She/he has a lengthy stride and feels smooth and powerful. This horse has learned to hold his headset and frame correctly, and on his/her own as well as he/she is supple and usually rides of the riders body language and small cues, as well as being soft, relaxed and loose. This horse has a nice even four beat gait.