Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training/Collection?



I own an older Arabian gelding and I want to start dressage with him. I know he can do it but I do not know how myself.

The main problem I am having is that he will not collect or flex at the poll, neither does he use his hindquarters and he has a very fast trot and canter that is sometimes impossible to sit.

I don't really know anything about dressage, but I've been doing lots of research.

I can get him to drop his head at the walk, however it comes up in the trot and all the way up in a canter. I taught him that when I touch the reins his head should go down - Is this okay or should I do something else, how can I get him to keep it down at the trot and canter? At the moment he just looks like a western pleasure horse and not a dressage horse.

I've taught him lateral flexion and hes really good at it, he is very soft in the bridle and his stops are pretty good. I ride in a sidepull and he has no problem with it, I can ride him in a snaffle just as well however prefer not to. When I pick up the reins and use little contact that is when he puts his head down. I saw on your other answer something about vertical flexing, I have taught him to put his head down when I touch his poll, is that the same thing?

Is what I'm doing right? If not what can I do to encourage him to flex at the poll or collect, is there something I am missing/not doing?


Hi Katie,
I feel I'm pretty good at training a horse, working as a paramedic, flying a plane and several other things. However, I don't feel I would be good at ballet, being an accountant, car salesman or many other things. Horses are the same. Not all horses are "cut out" to do certain things. Instead of forcing your horse to be molded into what you want it to be, find what your horse is good at and go in that direction. I feel you would be happier and most certainly, your horse will be happier. You say he looks like more of a "western pleasure" horse? Well, think about going in that direction with him. I would suggest you let someone who is schooled in dressage and is knowledgeable in that discipline to evaluate your horse. It might save you tons of money, heartache and frustration.
In your question concerning the poll. Touching the head to get your horse to lower his head is not the same as "bending (or giving)" at the poll. Giving to the poll is when the horse bends vertically at the poll with softness. Not just lower the head. Your lateral flexion must be extremely good before you will achieve vertical flexion. You should be able to pick up on the rein with two fingers and the horse give to one side or the other. There should be no resistance at all when you do this. Once you have great lateral flexion and great vertical flexion, then...and only then...can you work on collection. Collection is more a feel than a look. The horse will become soft and supple. The rear of the horse will move forward so his hind feet start to travel under him, the front will move back and his back will round out. Much like a slinky does when it is relaxed. This takes time and patience.
As I suggested, I would let a knowledgeable dressage rider/trainer take a look at him and you can go from there. If your child was extremely good at cooking, and wanted to cook for a living...would you force your child to be an accountant because that's what you wanted your child to do? Even though you knew your child wasn't happy and was miserable doing what you wanted him to do? I would hope not.
Find what your horse is good at and wants to do and then we can work from there. I hope I have been of some help to you. Stay safe my friend.

Horses - Behavior Issues, Breaking and Training

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Bobby Passons


I can answer questions concerning horse training, foundation work, colt starting, western riding, rider confidence and problematic horses.


20 years in horse training. Starting colts, problematic horses, rider confidence and Western riding. I have specialized in training good/safe trail horses. Shown in western pleasure, halter and trail classes. I worked in West Texas gathering wild cattle.


degree in prehospital medicine.

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