Judges’ Preference for Head and Neck Carriage
Q. AQHA states the headset is now “poll level with or just above” the withers. Yet I see in all the AQHA shows, the tips of the horses ears are more lined up with the withers. Which do the judges really prefer?
A. Hi Mary! In my opinion the emphasis should be on the quality of movement; their body and their legs. Some horses naturally move best with their neck a little lower and poll below their withers and some naturally carry it higher and move best with their poll above their withers. I prefer to work on balance and movement and when this is correct, the neck falls into place where it should for that horse. Every horse is different and will show us, so to speak, where he is most comfortable with his neck carriage to get optimum movement. It is normally evident if the neck is artificially, uncomfortably, or submissively low. You can also spot a horse that raises up too high, in turn dropping her body and hollowing out. Mary, you brought a very good question to the table that I had been thinking about and will most likely talk about in my next article. Keep in mind when watching the horses that are winning, there are many factors that contribute to their success. They should be winning because of the way they move, their cadence, and expression, not just their neck carriage. In my training process, whether it be a two year old or a seasoned senior horse, the last thing that I worry about is the head and neck carriage. If the horse’s back and withers are up, allowing their legs to swing freely, their neck will be in position for proper balance, resulting in the overall picture that we all desire. I wish I could give you an exact pinpoint that the tip of your horse’s ears or their poll should be at the withers, but the reality is that there are variations in head and neck carriage from horse to horse. Unless they are of either extreme, they should not be penalized. I’ll be talking more about this soon.
Thanks for a great question,
Troy Green is a firm believer in the importance of a good foundation for every horse with balance, rhythm, and self-carriage being key. A good foundation equals longevity in the show pen. Troy has won over two dozen All American Quarter Horse Congress Championships in western pleasure, versatility, reining, halter and western riding, and has coached clients to over 50 Congress championships. Troy has three AQHA World Championships and two National Championships under his belt, and has won at all major futurities. He spent three years on the national board of the NSBA.
Troy Green has an extensive background working with youth and amateurs at all levels and of various disciplines. He specializes in pleasure futurity and all around horses.
Now is your chance to have your questions answered by Troy! Just submit your question using the comment section below or the email link, and he will respond to select questions in future posts.