Q11 – Are You Head Bobbing?

The head is essentially a 10 to 15 pound bowling ball at the top of your neck. Good head alignment means that you use a minimum amount of muscular effort to hold up your head, allowing the skeleton to do most of the work. When your head is well-aligned front to back, you can lengthen through your spine all the way through the top of your head.  This counters the downward force of gravity.

Whenever there is tension in the core of a rider’s body be that pelvis, lower back, abs, lats, you will notice it at the extremities of the body in the form of moving hands, jiggly feet, unstable lower leg or most noticeably bobbing head.

Head Bobbing Syndrome

The nodding head is a common symptom of tense hips that are not correctly following your horse’s motion. You may be cheating by collapsing at the belly button to absorb the motion or pumping with your upper body at the canter.   You will need to work on thinking tall and elegant and transferring the rocking to the pelvis instead of the upper body or head.

The idea is to follow your horse’s motion by opening and closing the hip angle whilst maintaining a steady, relaxed upper body.  Your following seat must move with your horse’s motion in a rhythmical way in order to allow your horse to move forward. If you say ‘go’ with your leg aids but your seat does not immediately follow the forward swing of your horse’s hips as he picks up a hind foot, you will restrict forward motion – guaranteed.  The energy created will flow through your body to your extremities and show up accordingly.

To find a good comfortable head position …

Lengthen your neck so that your head moves slightly upward. Think of ‘pricking your ears’ as if you were a horse. Feel the shoulders go back, turn your head slowly, left and right.

  • Is it easy?
  • Do you have any stiffness or restriction in the movement?
  • Do you feel any change in your seat?

If you are attentive you may feel your hip angle open as your seat deepens.  To summarise; if you have an unsightly head bob, particularly when sitting the trot, it will be due to tension in your core and an inability to properly absorb the motion of the horse.  You will need to address the stability issues in your core rather than think about how to stop your head nodding.


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Patricia – The Dressage Tipster


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