Okay, some background. My new horse has recently taken up yawning. Upon posting on COTH and reading up more on it, I think its partially from tension in his neck.
He's a hunter, so we're really just trying to get a medium to long frame on him but he's also done XC through training level so he does have some dressage background in there.
Because he has been trained (and sadly jumped) in draw reins, and is a people pleaser, he'll hold his head into the frame forever if you ask. However, I usually ask him for like a few minutes of a medium frame at a trot, followed by no frame, back to a medium and then free trot. I try to keep him alternated between them so he doesn't hold himself unnaturally.
I'm looking for additional ideas on how to make his neck relax so his frame is genuine and not artifical. I also take some "walk breaks" during our ride and rub on his neck as well. Open to trying all ideas!
Ground work showing the horse how to stretch and what muscles to use.
If the horse has been ridden to use different muscles, the muscles you want her to use are likely to either be sore, tight, or very weak compared to the ones she has been using.
Massage and accupunture can both work to release those muscles. Massage and ground work can help you make the horse aware of what muscles TO use, in a format that won't trigger the muscle memories of what the horse was used to using.
Just don't over do it, and don't stretch cold muscles, or you will create pain when it comes to using the new muscles, and the horse will learn NOT to use them!
I don't know if this works but my trainer and I were just talking about this yesterday (she was teaching someone who's mare was getting tense in the neck). She said to give 1 pat on the neck HARD (a heavy slap but with the intention of a pat). She said that the horse will first tense his neck slightly in response to the hand hitting him and then relax more than he had been. She said to think about how we would react if someone slapped our arm. After she mentioned it, I do remember seeing GP riders do this in the warm-up.
I love an exercise in the 101 dressage exercises for releasing the neck shoulders.
It is very simple and quiet. On a large oval circle (no deep into the corners), at a working gait - ask the horse to flex jaw/neck to the inside for a couple of strides, straighten, flex outside. We're not talking major flexion - just so you can see more of a bend through the jaw and neck to just see more of the "inside" eye. It's all done gently and quietly. Of course you also change the bend w/ your leg to correspond to the flexion so the whole horse "swings" inside, straight, outside, straight... I start at the walk and move up in gaits. My 4 yr old only really gets it at the walk. My old horses do it in all three gaits.
Getting them to forget about drawreins and actually take a soft gentle feel of the bit and stretch into the bit can take a long time. Don't ask how I know. But it does get much better w/ time
And forward is good for some horses. But others will simply run. Be careful w/ the forward to keep it balanced and not running...
Thanks for the suggestions. I do wait to ask him to stretch for the bridle until he's nice and warm. We usually track around for awhile at a nice forward trot (while I work on two point strengthening) so he can get a nice loose and swinging trot.
I'll try the circles. And we do lots of figures, I try to mix up his flatting because he gets pretty bored. Being a h/j all he really wants to do is jump so we do lots of leg yields, but mostly AWAY from fences since he pulls that way. We also do lots of serpentines and figure 8's.
He's just coming off my saddle making him incredibly backsore so he could use the massage too!