“Poll up to your sternum!” This is something my Canadian coach Belinda Trussell has said to me over and over and over. What she means is that she wants to see my horse Biasini’s poll, which is the area at the top of his head just behind his ears, up to the level of my sternum (the front of my chest). Belinda asks for this knowing I will not just try to pull Biasini’s head up. That is a big NO. I must not raise my hands higher, pull more with the reins or anything else that will cause him to tighten and drop his back lower, or tighten in his neck and brace against me. His neck should be rounded and my contact with his mouth through the reins light and he should be accepting that softly. In other disciplines such as the jumpers the head and the poll being high is something completely different.
Here is a photo of a horse with its head at the height of the riders sternum. This is fine for a jumper and necessary.
This horse has raised its head to see the jump which is just ahead of it. Horses must raise their heads to see directly in front of them. Here is another photo that shows the horse going toward the fence, head up , and then going over the fence.
In dressage the head should be positioned so that the front of the head is vertical to the ground, nose not tucked in or sticking out in front. The poll should be the highest point of the neck with good open space under the throat. Brittany Fraser, riding her horse All In, demonstrates this well in this photo.
So that’s what I am supposed to be aiming for. I have seen lots of advanced riders and horses so I knew what the picture was supposed to look like. But I was not able to produce this myself. Somehow the whole poll up to my sternum was an elusive mental concept. Then after my last show in Florida, my Florida coach, Lou Denizard started to do some work on the passage (the slow motion trot). All of a sudden there it was…..Biasini’s poll was up to my sternum! And not only that but the contact with my reins was light and I could feel he was lowering his hind end as he moved. All just as it should be.
AH HA! The light-bulb moment! That is the poll up to my sternum! Now the trick is to get that frame and lightness when I am not doing passage. That, Dear Readers, is not so easy. But I will be posting again soon on the good progress we are making on it at home with Belinda.