The lowering of the head in the wild horse is a gesture that it has been linked to the horse being in an estate of relaxation and calmness; it has also been agreed that a lowering of the head whilst chewing and licking is a sign of horse communication, indicating submissiveness to its peers and/or handler.
In veterinary medicine, the lowering of the horse´s head relative to its thorax decreases the main arterial pressure, thus aiding tranquility and calmness. Lowering of the head it also relaxes the underside of the neck muscles immediately (muscles that always need to be relaxed, nor bulging like sadly too many times encounter ) .
I do also see it in everyday massage practices on horses, that a lowering of the head whilst licking and chewing shows horse relaxation and enjoyment.
Head lowering is the postural opposite of the recognised sign of alertness, having the head held high whilst tensing the neck muscles. However, head lowering should be considered in context (like most horse behaviours), for example, stallions lower their heads when snaking the mares.
Using the head lowering as a training intervention it has been proving ( at least to me) as an excellent tool to retrain nervous, fearful, excitable horses.
In the following videos and pics I am showing the work done to 88 and Lester, the two horses of the HCMR; they were very head shy and nervous horses which working with the lowering of the head is helping them to keep relaxed and trusty towards me, their trainer, aiding me to get quicker and solid long lasting results on their training.
Also working from the ground helps to develop a different kind of relationship before going on their backs.
Forced head lowering on the other hand doesn’t only not help, it makes whatever issue the horse had become worst, so always reward to the tinniest response, to the lightless of your touches; remember, horses can feel flies in every inch of their skin, that being so, they can also feel the slightest pressure of your hand, cavesson or head collar.
Within this exercise there is different neck and head positions, depending on the flexion of the poll and the angle of the neck regarding to the floor, but for now this is quite a lot to chew on.