The average human head weighs about 10 kg. If that 10 kg is precariously perched on top of a spine, it will surely have a big influence on the balance and direction of the spine. If you then consider the way our head is balanced on our spine, you can already imagine that the placing of the head would have an enormous effect on the stability of the torso. (see blog about the torso of the rider)
If we consider the anatomy of the head and neck, we will notice that the head is not placed exactly within it’s middle on the neck vertebrae, it is more like a two thirds in the front and one third at the back kind of placement (that’s why our head rolls forward when we fall asleep sitting upright).
When we now look at the incorrect posture of modern society, where the head is positioned at a forward thrust, it is clear that the balance of the torso will be influenced in a negative way. Not only that, but the back of the neck will be under increased pressure to tighten all the muscles to try and hold the head from falling off the neck. Add the fact that the rider then looks at his horse’s head, and you will soon realise that there has to be a lot of extra weight on the front of the horse.
Another problem one often sees with riders is when they turn their horse and then lean their neck to the inside as if to help the turn. Once again, this adds weight where the horse does not need it in order to balance himself. If we use our heads to lead into the turn, it would be a good idea to try and keep our ears on the same level, just like we want our horse’s ears to stay on the same level when riding a turn.
So, what is the correct position for the head of the rider? The best way to try and describe it, is as follows: pretend you can balance your head in the middle of your neck by taking your chin back towards your neck, imagine you are in an “on the bit” position, where the muscles on the front of your neck relax (make a double chin) and find the position where you can relax your jaw by swallowing once and then let it hang with your teeth not touching. In the correct position, your teeth will be aligned, if the position of your nose is too high, the lower jaw will automatically move back, if your nose is too low, the lower jaw will automatically move forward. This is also the best way for your breath to move in and out of your body with ease. Your horse will have a similar thing happen in his anatomy.