Of particular importance in both training and riding, the poll is the part of the horse’s head immediately behind or between the ears. It is the occipital protrusion at the back of the skull.
A slight depression marks the jointed area just behind the protrusion – a very sensitive area. Because bridles and halters pass over the poll, a rider can exert pressure on the poll through the headstall and cause the horse to change head carriage or head position.
“Pinching” or pressuring the poll area is a common technique used to teach a horse to politely lower its head for accepting the bridle or halter. However, horses are more or less sensitive in that area, depending on the horse. I trained both a half Friesian mare and a half Friesian gelding to lower their heads to poll pressure in record time (a necessary maneuver on a 17 hand+ horse who is too tall for me to reach his ears).
When I recently tried to teach a Tennessee Walker the same exercise, she was totally insensitive to poll pressure from my hands. I simply could not “pinch” her hard enough to get a response. Different horse, different reaction.
See Flex Training for instructions for how to turn poll pressure into vertical flexion.
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