A and B both have head-carriages with the nose at the vertical and the
poll the highest point. However only A is correctly posturally engaged,
with correct diagonals, and without being balanced on the reins.
Horses C and D are both behind the vertical, and do not have the poll as the highest point, however C is still correctly engaged, whereas D is clearly not, as the hindleg is trailing.
The head-carriage alone is not a reliable sign of correctly balanced work, because it can be influenced by so many factors. Even a horse that is in apparent self-carriage may simply have been conditioned to hold itself in a certain way, without true longitudinal stretching in the spine.
The one reliable characteristic, albeit more subtle, of the head-carriage that accompanies gymnastically sound work, is that the neck is stretching forwards and is not compressed at the gullet. This can be seen in both A and C above, whereas B and D have less space between the jaw and the underside of the neck, the jaw being compressed backwards.
For more about the error of influencing the horse's head-carriage independently of whole body engagement, see:
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