Either method you described can work. They do often end up with the horse looking a little bit like a ‘bobble head’ because they put it down…you release…it comes up, and the game goes on.
Here are some of the ways that I look at it. First off you will have more success if you have a horse that is naturally low headed. I own ten horses right now and all of them can be ridden in a frame with their heads low, but only one of them consistently does it in the field and everywhere because that is the way she is built. Guess which one was the easiest to train?
For the others here are some more things to remember. To take a horse and shape them a certain way takes time. I have been watching ‘The Biggest Loser’ with my family and it is a great example of how long it takes to reshape muscles, etc.
So when I am training a horse and I wish to encourage their muscles to be strong in a certain form then I need to hold them in that form pretty consistently. For this reason I ride most of my horses for the first year and a half in a frame that would remind you more of an ‘english’ horse (direct contact and two hands).
Also by bending and COUNTER BENDING horses drop their heads lower naturally while learning to steer better. Roxy was a good example. She was conditioned into a powerful frame for three years before the bareback/bridleless ride. And she was most comfortable in that frame after that even without a bridle. Now that she has been turned out for a few years she has lost her fitness level (from football player to couch potato) and she doesn’t carry the same frame.
The DVD that covers the bending and counter-bending methods I use is the Basic Body Control DVD which in addition to giving you great control over their body (shoulders, hips) has a side effect of a great headset.