Join Date: May 2007
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
When you use a tie down, it is helpful to run it through looped string in the center ring of a breast plate to help keep it in the center and positioned correctly. It will also keep it safer because it will keep it from dropping too low and him accidentally getting a foot through.
I know of a lot of barrel racers who do use tie downs to give their horse something to brace against as they make their fast hard turns - it can be used as a tool to help them keep their frame in their turn and keep from getting strung out.
I would not suggest using a tie down on a regular basis, but in high energy places and events like a rodeo, it might be helpful. Horses can get very excited at events like these, but also remember to keep encouraging a calm attitude from him. Like any other restricting tool, a tie down will not fix the problem of head tossing or even rearing if that is the case. All training and other riding would be most beneficial if done without a tie down (or a running martingale for that matter). There is a lot of groundwork and bridle work that can be done to help a horse learn to keep its head down on its own - without restricting tools.
If a tie down is used all the time, and the horse is not worked with to show him the proper frame he should be in, the problem will not go away with the use of a tie down, and might even get worse.
I agree that your horse should be very comfortable with you before taking him to a high energy place like a rodeo, but once he is, attending as many as possibe and encouraging him to just stand and relax a lot will help him get used to it. Any new place (rodeo or otherwise) will create some anxiety in a horse, so him trusting you and feeding off of your own calmness is very important. I don't know if I see lack of confidence in you by your horse in those pictures as much as a very worked up and excited horse - but that is pretty hard to tell when you are not the one actually there on the horse at the time.
I would definitely do a lot of flexion work and a lot of work exposing him to new places with relaxing in mind. Good luck and have fun :)
How long have you had him by the way? It also might be helpful to hear the basics of the abuse (how long ago, for how long a period of time, just the basic jist of what happened). History of a horse is a pretty big factor that should be played into how you plan to proceed with training.