Breaking my horse of a tiedown - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 04-10-2012, 01:07 PM Thread Starter
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Breaking my horse of a tiedown

I apologize if this doesn't fit here, I didn't know whether it would go here or in the Horse Riding forum.

I have always ridden my horse in a tie-down and noseband, since I got him, because my horse has a terrible habit of throwing his head around when he doesn't like something or wants to get his way. I ride in it mainly to restrict his head from flying all over the place. My trainer told me to use it, and she tightens it when it's not tight enough and he goes to flipping his head everywhere. The old owner never rode him in one. He almost never gives me a problem when he's in it, but he knows when it's not on, and will put up a lot more of a fight, and he's harder to handle, and it's easier to win battles when it's on. We always ride in it (except bareback, but it's worse)- to our showmanship/western pleasure clinic, playdays, barrel practices, and trail riding. I don't like using it that much, and I would like it better if I didn't have to for everything, and I think our overall appearance would be neater if it wasn't on. I really want to break him of having to wearing it all the time, and break him of his head tossing habit, when he doesn't agree with me.

Any help on how to teach him to behave when the tie down is off, or any tips in general would be very helpful.

The actual 'tie down' isn't on here, but you can see the noseband on him in this picture.

This is very similar to what I use (not my picture, I jut google'd it).

By the way, it's not so tight that is restricts all movement, or forces him to tuck his head in. it's only tight enough that he cant madly throw his head around like he usually does.
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post #2 of 7 Old 04-10-2012, 01:18 PM
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Have you had his teeth checked to make sure that he doesn't have any issues going on in his mouth that could be causing the issue?

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post #3 of 7 Old 04-10-2012, 01:32 PM
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Along with possible teeth issues that CLaPorte mentioned, what kind of bit are you using on him? And what kind of contact do you use while you're riding?

I know one mare that will flip her head all over kingdom come if you have anything less than a draped rein with her. She goes her best if you just use leg and no hands.
My mare will start tossing her head if I try holding her in too much with my hands. When she does, it's tempting to tighten up my hands more but what I really need to do is loosen my hands up and focus on using my seat and legs.
Do you subconsciously tighten up the reins when you see something you know he won't want to do or doesn't like, perhaps? I know I often do that to my mare and she really doesn't appreciate it when I do that!

Fabio - 13 year old Arabian/Lipizzan gelding

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post #4 of 7 Old 04-10-2012, 02:45 PM Thread Starter
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His teeth were floated and everything a few weeks ago.

The bit is a 3 piece curb, because he didn't like the 2 pc jointed mouthpiece curb (it was similar to a tom thumb 'snaffle'), and I have noticed better things with this one.

He neck reins really well, and I use long leather roping reins for regular riding, and I usually just neck rein, and pick up my hands on the other side.

On the other hand, when at playdays and running barrels and stuff, I use more direct rein pressure, like reaching down and pulling in towards my hip, but he normally doesn't toss his head at this.

Another thing I have noticed is when I am riding bareback, I can ride with just a loop of rope around his neck, and just use neck reining to control him, but when I put a halter on, and clip the rope to the side rings for more control, he doesn't like it at all when I pull on it this way, and puts up big fits, yet when I put a bridle on and ride like I normally do, he hardly puts up a fight.

He doesn't quite fully understand all his leg aids yet, but he does know how yo bend and flex when I use my legs.
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post #5 of 7 Old 04-10-2012, 03:02 PM
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I had an Arabian gelding with a head tossing problem and I was riding him in the same bit the previous owner was. I finally tried him in a different bit and viola, happy horse! Ironically she rode him in a simple curb and I switched to a tom thumb but my current mare is the opposite. She doesn't toss her head but she mouths bits with moving parts and really like a solid curb better.

You kind of need to find a bit he doesn't resent and start asking him to break at the poll instead of shooting his head up when he feels rein contact. I have a feeling if this started in a tom thumb type bit, he might like a solid mouthpiece better because it won't be hitting him in the palate, which is always why people knock the tom thumb and even regular two piece snaffles.

So I would play with bits until you find one he is relatively happy with and then gently ask him to break at the poll frequently when you ride. Start out at a walk and just ask ever so slightly and give him slack reins the moment he gives to bit pressure.

I think what happens is the head tossing becomes a knee-jerk reaction every time you take up contact. The horse doesn't even think before he does it because it's become a habit. So once you find a bit that he is decent with, you will sort of have to retrain that rein contact means break at the poll instead of stick your head up.

I think it's very doable and applaud you for trying to help your horse instead of just sticking to the tie-down which is a band aid.

Anyway, the gist is that you usually need to go to a milder bit that the horse doesn't resent contact with and retrain to give to the bit.
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post #6 of 7 Old 04-10-2012, 03:19 PM
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So you're saying that the head flipping and inverting are worse when you apply direct rein pressure?

If that's the case, I think there's lots you can do to help, but it's a long retraining process.

I suspect two things; first, that your horse was never taught to give correctly to rein pressure, and two, he's in the habit of traveling hollow, and doesn't have the muscle along his topline that would allow him to travel correctly with head and neck stretched down and forward. The first photo shows the lack of correct muscling pretty clearly.

I would start on the ground with a plain snaffle. And by that I mean no shanks/no leverage - a Tom Thumb is really a curb with a broken mouthpiece, not a snaffle. A snaffle with a double joint, since you say that's what he prefers. Work first on having him give to the side with pressure/release on one rein, then pull/release or flutter both reins. What you want to happen is for him to drop his head and flex at the poll; what will likely happen is he'll invert and fling his head around. Keep working, quietly and calmly, with small amounts of rein pressure, always matching the release to the amount of pressure, until applying pressure on both reins causes him to drop his head and flex, rather than invert and fling. Praise lavishly and repeat.

Repeat these exercises after grooming and before mounting. Under tack, do a lot of walk/halt/walk, walk/halt/back transitions. Any time you get a give to rein pressure, rather than resistance/inverting/flipping, praise lavishly.

Be prepared for the horse to revert to the old behavior when he's "up" or stressed.

The long term fix for this involves lots of lunging and lots of slow flat work to teach him how to carry himself correctly and build muscle along his topline. Search this site or any other good horse site for "building topline" and you'll get lots of info.
Wallaby, smrobs and DraftyAiresMum like this.

Last edited by maura; 04-10-2012 at 07:02 PM.
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post #7 of 7 Old 04-11-2012, 12:50 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks for all the help, I will definitely try to work with him.
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