My mare has an issue with head throwing and I want to know y'all opinions on how to work on fixing it without just adding a new piece of tack like a tie down to cover up the issue. She is a mare of course but when I ask her to do something she doesn't want to do, that's when she throws her head. For instance, when I want her to just walk instead of constantly trotting like she would like, I sit back in the saddle and squeeze the reins and she throws her head all over the place because she wants to keep trotting and going fast not walk. I'm concerned its really hurting her mouth and it is quite annoying. Plus it looks really bad in shows and I'm sure hurts our placing if the judge happens to be looking when she does it. Any advice on how to work on getting this bad habit gone? I'm almost positive the habit came from her previous beginner owner who definitely did not have soft hands to say the least..
First, are you positive that this is a behavioral and not a physical issue? She only does this when she's being a defiant brat, right? Have her teeth been floated recently? What kind of bit are you using?
Once you've addressed all of the above and are certain it's just a bad habit, I'd start retraining. A tie-down actually will work for some horses, even adjusted very loosely, just to remind them not to fling. But it doesn't work for all. I'd maybe jerk her back whenever she jerks on you, for starters. And use leg pressure as much as or more than rein pressure to reinforce a cue.
She hasn't had her teeth floated in a while, so your right that could possibly be the issue. The bit I use on her is a tom thumb snaffle. I know the saddles not bothering her because she does it when I ride bareback too. I will check all the physical problems that could cause it and go from there. Thank you for the tips!
I have to disagree with the recommendation to jerk her back. This is the reason that she tosses her head. In order for her to learn to trust that she will NOT be jerked back, she needs time with a still hand, a hold, that sets a boundary and doesn't move just when she's figuring out where the boundary is. Because her experience has been that it's a fight or she gets jerked, she will need sufficient time to trust that her person will not hurt her but will set the boundary and then allow her to find out that that's just where it is. This isn't easy as the hand must remain quite while she finds her way. Yes, it's involved. If you want more let me know. If not I won't have to type all of it for nothing.
I would agree that jerking IS NOT the answer. Clearly her past owner with the "not so quiet hands" has taught her to fear being slown down, or that slowing down is going to come with pain and pressure. It could be any number of things - bad teeth, an abcess in the mouth, bruising on the jaw, an ill fitting bridle/bad bit, fear of past experiences, etc. Rule out a physical problem FIRST. This may solve your problem. If not, then go back to the basics. Ask an experienced trainer/horse person what sort of tools are available for you to use that are gentle on your horse's face. I would almost retrain how you ask her to slow down - more with feet, seat and voice, leaving hands completely out of the process. (Eventually, that is!) Ask a trainer or coach to help with this - it makes for nice, gentle stops in the show ring and at home!
A bit like a tom thumb is such a nightmare. Does your mare hold her head very high when you put pressure on the bit? Bits that are causing discomfort will cause the horse to avoid the pressure of the bit by throwing its head and in the long run you might have some rearing problems. Even if you change bits, you will not automatically solve your problems. It might take a horse a little while to realize they are feeling a different kind of pressure on their mouth. You will have to un-train the evasiveness and work on getting your horse's mouth softer. Basically you have to get your mare to accept the bit, which would be difficult if the bit is causing discomfort which I can only assume the tom thumb is doing. Once she accepts the bit, the evasive gestures (head tossing) will stop.