head tossing... need advice?

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head tossing... need advice?

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    08-06-2013, 03:32 PM
head tossing... need advice?

So I have an Arab mare who throws and tosses her head when she refuses to do something while I'm riding. With my gelding we just kept working through it and basically ignored it and it went away with time and training. With my mare there is no improvement and its been almost a year now. Everyone keeps telling me to just put a tie down on her but I think that it will just mask the problem not solve it. Any tips?
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    08-06-2013, 04:17 PM
Glad your not moving to a tie down I hate them, and are usually used incorrectly as in this case. Have you checked her teeth and made sure nothing is wrong in her mouth? Second have you tried some different bits maybe she does not like the one use. How old is she?

You said she does it when she refuses to do something, it could just be a temper tantrum, and learned behavior. An example of what she is refusing, and a description of what you do would be great. A video even better.

In general though and assuming your hands are soft and your hands and cues are not the cause. Also assuming your ground work is good, and she respects you in the saddle put her feet to work get her to realize that tossing her head gets her more work and being quiet gets relief. You can trot circles, yield her hind quarters, back up, bend and flex her head and neck, do things that will turn her brain on. Then go back to what you were asking for like nothing happened.

The other answer is to go back to ground work and fill in any holes in her training.
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    08-06-2013, 04:42 PM
GSSW5 offers good advice. Rule out teeth. Have you tried a different bit? My gelding is a monster in a broken bit. Acts like he never held a bit in his mouth before. Every simple task I know he has mastered involves a tantrum.

You could also check saddle fit. The head tossing may be an indication of a pinch point.

I tried to get Sam to do some Parelli obstacles last summer. Walk over a wooden bridge, blue tarp, etc.

He threw an absolute fit at the blue tarp. You don't mention a pattern to when the behavior begins. If there is a pattern you can isolate the why and then solve the problem through training.

If it is constant from the time the tack is put on and you are in the saddle, I would suspect a tack fitting issue.

We rode with a woman a few weeks ago who's horse did a lot of head tossing. It was suggested she tighten the bridle. The headstall was too loose and the bit was slipping. The head tossing was the horse reseating the bit.
    08-06-2013, 05:07 PM
She's 9-10 yrs old. When I got her last year she had literally NO training. I do ground work every time I am with her. I am not a trainer but I am not inexperienced either. She use to be very pushy and disrespectful. Which is no longer an issue for me but she will take advantage of beginners if given the opportunity. She use to be a very spoiled pasture pet, didn't know she was a horse, acted like a dog. She has turned out to be an awesome lead line pony and has a great temperament for beginners as long as someone is there to make sure the beginners stay in charge. She has a puppy dog personality, in your pocket "cute" (easy for beginners to fall into the trap). She isn't a bucker, rearer, etc... she spooks in place, great on the trail and really all around good horse besides the head tossing. Since Im pregnant my trainer has been using her for lessons. I still ride occasionally.

Her head tossing is definitely a temper tantrum. Her teeth were done almost a year ago. Vet said it shouldn't be an issue. No other pain either. Tack fits. Have only used one bit but she does it in halter and bit less bridle too. I ride her in a snaffle. I've used a loose ring and a D ring.

What happens: if I ask her to walk a direction she doesn't want to go she'll just stop and toss her head around. I'll start softening her body, flexing her and yielding her hindquarters. After a minute she moves on like nothing and then randomly she'll do it again. Usually she plants her feet and does it but sometimes she'll do it when I ask her to stop and she wants to go home or to a grass patch. In that case she tosses her head and tries to bolt which I use a ORS, soften her up and go back to the original task at hand. I hate the arena which is where she does lessons and listens better. All of this usually happens on the trail or out in the yard. She rarely does it in the arena.

I hope I covered all your questions.
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    08-06-2013, 05:15 PM
Oh and in the arena she's usually on a lead line so I've wondered if its just me (bad hands or something) but she does it with everyone. Maybe I'll check the bridle and see if she likes it tighter or looser. I have her at 1-2 wrinkles right now. I've had tack and pain ruled out by my vet already. I think its training. I think I missed something along the way. She's the first I've ever trained by myself with a trainer for support and help of course but now I'm disappointed that since my trainer couldn't fix it, she wants me to put a band aid on it. I'm thinking holes in training somewhere?
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    08-06-2013, 05:17 PM
Here's her progress from the last 5 months:

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And her thread: http://www.horseforum.com/horse-talk/meet-comet-146574/
    08-06-2013, 05:39 PM
I would try the pressure and release method. Put pressure on the reins when she throws her head and release when she brings her head down. I have a gelding Arabian and this method has worked wonders on him.
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    08-06-2013, 05:56 PM
When my mare does this I do a little sharp kick and a hey! In your case (my mare doesn't stop) probably best to try and get her before she stops so if you can feel her slowing a kick and a hey, or even a simple squeeze, I think the key is not letting her stop!
    08-06-2013, 10:13 PM
Sounds like disrespect and some barn sourness. She has learned how to avoid work by tossing her head, so I don't think that any kind of bit or hackamore is going to stop the tossing. She more likely has holes in her training. I am not sure using a green as a lesson horse is a good idea even on a lead line. When she starts with a temper tantrum you really need to hustle her feet, and make her uncomfortable for showing her disrespect. Since your pregnant it would be safer to do it from the ground you have three seconds to correct her behavior, so you would have to get off fast and set her feet to work. Lunging with lots of changing of directions works well, so you would have to ride with a halter and lead rope attached so you can grab it quickly. If you keep the end of the lead rope through you belt loop you can grab while your swinging off and send her to work. Personally I love my mecate reins I can jump off and put a horse work in two seconds. And while your riding make sure your engaged and not letting her go on autopilot until you have a problem. Do circles, shoulder in/shoulder out, lots of transitions keep her thinking about you so she does not have time to think about doing the wrong thing. They can only think about one thing at a time. That you can do a ORS is good, the bolting is bad, she has learned how to get away from you. If she bolts then stop her and put her feet to work she needs to know your in charge of her feet. For the barn sourness work her hard with lots of changes of direction where she wants to be and then let her rest and catch her air away from her magnet. You will probably not be able to tire her out to easily so you have to rely on getting her to use the thinking side of her brain instead of the reactive side. Since you pregnant not sure trying to fix this is safe right now but maybe you can find someone to help you, besides the person who wants to use a tie down.

As long as the bit is a good fit in her mouth, then I would adjust the bit to max. 1 wrinkle and I actually prefer no wrinkles that way when your on a loose rein they find relief, from all the pressure.
Good luck and be safe
    08-08-2013, 12:46 AM
There have been some awesome suggestions and I am going to give it all a try. I actually completely agree with the holes in her training and barn sourness. I do think its a display to see if she can get top position too but I try to never allow her to disrespect me. Also the barn sour is extremely rare even riding out alone but it still happens. I think a lot of it is that she has figured out how to ignore the bit by tossing her head and therefore gets out of work. I'm going to start with hustling her feet. I was just softening her up and disengaging her before but I'll try to actually getting her feet moving. When she bolts I'm on it before it happens so she's only ever taken off on me 1 time. Which is why we quickly learned the ORS. And the surprising thing is she is beyond perfect on a lead line. She's a totally different horse. I also don't want anyone to think she's dangerous as her one and only bad habit is the head tossing. Its more annoying than anything. And by bolting she doesn't take off full gallop. She's lazy so its a quick trot forward until she figures out it requires more work. Im not defending her bad behavior by any means. I pride my horses for being well behaved so her behavior has me frustrated. I really appreciate the advice a lot! Thanks!!
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