Horse shaking head

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Horse shaking head

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    01-05-2012, 04:57 AM
Horse shaking head

Hi everybody
I need some advice urgently. So today I saddled up my old farm pony (a 15hh Stocky bay gelding) for the first time in about two months. He had some teeth issues late last year and I had some time and weather issues - the wind only stopped blowing a mile a minute a few days ago.
We hadn't been out long about 10-15 min when he started chewing his bit, not long after this, he started slightly throwing his head up and down. I thought he was just being a brat so I just kinda didn't give in and kept the reins a little tighter not allowing him to take the reins from my hands. He was a little better for a few mins, then started again, on;y worse!
He did this November and I had the equine dentist out, she floated all his teeth and did a bit seat. So since i'm 90% sure it's not his teeth, I'm thinking there's a few posibilities:
1) There is sometihing wrong with his teeth again,
2.) He doesn't like his new bit, I recently bought him a sweet iron snaffle pelham, this was his first time out in this particular bit, he is normally ridden in a s/steel snaffle mouth pelham.
3) I'm also 90% certain his saddle stlil fits, he has even sweat patterns, I ride him in a Trident Trail Ranger Grande, which is a western style trail saddle. He has been ridden in that saddle for the six years I've had him. His back has sagged a little with age ( he is 20 ) so I will double check that.
3.) Flies or midges are bothering him, going up his nose, he snorted quite loudly quite a few times during our ride.
4.) He is being a brat, he got away with it november, I realised there is a problem during a ride, got off, led him home and didn't ride again for two months. Now he thinks "if I shake my head violently up and down she'll let me go"
I will get the vet out asap next week,- he is currently away on holiday and I'm going away for the weekend - just to give the old boy the once over, from his teeth to his toes. I want to start some fitness building, suppling exercises also next week, see if I can help him build his back muscles up again. I'm a big girl. So I hope that will help him carry my weight sith a little more ease.
He does hate doing trails alone, hates doing anything alone, so I am looking for my perfect trail horse, but I still have a lot of saving to do, cause my dream horse is a draft or draft x, but here in SA they are expensive!
Anything else I can check/ have checked/ do to figure out what is bugging my buddy?
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    01-05-2012, 06:30 AM
Green Broke
I do see some issues here.

First, when changing a bit, it will take them a little time to get used to it. However I don't think that's it.

Second, the last time you rode him, you got off and put him back. It may cause him to try it again but I don't think that's the issue either.

From your post, my opinion of what is causing it is the way you ride. You say you ride Western but when he does this you pull the reins tighter. Do you have constant contact with the reins? I am thinking he's doing it to avoid the bit and get a release from the pressure on the bit. Another reason I think this is because when you made the reins tighter, he got better then even worse. He got better because of the increase in pressure and got worse because he wasn't given a release. When riding western, the only time you should have contact with the bit is when you are cueing or asking something of him.

Instead of pulling harder on the reins to correct him, make him do some work. Circles, serpentines, backing up and flexing are all good to do. Make him work to get him to focus back on you. Let him rest and see if he does it again. If he does put him back to working. Get him to understand that when he misbehaves, he's going to have to work. Pulling back on the reins will only make his mouth harder, making you have to pull even harder the next time and just keep getting worse and worse.

Granted this is just speculation because I don't really know how you ride. I'm just going off what you posted.
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    01-05-2012, 07:52 AM
Green Broke
Something I should have asked is when he does that, what are you doing, trying to do, or wanting him to do? Are you trying to teach him something new, trying to get him to stand still or stay at a walk? Is he trying to catch up to other horses or trying to get back to the barn or pasture? Each of these are training issues and may have different corrections
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    01-05-2012, 08:11 AM
I apreciate your opinion. Hans has a habit of rooting with his nose and sometimes pulling te reins out of your hands if your not carefull. So since his teeth were done a little more than a month ago I thpught he was being a brat, trying to get out of work so when he pushed his nose up, pulling on the reins I just didn't let the reins slide, my cue to himto stop pulling. I don't ride with constant contact on my reins. Especially since being hard to stop, he is quite herd-bound, I ride him on the curb rein. I will probably have my vet out next week just to rule out physical causes, if not physical, I will definitely use your suggestion of circles and serpentines.
    01-05-2012, 08:23 AM
Do you think it could be remembered pain, cause for the first time since I had him he turned his head away when I went to bridle him. I talked to him and he gave in, giving me his head and taking his bit willingly took his bit like he always does. He doesn't really stand still for mounting and now I think over the moring step-by-step he moved after I'd put my foot in the stirrup. I lost my balance slightly and might have caught him in the mouth (had a hold on the reins). I didn't think I'd pulled hard enough to hurt him, but maybe... Maybe I should put him in a mechanical hackamore for a while, just to get out of his mouth?
    01-05-2012, 08:23 AM
When he throws his head is he pushing out his nose or is he just up and down with it. If he is pushing out with his nose as he tosses his head up and down he is simply asking you to release the pressure of the bit by letting out some rein. If he is just tossing his head up and down I would consider that he has learned it from the previous ride when you dismounted and walked him back.
If he is pushing out you need to learn when to release the pressure and ride with a looser rein and/or consider that he has a new bit and will need a few rides to become comfortable with it (again less rein so he will relaxe). All this is assuming his teeth are fine since you just had them done in November. You might get them checked again to be sure.
There is also a head shaking syndrom but it is a side to side motion not up and down.
    01-05-2012, 08:34 AM
He does this rooting motion with his nose, no mater how much or how little contact you have. I have put 7" rope reins on him, he will rooting his nose up and down even when the loop between my hands and the bit is almost touching the ground! That he's done since I bought him six years ago. That doesn't bother me much. His previous owners comment when asked about it was "put a martingale on him" I would prefer not to. What he did today and wha he did november before his teeth was done is fling his head up and down with so much violence I'm scared he'll give himself a concussion.
    01-05-2012, 08:52 AM
I would still suggest he is trying to avoid the bit pressure by pushing out on the reins. It is very likely learned behavior because the correction isnt happening with your hands at the right time. Have you tried to ride him a few strides with mild pressure then release (just enough to give him slack) for a few strides. If you can get him to go a even 2 strides without tossing you can then pick up on him as soon as he moves his head to push out again and hold lightly until he stops then release right away. Giving him time in between to relax is important as the more calm he is the easier it is to teach him. When he does it right stop, let him stand quiet and give him a scratch. Eventually he will learn that his release from pressure will come only if he keeps a quiet head set. Since he has done it for a very long time it will take a while to make him understand what you are asking. Keeping him busy doing figure 8s, walk over poles etc also have a calming effect and will keep him mind on work as opposed to tossing his head around.
I would not use a martingale unless his behavior became dangerous for the rider and you are at risk of wearing his head on your face.
You will have to be patient to get him to relax. :)
    01-05-2012, 09:02 AM
Green Broke
Since he's done it since you bought him, and I would guess he did it before that, it has become a habit. It won't be easy but it can be fixed. When he does it, try to keep constant pressure. Don't increase the pressure. Let your hands follow his head and try to keep steady pressure. As soon as he stops doing it, release the pressure. He will fight it pretty bad at first but each time will get shorter until he quits doing it.

Don't get frustrated with him but try to stay calm and relaxed.

Like I said before, my first post was speculation. Having more info, I think this is his issue, just a bad habit. You could also try pulling one rein for him to flex instead of both reins. That might be easier to keep steady pressure. Just be ready for him to turn or spin. Again, just hold steady pressure until he stops moving his feet and head.
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    01-05-2012, 09:38 AM
Thank you guys!
Like I mentioned in my other post, I will probably have my vet give him a once over and double check his teeth, just in case! The prvious time he did it, he did have a problem, so jus to be on the safe side. But I will definitely try your technique to stop this head nodding habit. It's manageable if you're aware of it, but one day one of our younger and slghter built workers rode him gathering cattle. They stopped at the gate, waiting for another rider to open the gate. Hans suddenly did his nose flip thing putting his head down to scratch his itchy face. The boy was almost pulled straight over his head. I am planning on starting some suppling / fitness exercises with him on monday. Hopefully some more frequent work will help keep his head in the game so to speak.

head shaking

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