My mare likes to toss her head when slowing down... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 12:38 AM Thread Starter
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My mare likes to toss her head when slowing down...

Alright so my mare, Heidi, is absolutely dead broke. But she still has her issues...

Here's a short story about herself.
She has been trained as a cutting horse then was let go because she was too hot for a cutting horse, not liking to stop at all.
So instead, she got trained to be a barrel horse.
Heidi eventually ended up with me[11,000 later...] and we couldn't be happier with each other but like every riding pair, we have our problems. This is one of them.
Heidi likes to throw her head up and toss it when ever I put pressure on her to slow down. I of course always give her first a vocal command, depending on the situation, such as Whoa or easy. And if she doesn't listen to that, I then sit down. If she doesn't stop when I sit down, I apply pressure to the bit or whatever I am riding her in.
What she likes to do is toss up her head or brace against the bit to avoid it.
I know she's doing it because she hates stopping. She never tosses her head when she is at a perfect stand still or when I pick up her rein to turn her.
She also does this when I ride her in a halter. I have yet to ride her in a hackamore/bosal/sidepull.
So the ultimate question of this is... Is there a way to stop her from tossing her head to get her to listen to me, and if so, what is it?

Last edited by BubblesBlue; 07-11-2012 at 12:40 AM.
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 12:39 AM
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Pssh.I didn't pick up the wrong lead
It's called a counter canter...
...A very advanced maneuver.
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 01:54 AM Thread Starter
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Bump :P
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 02:59 AM
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Forgive me for being straight forward but do you employ the "little pressure and build up until she listens to my cue" mentality?

My horse tosses his head a LOT when I am in his mouth too much. When I start with a light touch (paired with a deeper "slow down/stop" seat) and get a little firmer until he does as I ask (the I release) he doesn't toss his head.

"Strength is the ability to use a muscle without tension"
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 11:27 AM
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Well, you ought to aim for stopping simply by shifting your weight or squeezing with your knees. The idea is that using the reins to stop is something that's a last resort so who really cares if she tosses her head?
Anywho, in the picture her neck looks 'upsidedown', meaning that she doesn't have muscle built up at the base of her neck in front of the wither. Instead the muscle seems more built up on the underside of her neck. That happens when the horse doesn't make a habit of stretching through the back and using their neck properly. It's generally a sign of a 'handsy' rider. At least, that's what it looks like in the picture. :)
So... try using your knees to slow or stop. Most horses respond to squeezing from the knees. You might have to pair it with the reins for awhile. Once she gets that, work on better response times. If she doesn't respond, make her back up quickly. Most horses dislike that and will eventually get the idea.
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-11-2012, 12:34 PM
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I also see some slight "upside down" muscling to her neck in that picture, although she does have her head up and slightly angled, so that may or may not be an optical illusion.

I would definitely go back to installing brakes. Aim for only using your seat, weight, and leg aids. Really think through your process as you ask her to slow down. Give her a good connecting half-halt first; that will get her attention, rebalance her, and tell her that a bigger change is coming soon. I won't go into detail on half-halts here, as the topic has been beaten to death on other threads. I know it sounds dressage-y, but correct half-halts and the effects that they have on our horses are extremely valuable to barrel racers and other disciplines, too. When you do apply your slow down/halt aids, be sure to exhale, relax, and feel yourself melting into the tack. Don't take your legs away from her sides; you want them "in neutral," neither asking for movement nor "floating." Your legs are there to support the good positioning that you've gotten from an effective half-halt that will make it easier for your mare to slow down and stop quickly and smoothly.

Start at a walk, ideally in a controlled environment like an arena or roundpen, although an open field without any hazards (random fence-posts, woodchuck holes, etc.) will do in a pinch. The idea is that you want to let her go, and focus on her speed. Take all steering out of the equation. Get her moving out and forward at a walk; marching and stretching. At first, leave your reins slack. When you're ready, give your half-halt aids, and then ask for a halt with everything except your reins; Relax, exhale, melt into the tack. Stay loose, and allow her to come down into the halt or lower gait -- sometimes riders stiffen up when they just think "down," and the horse drops their back and throws their head to avoid a "loud" seat. Think of the whole process as happening as you say "Steady (half halt here), and Whoa (or whatever downshift degree you're looking for)."

If she responds, great! Reward her -- if she really prefers to move, put her back on a forward walk and rub her, and if she is really relaxing and telling you that that no-reins stop feels good, rub her at a standstill and let her "bask" for a moment before doing it again. If she keeps on sailing, maintain your "whoa" aids, pick up on one rein and spiral her down. Don't be abrupt about it, just calmly spiral her down until she stops her feet. Surprising her can off-balance her, which can be downright dangerous if you're at speed and try to sharply shut her down this way. The steady, firm, one-rein, spiraling action should prevent most of the head-tossing. Rinse and repeat. When she starts "reading your mind" at the walk, try it at the trot. When stopping/downshifting without reins becomes her default, you can start to reintroduce a little contact with her mouth and using the reins for what they are really intended for; guiding and positioning the shoulders and forehand around those barrels, or through whatever other movements you want to do.

Most horses will surprise you when you start this exercise -- that lovely, relaxed downshift is right under the surface, if we ride in a way that allows them to show it. It looks in the pic like you're using a Wonder-Bit or similar setup -- the exercise above works best in a simple 1:1 pressure ratio snaffle bit, because when you do pick up on the reins it's one side at a time. The combined leverage and mild gag action of a Wonder-Bit can add unneccessary confusion to the mix when ridden one side at a time.

You might also look into some long and low exercises to get her stretching from her haunches forward, getting really round through her whole body and getting some true "vertical flexion" of her whole body, and not just her face. Again, it sounds dressage-y, but it'll pay dividends on your barrel times when she starts listening and rating off your seat, and carrying herself more efficiently.

Hope that's helpful to you! Good luck!!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown

Last edited by Scoutrider; 07-11-2012 at 12:38 PM.
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post #7 of 8 Old 07-12-2012, 11:02 PM Thread Starter
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Thank you guys for the advice. As for the upside down look, trust me, she's just built like that.
I've been off of her for about 9 months and didn't start riding her until April. Plus she was built like that when I bought her annddd her father is built exactly the same way. He's a cutting horse too.

But I'll try the half halt stuff anyway.
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-12-2012, 11:10 PM
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I like Scout's idea.

Though all of the horses where I board are trained to halt as soon as they feel you tighten your abdominal muscles. First time I tried that and they instantly responded I was just like "Wow!"
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