Join Date: Nov 2013
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
• Horses: 0
If a horse doesn't neck rein properly, it is hard to control him with one hand - so you will need to ride with two hands one rein in each hand. The most common bits used on the racetrack are the Loose ring single jointed and/or the D Ring snaffle [I prefer the full cheek single jointed snaffle because it will not pinch the horse.
Begin by having your horse walk forward. "Then when you want to turn slightly to the right, put the left rein against their neck first. Then shorten the inside rein and actually pull their head slightly to the right. As soon as the responds, I release the pressure and praise the horse." Initially, turns are not large, only about 10 degrees. After obtaining some sort of turn, I reward with a release, and then repeat the lesson a few more times.
The only other aids I use when teaching neck reining is to keep my legs in the side of the horse to maintain forward motion and to bump the outside elbow with my stirrup or leg to encourage the horse to move his outside shoulder over. "I want the horse's whole body to turn, not just his head. If that doesn't happen, I'll keep pressure on the reins and use the outside leg to make sure that happens."
Once the horse neck reins well in a circle at a walk, responding to either just a neck rein or both reins and a small about of outside leg pressure, I start to neck rein at a trot. Many horses can move up to the trot stage in just two weeks.
When the horse can trot a figure-eight in 30-foot circles well, with either a neck rein or with two hands, I begin neck reining at the lope. But you should not attempt neck-reining lessons at faster gaits until the horse responds fairly consistently in a slower gait. "I like them pretty trained to trotting before I try to lope them. "A lot of people try to lope them the first week, and they likely don't have enough steering mechanism. They can get in a lot of trouble."
If I have difficulties getting a turn at a lope, I drop down to a trot or a walk, but always make sure the horse gets some sort of change of direction before releasing the pressure. If you neck rein and neck rein, and then decide to forget it, the horse will forget it, too.
Because neck reining is a simple command, most horses catch on to the basics fairly quickly. After you ride them about a half dozen times, they'll start to move away from that pressure. Although neck reining is one of the easiest commands to teach a horse, there are still a few ways in which a rider can go wrong. The most common mistake is when the rider wants to turn, but the horse won't, so the rider pulls one hand farther to the inside. "But the farther your hand goes inside, the more pressure you're putting on the outside rein [if you are not holding the outside rein loosely], which forces the horse's head to turn to the outside," If the horse doesn't turn, make the correction by going to two hands and shortening the inside rein. "Put their nose slightly to the inside and move the horse's shoulder over by cuing him with the outside leg."
Often I see riders using just one rein to get a turn. "A lot of people, especially when they're riding youngsters, just pull the rein to the right when they want to turn right. Pretty soon the horse just turns his head to the right, but his shoulder is still off to the left, the hips are swung to the left, and they lose the whole body position. You've got to use both reins on the horse to keep his body lined up. The head should be slightly to the right, with the body still going straight. Use more left rein to move the horse's left shoulder over and to keep his body alignment correct. This is important in all stages, but especially in the first few months.
Another problem I observe is busy hands. "A lot of people, when they're just riding along, they're moving their hands all the time, even some advanced riders." This constant hand movement sends conflicting signals that could eventually make the horse immune to neck reining cues.
Some riders also make neck reining for the green horse unnecessarily complicated. "I want to keep it very simple so the horse can understand. A Neck rein means to turn. I use my legs to keep the motion or as a correction. The only exception is a slight leg cue for the finished horse when performing a spin or a fast lope.
By far the worst mistake a rider can make is inconsistency and not following through. Always insist on getting some sort of turn when you ask, and always reward by releasing. If you continue to pull across their neck and nothing happens, they learn to ignore the pull. Every time the rein touches the side of their neck, you must make them turn slightly by using the inside rein and the leg cue if needed, then release the pressure to reward."