Neck reining the ex-racer - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 02:09 PM Thread Starter
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Question Neck reining the ex-racer

I know TBs are smart... lol

Is it possible? I have been working my girl for over a year with trying to get her to neck rein. She's doing great with the legs but isn't perfect yet, but the neck thing still isn't there. I have tried to touch her neck with it and then direct rein... still nothing. Do some ex-racers just not neck rein? I would love for her to get it, but if it doesn't happen, oh well... I'm not gonna go bonkers and sell her as she is a pleasure horse and by no means going to be shown.

I use a french link snaffle on her (I think that's what it's called?), as she doesn't like curb bits too much... she throws her head a lot with it, and she's very responsive, so I wanted to get her something gentle. Does this bit matter with neck reining?

Do I just keep trying? Is there any advice I can get to help me along?
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post #2 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 03:27 PM
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I'd stay with the French link, if she otherwise goes okay in that.

As far as improving her responsiveness to neck reining, it's hard to tell how effective your cues will be without seeing it. Your description sounds great.

But, sometimes we don't "release" as quickly as might otherwise help. Kind of need a soft direct rein and release before you can work on extinguishing that part of the cue.

And, I'm not saying you don't already have that. It's just a very common block to progressing on neck, or indirect, reining.

Anybody near you who has had multiple successes that might hop on yours and tell you what they think?
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post #3 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 03:32 PM
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This should not have taken very long at all. You are not getting aids clear more than likely.

Bring leg against horse (on side you are turning AWAY from) at same time you lay rein against neck on same side, and then give her a very LIGHT direct rein of side you are turning into. Needs to be whisper light on direct rein, and remember if you are turning, she will need looser rein on side she is going away from.

Heel and calf lightly....rein on neck lightly and only IF no immediate response, then barely touch to direct rein and release at once. Keep horse turning by bouncing your calf muscle against horse, not moving leg, just tightening and releasing calf muscle.

You are muddling your signals, and not making sure she responds quick enough, so she has learned to ignore your first ask.

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post #4 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 05:20 PM
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First I would have a full cheek/fulmer or D ring. The first rein effect is an opening/leading rein, horse follows the direction of the hand. Go whole arena. Use opening rein in first corner. The second rein effect is a bearing/neck rein; raise the outside rein through the second corner (but keep contact with the rein on the inside of the arena). Touch and release slightly further up the neck with the counter flexion. It is NOT holding the connection. Rinse repeat though the corners (for further information on the (five) rein effects get an old cavalry manual (chamberlin).
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post #5 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 05:31 PM
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Have you tried a mecate rein made with horsehair? They're kind of prickly and horses really don't like the feel of them on their necks, or so I've read, so that might help with getting him to move away from the pressure. I bought one but have not used it yet.

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post #6 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 06:03 PM
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Neck reining is a ubiquitous practice frequently used in leisure riding of all breeds.
Make noticeable contact with your outside rein on the neck of your horse in the direction you wish to go wait for a response then drop a hint by giving a tug on the inside rein for inspiration. Repetition is the key with neck reining.
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post #7 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 08:34 PM
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I've had my OTTB since October, and have idly worked on neck reining over maybe the past month and he will do it fairly consistently now. Since I'm a dressage rider now, I don't practice it too much. I have been primarily a western rider previously so I get annoyed with horses who are hard to ride on a loose rein, so that's why I bothered to teach him. I think you have to have them working off your leg, though, and give them a good opportunity to do it before you apply the direct rein. When the Wild Thoroughbred was still learning, we looked a little crazy weaving around the arena. :) I have been told that neck reining is easier to understand with a curb bit, also, although I think you're better off teaching it with the snaffle initially.

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post #8 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 10:56 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks :) Helps a lot. I still have a lot to learn and I want to make sure I don't confuse her any more than I already have.
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post #9 of 10 Old 04-19-2014, 11:20 PM
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It's not hard to teach, just give it time. Turning "english style" and "western style", or direct and indirect rein, are both very similar. Here's what I did: I gave my mare the same signals but with slight difference-I held my reins in only one hand. I didn't start off with a real loose rein at first, just loose enough that I didn't have contact with her mouth until I moved my hand about half an inch and the contact would be there. Then in turning, I used a lot of leg(not kicking, just pressure), and used my one hand to neck rein her like you would any trained horse, but having a very slight touch to the direct rein using my third finger. We made no progress for about a year, just like you, but that's because I wasn't working on it with her every time I rode. It was just once a month or so. That won't get you anywhere. Really stick with it, work on it every time, just like when you are training them to do anything else. When I really started training her to neck rein, she learned in 2 months, along with a mini slide stop, and the beginnings of turns on the haunches and shoulders using neck reining. Persistence is key!

And I think your bit is fine. Certainly don't put her in something she doesn't like. I taught my mare in an english hackamore and a few different snaffles including french link. Remember that curbs have a 3:1 ratio-every pound of pressure you apply is tripled. So if you pull with ten pounds of pressure, the horse feels 30 pounds! All the western trainers I know transition horses into curbs-that's an advanced bit for advanced horses. They don't start out with curbs, they start out in snaffles or even bosals. The horses learn neck reining way before they move to curbs.
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post #10 of 10 Old 04-21-2014, 12:50 PM
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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."
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