Very head shy horse... - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 14 Old 02-21-2011, 05:33 PM Thread Starter
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Very head shy horse...

So, the horse I ride for lessons is very head shy. It is very difficult to do anything with his head while I'm on the ground. He is new to the barn so I suspect that his previous owner may have been too rough with him. It's not only when I touch his head or try to put something on it, but he moves it around like crazy when I try to fix his bridle. I was hoping for any advice on how to possibly train him out of this. I understand it will take time but I am very willing to take the time to do this.

I can't see why it would matter but he's a Quarter Horse gelding.

Last edited by Cinder; 02-21-2011 at 05:36 PM.
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post #2 of 14 Old 02-21-2011, 05:37 PM
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Be gentle. Do not move your hands to quickly. Rub his head for a while if you can so he can see you are not gonna hurt him.

Lola was the same and sometimes goes back to it again.

Like you said it takes time and a lot of patience. She would not even let me put a head collar on. Now I can. But the bridle is still a problem.

Maybe even give him treats if he holds his head still while you rub him etc.
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post #3 of 14 Old 02-22-2011, 02:06 PM Thread Starter
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Thanks, I will try what you said :).
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post #4 of 14 Old 02-23-2011, 01:29 PM
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It can also help if you start on his neck rubbing and work your way to his head. as soon as he gets nervous, go back to his neck. It's all about feeling safe for them.
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post #5 of 14 Old 02-23-2011, 02:42 PM
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I met a very headshy pony today...She was so cute and sooo small =P

But it was hard to get near his head. He was very nervous. So I went down to his level and gave him a sweet. He was soon running to me instead of away from me XD
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post #6 of 14 Old 02-23-2011, 09:30 PM
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Well, I am going to disagree completely. I have dealt with literally dozens of head-shy horses. Some from abuse, but more from having people back off and do the wrong thing at the wrong time. They taught the horse by babying it and then backing away whenever it threw a head-slinging fit that it was supposed to keep its head away from them.

So, instead of babying him and being quiet and nearly motionless around him, you need to flap your hands and arms all around it until it accepts it.

This is how I do it. I start out 4 or 5 feet away right in front of the horse. I wave an arm around wildly while holding the lead-rope with the other. I expect the horse to want to get away. I do not let the horse turn around or bolt or go forward in any way, but let him go backward freely without trying to stop him. I jerk him around any time he does not want to face me and let him have slack in the rope when he is facing me and standing or going backwards. I am convinced that I can walk forward flapping my arm better and faster than he can step backwards.

Now, here is the part that makes it work: The instant he stops backing up, I stop and step back one or two steps. Then, I start toward him again, still waving and flapping my arm. When he stops again, (usually more quickly), I stop and back up again. I keep doing this and finally, he will stop backing up and will stop slinging his head. He will have figured out that if he stops, I stop and he lives to tell about it. He gets relief from doing the right thing instead of getting relief by making the person back away.

This is the first step to getting a horse over being head-shy. By day 2, I am flipping a light-weight rope over his neck, and waving my hand within 6 inches of his eye -- on both sides of his face. It is the same thing each time. You up the pressure and advance. You retreat when he accepts the pressure by standing quietly.

This works on every horse including those that have been severely injured in the past. It takes anywhere from one to three sessions with someone like myself. It takes longer if you do not have the feel and timing to back-off at the exact time you should.

I can promise you this --- I it 1000X better than trying to baby one into accepting things around and on its head.

For bridling -- do the same thing.

Leave a halter on and advance with the bridle. Let the horse back away and just keep following it. When it stops, you stop and back up. Just keep advancing with the lead in your left hand and the bridle in your right. Only leave the 'back door' open for the horse to back up.

In one session, any horse that has been desensitized to let you wave your arm and pet his face, will let you bridle him after a few advance and retreat maneuvers.

Once you conquer this concept, there is literally nothing within reason that you cannot get a horse to do!
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post #7 of 14 Old 02-23-2011, 10:26 PM
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get a nice flat halter on the horse, stand in front of it and try swinging the rope around smoothly. when i say smoothly it should look like your holding one end of a skipping rope and the horse is holding the other, the same smooth circular motion as if you were skipping. horse will probably throw his head in the air at this, but keep doing it untill he relaxes into it then smoothly slow and stop.

this'll get him used to his halter moving around and putting smooth pressure on all sorts of places on his head, and when he relaxes with that it'll be much easier to put gentle pressure on around his head
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post #8 of 14 Old 02-24-2011, 10:16 AM
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Re instead of backing off, flapping and making all sorts of motion around the horse to stop it being head shy.

Yes, I've met people who think that's the only way. It works on a certain type of horse.

This only works with horses that are very, very easy overall - laid back and not much energy, and not very sensitive.

It is not something I'd do with a more up, energetic horse, or a more nervous one. Unless you like to get yourself or someone else killed.

Look at the horse you have, and use commonsense, when choosing a method. Some of commonsense is just experience.

If you've never been around a little more horse, you might, yes, think that's the ONLY right way to do it.

The right way is the way that works the best(creates a stable, reliable, consistent behavior in the horse) for that horse and handler, with the least amount of time and the least amount of damage to the horse, handler, barn staff, other horses, and the fences, walls and stalls in the area.
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post #9 of 14 Old 02-24-2011, 12:06 PM
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I have not seen the horse that you cannot get accustomed to having a person raise their hands, flap them around, jump up and down next to the horse, etc. I used to train MANY Arabians and TBs and a lot of OTTBs. I did this exact same thing with them. I did not have one that I could not put on or remove a jacket or slicker on or one that I had to 'tip-toe' around.

I seldom have time to watch RFDTV, but the other day I watched Clinton Anderson do this to a reactive spoiled totally crazy acting Arabian that threw its head, reared up if you made a move around it and went bonkers if you had a whip in your hand.

Within 30 minutes, you could flop a whip or a jacket all over and around this horse and he just stood there without moving his feet. There were no secrets or time away from the camera. He was in front of a live audience where the owner had just brought the goofy acting horse.

I have done this with Arabians and National Show Horses and actually had the owners complain. They said they wanted him to get where they could handle him, but I 'ruined' his animation and presence. I told them to just start beating on his legs again with a whip and he would get his 'presence' right back. Just don't bring him back to me.

I raised Arabians for several years and rode many endurance races, winning more than my share of them and 'Best Condition' trophies. I trained many Arabians for the race track back in the 70s including Kontiki (just google him). I could go gather cattle on any of them or ride them quietly anywhere or in any group of riders. They got just as broke and any laid back Quarter Horse.

I think most people put up with silly 'hot bloods' because they think they have to and don't know any better.
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post #10 of 14 Old 02-24-2011, 12:33 PM
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I agree with Cherie for the most part. I have a coming 3 year old Egyptian Arabian. I got him as a coming 2 year old and the only handling he had was running freely from stall to pasture and back to stall. The only time he had a halter was for worming, vaccinations and farrier visits. They only buckled the halter quietly over his head behind his ears and never put his head through the halter and then used the snap. It took a month of solid work to get his head through the halter quietly. I have never babied him, though I am calm, reassuring and use lots of praise. I still work with him every time I'm there. Usually I put a hand on an ear and hold it there until he's calm. Then I wait a few seconds and if he's still calm, I let go and praise him. Then I do the other side. Now, we are working heavily on clipping manners and we've clipped him once already this year for a show last weekend.

There is no reason to ever put up with bad manners and bad behavior from any horse of any breed. Pulling back when a horse gets upset about your proximity to his head or ears reinforces his bad behavior and he can become more aggressive quickly. Be firm, be gentle, and be the boss.
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