The Horse Forum banner

Help! Problems with horse shaking head

2508 Views 12 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Saddlebag
I recently perched a now 3 year old off the race track QH mare. Needless to say she is very green and doesnt know to much. We have this problem where she starts shaking her head when being ridden. She'll pop her nose up and down, and throw her head up. And she just recently started throwing it side to side. I'm very light handed and try not to get in her way at all.
I was riding her in a Berry With, like the image below, but the mouthpiece is a twisted wire with a dog bone in the center.

I'm not too fond of it just because it seems a little harsh, so im switching her to a full cheek snaffle with a french link today.
I know its not all the bits fault, and she is green and could have just developed a bad habit. Any advice on how to stop the head shaking?
See less See more
Not open for further replies.
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
The first thing I would get checked are her teeth...make sure that she doesn't have any sharp edges on her teeth, no abscessed in her mouth, etc...

Then I would just give her some time off from riding. Not to say riding her is a bad thing, but just let her be a horse for a while, and get her mind off of the whole racing scene, and get her 'settled down' mentally, physically, and emotionally...the life of a race horse is all "high". Give her some time off in the pasture, to just come off of that high. I would even be hestitant to do a whole lot of ground work, except what is necessary to keep her manners under check.

When you do start working her more seriously again, get her to respect the bit on the ground first. Get her to yield to it side to side softly, ground drive her, get her to back on with ground driving, etc...Don't get on her, until she does everything with the bit softly and willingly on the ground, without tossing her head or resisting.
See less See more
  • Like
Reactions: 1
She wasn't raced too much, only 3 times I think. Also after we got her we gave her about a month off, just practiced ground manners and such. But I'll definitely give it another try.
I didn't realize you gave her time off already, but it can take them longer than a month to come down some, especially since the training itself is rigorous, leaving the racing aside. Nothing about the racehorse life is pretty, really...ridden at early age, no real turnout, stalled 24/7, ridden on the the track, and no real 'training' other than training to run, etc. So for sure, it can take a while for them to change...

And definitely work with the bit on the ground first...the head shaking could turn into rearing really fast, and then you could be in big trouble. Get her to learn how to yield to the bit on the ground well first, then start teaching her to yield from the will go alot smoother if she already knows it well from the ground first.
I had a gelding that done the same thing come to find out it was a wolf tooth.We had it pulled problem solved.If his teeth check out it could be a cloister phobic thing or he is just green.
I had an issue similar to this with my new saddle horse and it was all about proper fit. I ended up making a new hole in the headstall to get the bit In the right spot and was an instant fix! Dusty was always rolling the bit around in his mouth. I would think it would be fairly obvious he didn't like the bit so may not be the issue.
That's a functioning bit?!?! o_O I would shake my head too!
That's a functioning bit?!?! o_O I would shake my head too!
Not to hijack a post Sky but I now have a saddle horse that likes to chase dogs! Thanks for the advice!
What advice, Josh? lol Msg me so we don't derail this thread ?
Agree with mom2pride mostly but after teeth are checked consider that when you ride her avoid straight lines. Do circles, serpentines, figure 8s and walk over logs, obstacles etc etc. Keep her mind busy with as many new things as you can.
Keep the work pleasant and interesting for her. Using obstacles is very calming for horses. Take your time with her. Dont rush her into anything. That is what has made her hyper in the first place.
If she slows down, and still is head shaking when you ride her she may have Equine Head Shaking Syndrome. There is all kinds of information about it on Google.
she could be like my horse Chief, his old owner tried him in a bit but he was a head shaker too, the guy had his teeth check (so have I) he just hated the bit, now he's in a hackamore and he does really good. I wouldn't suggest a hack right off due to her being trained to run and you have more control with a bit. My OTTB mare required a long shank tom thumb type bit, I'll try to get a pic of it today. Also used it on my OTQH and she did awesome in it aswell.
You said you have light hands so just reiterating but with a bit like that I would make sure you have very good hands. Not to say you don't, just be sure you know how to use it. Besides the fact that she is still green that is a pretty tough one.

You might want to double check your saddle fit too.
Altho this filly may have run only a few races, she's had many workouts mimicing a race. This is all she knows. When a bit is in her mouth she's anticipating galloping, thus her head is all over trying to evade being held back. I've dealt with many OTTB's because of a local racetrack. For the next few weeks spend lots of time with her and working on groundwork manners. I'm going to suggest you bit her in a loose ring snaffle with an iron mouth (cheap) and just let her pack it around. Have her halter underneath. You need to teach her to give to the bit and one exercise will have you standing by her shoulder, facing it. Take hold of the halter where the noseband joins the cheek and ask her to bring her head around, but using only your little finger. She may move it and inch and lock up. Just release the pressure and ask again. The goal is to get her nose to almost touch your hip. When she can do it well on both sides, do the same exercise, again with your pinky, only this time in the bit ring. She may lock up as it's not the same to her as the halter work. She will make the connection but you need to be very patient. Whenever you are with her always do this first thing. Repetition matters.
See less See more
1 - 13 of 13 Posts
Not open for further replies.