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We recently bought a horse for trail riding for my mom to ride. My mom is heavier, but nowhere near big enough to hurt the new horse. The problem with Moose is that she was previously ridden by a 6 year old girl in the past year, and so she is unused to heavier weight. We were aware of this when we bought her but since our family is slightly newer to the horse world we need some help fixing it.
Moose is the sweetest horse I’ve ever met. Incredibly calm, only throws a fit when her buddy gets taken away (she’s almost too calm, we need to float her teeth.) But when my mom (who is a little inexperienced with riding) attempts to ride around on her, Moose tends to throw her head up and down, will not stand still, and tries to go her own direction. She even does it with me who weighs a little over 90 lbs, though not quite to the extent. It is not a life threatening predicament but we need to get fixed. Moose is very heavy set, bull-dog type so I don’t believe the weight is hurting her. She may need to build up some muscle though. She rides in a simple dee ring single jointed snaffle or a halter, with a tie down. Any advice would help. However, to clarify, I am looking for a way to get Moose comfortable to carrying heavier riders. I am not going to use a stronger bit, a shorter tie down, wear her out before riding, and please don’t say, “your mother just shouldn’t ride her.” We are looking for a long term solution that does not end in more problems. Thanks!

(PS I only got like 4 hours of sleep so this is probably riddled with spelling errors, apologies lol)
 

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I would try a different saddle. It could be that the saddle doesn't fit well and that would definitely make the horse uncomfortable to be ridden. Saddle fit can be hard to determine sometimes, so the easiest way to do that would be to try a different saddle (or two or three, whatever you have or can borrow from friends). If you find she goes better in a different saddle, then that is your answer.

If you have a more experienced horse person to take a look at your saddle/horse combination, that would be really good. I just don't know what your resources are. But anyway, before jumping to the conclusion it is a behavior issue, I would explore saddle fit. Because I think there is a very good chance that is the problem.
 

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Nine times out of ten a horse tosses its head because it's in pain. The first thing I would do is take the tie-down off. Tie-downs restrict a horse so that it can't move its head freely, which often times leads to a horse developing a ewe neck from fighting the pressure. They are usually used for disciplines like barrel racing to help with balance at high speeds and changing directions. I've never seen anyone use a tie-down just for trail riding.

If she still behaves that way without the tie down, then I would start looking for other reasons why she may be uncomfortable/in pain. Does her tack fit? Has she been checked by a vet for any health issues? How are her feet? You said she needs her teeth floated, that could also be a reason for the head tossing.

I would see if the behavior continues after she gets her teeth floated and she doesn't have a tie-down on, then go from there.
 

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Agree with @trailhorserider...

I would first make sure that your saddle fits her perfectly.

I firmly believe that many horses can carry heavier riders without difficulty. My husband weighs over 250 pounds and is 6'4" tall, and rides a very stout 15.3 hand 1300 pound quarter horse, who enthusiastically carries him with no difficulty. I am slightly over 200 pounds and my two 1200-ish QHs carry me with no trouble whatsoever.

BUT...

We are meticulous about tack fit and quality. We both ride appropriately sized Circle Y saddles and have high quality pads. We use Impact Gel pads, but I would also consider 5 Star, high end Professional's Choice or Toklat, or CSI appropriate quality for heavy riders. Our horses are 10 years old and are not struggling with joint, health or conditioning issues.

My husband, although a beginner rider, is very athletic and well balanced. He started out with his horse only walking, then very gradually added in a little trotting, then eventually progressed to loping, a little at a time. His horse was also a failed team roping horse, and was used to carrying heavier riders and working hard.

Honestly (and I hate to stigmatize heavier riders), you need to have a vet check the horse for soundness and pain, you need to have an experienced horseman check the saddle fit, and then have a very experienced rider or trainer ride the horse to make sure she's not just giving you the business and refusing to work. I would recommend some ground work for conditioning and respect, as well.

Ultimately, if the horse tells you that she can't carry a heavier rider after you do those things, you probably need to listen and find a horse that can.
 

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Yes, tack could be an issue. But, more likely, the child that rode previously may very well have been a sort of 'passenger' on the hrose; basicallly allowing it to go where and how it wanted, so, no issue with this horse.


Now, if you put on a stronger rider, who is saying to the horse, "go THIS way, the way I want you to go", it upsets this hrose's view of the world. He is expressing his irritation about that.


I think once you are certain that the tack fits, you need to change up his view a bit by getting after him if he is not obeying, so that he realizes that he is not in the drivers seat.
 

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If the horse also objects to your weight then I'm thinking that there's something making the horse uncomfortable.
Could be the saddle, could be skeletal.
What happens if you ride bareback?
You say you're newer to the horse world, does that mean you're real novice riders as well?
The reaction might not be down the to weight of the rider but down to the pressure the rider is putting on the mouth or the nose.
The little child might have been a great young rider with very light hands or might have just been passenger who didn't hold the reins at all and was just led around
Did you see her ridden before you bought her?
Too many sellers that don't tell the truth or sedate horses for trials
 

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Yes, tack could be an issue. But, more likely, the child that rode previously may very well have been a sort of 'passenger' on the hrose; basicallly allowing it to go where and how it wanted, so, no issue with this horse.


Now, if you put on a stronger rider, who is saying to the horse, "go THIS way, the way I want you to go", it upsets this hrose's view of the world. He is expressing his irritation about that.


I think once you are certain that the tack fits, you need to change up his view a bit by getting after him if he is not obeying, so that he realizes that he is not in the drivers seat.
I'm in the same boat as @tinyliny I would check and make sure your saddle fits and doesn't pinch when there's weight in it. As long as that saddle fits good, I think it's more of an attitude problem.
 

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So, I think you have a spoiled rotten horse who is used to getting her way, when she wanted , how she wanted...
So assuming her saddle fits fine {you're checking that}...same reaction.

You need the horse to go to a trainer for a few rides where she is no longer allowed to get away with her attitude...
You want to keep her sweet attitude, but you don't want her being the boss and that is what she is right now.
She was ridden for the last year by a 6 year old child who I bet was a beginner rider and was a passenger not a rider...the horse did what she wanted, when she wanted and was permitted this as long as the kid was not frightened and she followed the group...
Now, you wrote this...
"Moose is the sweetest horse I’ve ever met. Incredibly calm, only throws a fit when her buddy gets taken away (she’s almost too calm, we need to float her teeth.) But when my mom (who is a little inexperienced with riding) attempts to ride around on her, Moose tends to throw her head up and down, will not stand still, and tries to go her own direction. She even does it with me who weighs a little over 90 lbs, though not quite to the extent. It is not a life threatening predicament but we need to get fixed"....

You tell me where you are not writing of a temper tantrum because she is asked to work, to leave her buddies...so she throws her head around, won't stand still and bullies you to do what she wants...
You need the horse to go to a trainer for a few rides where she is no longer allowed to get away with her attitude...again I state that and mean it, truly mean it!

For right now, no way no how would I remove that tie down that is offering you protection of her throwing her head and smacking you in yours...don't make it tighter if it is catching her head before it smacks you but don't remove it either.
Moose is living up to her name...
She is spoiled and needs to be reminded of her manners under saddle, and you need to learn how to be assertive with kindness but respected and horse comply to your wishes...

I truly don't understand this comment... (she’s almost too calm, we need to float her teeth.)
You float teeth so there is no issue with chewing of food properly, a comfortable fit of bit in the mouth, no sharp edges or uneven surfaces to start with...
Floating teeth does not stop a horse from being "calm"...but if her mouth has pain it could be part of the problem of her head tossing.
I also would be making sure the bit you are using is identical to the one the previous owner rode her in where you did not experience problems with her...
Looks like is not the same as it is the same...there are many that look similar, but differences make a huge difference in comfort and being newer to horses...you might have missed something.

You need...
Experienced eyes to check that tack is correct and fitting well...
A experienced rider, preferably a trainer to work the issue you have and not compound it..
Lessons for all of you to learn how to work with a smart minded horse who has your number and the upper hand already in respect which you must now work hard to regain...

Good luck and enjoy the exciting journey we have all traveled at some point in our lives...:cool:

WELCOME to the Forum!!
:runninghorse2:...
jmo...
 

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Hi & welcome to HF!

but nowhere near big enough to hurt the new horse.
First & foremost, I'd want to make sure of that. Moose may be built like a... moose, but that doesn't mean she is necessarily fit for carrying a 'heavier' rider. She may be very unfit &/or have body or hoof issues that hurt her 'under load', the bit may be hurting her or her teeth are bad, making her 'antsy'. She may have a saddle that hurts her... etc. Of course, it may be purely 'behavioural', that she's only ever been ridden by a featherweight, but rule out physical possibilities first. And if you still think it's 'just' lack of training, then as you're 'newer' to horses, find an experienced trainer/rider to teach her it's OK.

Moose tends to throw her head up and down, will not stand still, and tries to go her own direction. She even does it with me who weighs a little over 90 lbs,
Which sounds to me that it *might* be HOW your mother - and you to a lesser extent - is riding. Perhaps you're riding with too short/tight reins, not giving relief, not rewarding her for doing the Right Thing... And of course, 'tries to go her own direction' - of course it's worth a try. Almost all horses will test you out, see what they can/can't do with their new rider.

She rides in a simple dee ring single jointed snaffle or a halter, with a tie down.
Ditch the tie down - it's possible, depending how it's set, how you're riding... her previous associations with it - that tying her head down is the main problem. It is very likely at least contributing to it.

So... after ruling out physical discomfort/pain, after having an experienced rider/trainer establish that she is OK ridden by a heavier rider, then I'd suggest you find yourselves an instructor, or at least an experienced rider, willing to help you learn to ride as well as possible, to ensure you're not the cause. (Meant respectfully - none of us know everything & we all have to start somewhere)

(PS I only got like 4 hours of sleep so this is probably riddled with spelling errors, apologies lol)
Didn't notice a single one - you're doing better than I do on little sleep! ;-)
 

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Is there a heavier rider around you with experience? How about just starting from scratch? Remove everything from her except for the bridle and ride around on her bareback. Loose rein and just give her forward and directional cues in a smaller enclosure in case she decides to act up. See if the head tossing stops with no saddle and no tie down. If she does much better then my guess would be a pinching saddle that bothers her with the heavier weight.

I'm not really sure how almost too calm and needing teeth floated correlates. But needing teeth done could be an issue as well.
 

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Since both you and your mom are new to the horse world, it might be beneficial for Moose to be evaluated by someone who has a lot of experience with horses. A horse trainer would possible be best if one is in the area, otherwise someone who gives riding lessons might be a good choice. Or anyone else that has a reputation of being good with horses.


There just seems to be too many things going on for a resolution to be reached on a forum discussion. Horses are deeply complex animals in many ways..



That said, when/if a resolution is reached, the resolution would be valuable information for the forum members.
 

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I’m with @horselovinguy about not changing the tie down. I got hit right in the forehead when I was a kid, and it was not a gentle thing or because I was sitting forward or even pulling on her head. I know people who have had their teeth knocked out for the same reason. Some horses can really fling that head back farther than you’d think.

Another reason to not pull the tie down off is that a horse gets used to leaning into it when they run. If you take it off and the horse runs away with you, you will have a harder time stopping it.

Yes, I know there are lots of horses that only use a tie down when team roping or barrel racing, and those horses are fine without. However, when you are sold a horse who wears a tie down, and you don’t really know him well, I believe you should not just take it off.

As far as everything else going on, I am with @Hondo. I don’t really understand without being able to see what is happening, so I’m not sure my advice would be of any use or even regarding the actual situation. :) I do however think checking the saddle fit is a good idea.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do. I’m sure you’ll come out the other side.
 
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Your horse's reaction seems more pain motivated (tossing head, trying to move away, fidgeting) than belligerent. As many other people have said - check your tack. If you're new to the horse world, it may be worth having someone come out who can advise you on your saddle's fit. After all, just because a saddle fits US, does NOT mean the saddle fits our horse (I know, I just had to part with my beloved Orthoflex because my new horse is too wide for it).

That being said, if the horse isn't used to that weight, it may be that they're rebelling against the extra work load...if this is the case, it may just take a while for them to realize that this is the new norm and they have to get used to it.

I suspect there's a little of both going on with your new horse, though. Best of luck.
 

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Sorry, I vehemently disagree about trail riding with tie downs. Vehemently.

My opinion: Never, ever, trail ride in a tie down (nor insist on riding a horse collected on trails). I'm not talking about nicely maintained horse parks though. I'm talking about brush popping on cow trails and more rugged terrain trail riding, where you're going to encounter wildlife, downed trees, mud, slippery terrain, hidden holes in the ground, tree roots, stair-steps, creeks and water of varying depth, possibly quick sand too.

I've heard of one horse spooking, bucking the rider, bolting, crashing into a pond, panicking, and drowning because he couldn't get his head up. That was from the rodeo livestock contractor we're friends with. It wasn't his horse, but he was the rider. He spends every day in the saddle, all day... and this horse surprised him. He said he was powerless to save it because it would have killed him accidentally if he'd dove in after it. It haunts him to this day. If he hadn't have had a tie down on that horse? It would have still bucked him off, but it wouldn't have died horribly by drowning in a pond.

They also need to be able to throw their head a little on the trail as part of balancing. Obviously not the same as throwing it in pain or irritation - but just like you, on a hike, if you were to feel like you were about to trip or a foot slide the wrong way, you'd throw out your arms... horses do the same and need a free head to be able to do it.

A tie down is absolutely not a fix-it for rearing and/or head tossing. They can and do rear and even go over backwards in tie downs all the time. It may slow down a fast walker, but again - if you get in a situation where they need to climb or drop into a creek bed, they need to be able to get that head moving. I have no objections to someone just riding roadsides on well maintained, level ground in one, nor do I have objections to ropers and barrel racers, etc, using them. But true trail riding in one is a no-go. CAVEAT: Even on a level surface, even a sure footed horse can stumble, just from a lack of paying attention/sleeping at the wheel because they're bored. It's a lot harder for a horse to recover from a stumble with it's head tied down. And that's another reason to not trail ride in one. LOTS of stuff to trip on out there in the woods and grasslands, and you don't want to be the cause of your horse going to his knees or face planting because he couldn't throw his head up to save himself - and you - from going down.

Don't want your head smacked by a horse throwing it's head? Keep your head out of its way. And if it's throwing its head that hard, you need to go back to basics on training for you and the horse AND make sure it isn't pain related.

Make sure your saddle fits properly. Make sure you have a good pad under it. Make sure their teeth aren't causing them pain with a bit in their mouths.

And then if the horse turns out to be just be a rank, rude heifer (We've had one that would rear on trails to intentionally go over with you - she was promptly sold), then you need to get that one going on down the road before you or your mom gets hurt.
 

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Agreed. Tie-downs are dangerous for trail riding.


Also, make sure your mom's saddle fits HER as well as the horse. If she's trying to use a too-small saddle, her weight is concentrated over the front of the tree, forcing it down over the withers. If, for instance, someone who needs an 18" western saddle tries to fit into a 15", that saddle will be much more likely to make the horse sore than if a smaller rider rode the exact same saddle and tack.
 
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