PDA

View Full Version : Bit help for a horse who tosses his head



joharavhf
Feb. 13, 2009, 07:54 PM
First, let me preface this by saying that the horse I'm inquiring on has recently (2 weeks ago) had his teeth checked. The teeth were floated in August, and were fine at the end of January. The horse has been under saddle since end of July.

Within the last two months he's developed this annoying habit of tossing his head and going faster. SOMETIMES it's in response to asking him for more bend, but in most cases I'm not seeing a pattern.

I have ridden him in two bits - a kk loose ring french link snaffle (NOT the ultra with the curved mouthpiece) and a myler "comfort snaffle" eggbutt (this is basically a curved mouthpiece with a small "bean" in the middle that basically is like a french link). He goes MUCH better in the kk loose ring. However, he still tosses his head about and acts like an a$$.

His basic MO is to throw his head, kinda grab hold of the bit and speed up. In addition, he was a driving horse prior to me buying him (they had a regular eggbutt snaffle on him when I bought him). I think the driving people just wanted him to bear down in to the bit and "plow" in with his shoulders. Sometimes we'll start down the longside and he'll get in to "plow" mode and no amount of half halts will get his attention. I have to basically rip his teeth out to get his attention.

I know this can all be solved with training - lots of transitions between gaits, lateral work, etc. But I'm wondering if I could try a different bit that will help me communicate with him a little better and ALLEVIATE the head toss????

Any thoughts?!?!?!

THANKS!

jumpingmaya
Feb. 13, 2009, 09:53 PM
Hi there... Just my 2 cents from experience.... I'd get his withers checked as well as the rest of his neck. My mare just got chiropractic work after she slipped in pasture acting like an :o and she had somehow displaced her withers. The chiropractor told me that it was a great thing that I had called her because she would have done a lot of head tossing otherwise. What about your saddle?? Does it press down on his withers?
Good luck and I'm sorry for not being able to help you out in the bit department.... Usually for me, the less bit, the better (which is what works well for my horses...)
Good luck

joharavhf
Feb. 14, 2009, 07:38 AM
I forgot to mention that stuff in my original post, so I'm glad you asked before everyone else said the same thing.

I have two saddles for the beastie. I have an Albion and a Black Country. Both were purchases specifically for the horse and fit him fantasically!

The chiro IS coming out on the 24th of this month. He was adjusted back in October. He has been stiffer through the neck at the poll.

Thanks for the post! Any other thoughts?

gardenie
Feb. 14, 2009, 07:52 AM
"I have to basically rip his teeth out to get his attention."

Ouch. Have you been working with an instructor? Look at how you are riding. Many of these problems start with the rider.

If a horse is tossing its head, the worse thing you can do is jerk on its mouth. Good luck on this, I hope you find an answer soon.

Hilary
Feb. 14, 2009, 10:58 AM
My vote is he's acting like a green pony who's being asked to do a WHOLE lot more work than he's ever been asked to do so his little pony brain is thinking: "how do I make this stop? I will be more annoying than she is".

He probably finds the dressage work hard and very different from what he used to do and he's saying "nah, really don't feel like it".

Green horses go through so many stages - too light in the bridle to 'you want contact lady, I'll give you contact". Lean on the left shoulder this week, lean on the right next week.... you get the idea.

Focus on "forward and straight" for a few rides, just "go to the contact and keep yourself there".

And get his withers checked.

Also, since he's been sick could he still have a tickle in his throat or breathing issue that makes flexing uncomfortable? Does he do this when he's huntering around? Or only when he's flexing at the poll? If he has any swelling left in his throat flexing may be uncomfortable.

joharavhf
Feb. 14, 2009, 02:19 PM
Ouch. Have you been working with an instructor? Look at how you are riding. Many of these problems start with the rider.

Yes, I have been working with an instructor, and she (like Hilary) does think it's more of a flip of the bird to me more than anything. But I always wonder if there is something I can do BETTER (or nicer) that would make it easier for him.



He probably finds the dressage work hard and very different from what he used to do and he's saying "nah, really don't feel like it".

Also, since he's been sick could he still have a tickle in his throat or breathing issue that makes flexing uncomfortable? Does he do this when he's huntering around? Or only when he's flexing at the poll? If he has any swelling left in his throat flexing may be uncomfortable.

Yes, Hilary. My instructor thinks the same - hey, Mom, F you for making me actually use my body, lol. He has ALWAYS done this "flip of the bird thing" once I started asking him to use himself. This is why I don' think it's a residual left over (or still going on) from his breathing issue.

It's kinda funny, but when I first noticed him going in to "plow" mode I chuckled....He REALLY likes to please and once he "gets it" he just GOES WITH IT....To a fault. So when he goes in to "plow mode" and then I half halt (HULLO, I'M up here still!) he gets pissy.

I have DEFINITELY always been a less is more type of girl. I've read Hilary Clayton's article about bits - and how horses may bear DOWN MORE in to the bridle if they need tongue relief. Well, at this stage in the pony's training he wants to be low ALL THE TIME. He does come up, but he's much heavier in the hand than my other (Arabs) have ever been. Not entirely surprising.

I'm not necessarily asking for a HARSHER bit. Since he is VERY sensitive (once he gets it), I'm wondering if maybe one of the happy mouth snaffles might be workable and more pleasing (and less offensive) to him.....

Ambrey
Feb. 14, 2009, 02:31 PM
Have you tried a waterford? Very gentle but hard to lean on.

joharavhf
Feb. 14, 2009, 06:27 PM
Have you tried a waterford? Very gentle but hard to lean on.

Really? A waterford is gentle? I guess I wouldn't consider one very gentle because of he "brokeness" along the bars area. Any bit I'd want to consider would be legal for dressage competition. Is a waterford legal?

yellowbritches
Feb. 14, 2009, 07:05 PM
I wouldn't go to a waterford necessarily (though it might be a good interim tool to get past the "plow mode"). I would consider something with a little roller, maybe with copper, to get him really playing and working the bit instead of just bracing against you and blowing you off. I also like big, fat hollow loose rings, preferably with a french link. These are nice for some horses as they are really light and there isn't much for them to get locked on to. Vernon can get pretty set against me at times and he goes MUCH better in this type of bit than he does in a KK loose ring.

But the head tossing will only go away with training and work, as long as he's not in pain. Just keep your hands steady and keep your leg on. What you need to remember is not to GIVE when he flips (we have a couple of horse/ride combos going through similar issues right now). Be a rock for him and keep kicking. ;)

I do think finding something that he will be less likely to bare down on will help, though. Don't be afraid to move away from legal for now to get past this stage. Rollers can do a world of good!

Ambrey
Feb. 14, 2009, 07:40 PM
Really? A waterford is gentle? I guess I wouldn't consider one very gentle because of he "brokeness" along the bars area. Any bit I'd want to consider would be legal for dressage competition. Is a waterford legal?

I'm not familiar with eventing dressage rules, but it's not legal for regular dressage- but then neither would anything with a roller be. You'd have to just try different mouthpieces and diameters and see if anything helps (maybe a myler comfort snaffle or a KK?).

beeblebrox
Feb. 14, 2009, 07:56 PM
"Ambrey

Have you tried a waterford? Very gentle but hard to lean on."

Beg pardon but a horse can lean on a waterford and they do which is the wrong reason to use on, what many find more difficult is to grab a waterford so they can work well on horses who tend to grab on side of the bit and run with it, or just hold it so it can not slide.


"joharavhf
Is a waterford legal?"

First it is NOT a gentle bit (but then again a plain snaffle can and is often abusive in the wrong hands) SECOND heck no it is not legal for dressage.

Ambrey
Feb. 14, 2009, 08:00 PM
First it is NOT a gentle bit (but then again a plain snaffle can and is often abusive in the wrong hands) SECOND heck no it is not legal for dressage.

Many reliable sources would disagree with you there.

beeblebrox
Feb. 14, 2009, 08:04 PM
"Within the last two months he's developed this annoying habit of tossing his head and going faster. SOMETIMES it's in response to asking him for more bend, but in most cases I'm not seeing a pattern."


OK going to take this one statement at a time:

"Within the last two months he's developed this annoying habit"

IF so it most likely is not related to his driving training.

"habit of tossing his head and going faster"

Than a waterford WOULD not help this, if you stated he grabbed a side of the bit or the whole bit and ran maybe or even of he grabbed one side and then tossed his head to prevent you from turning but if he is NOT attaching himself to the bit the waterford is NOT called for. you just mention flipping his head up.

"SOMETIMES it's in response to asking him for more bend, but in most cases I'm not seeing a pattern."

By this your suggesting that while asking for a bend he will flip his head and also any other time while riding?

Some questions:

Does he flip his head with EVERYONE that rides him, say you're trainer?

Has he been seen by a chiropractor?

Does he flip his head on lunge or only while mounted?

Does he flip his head in hand, just walking around?

When he flips his head, WHAT do you do besides the aforementioned dental work?

Ambrey
Feb. 14, 2009, 08:08 PM
Than a waterford WOULD not help this, if you stated he grabbed a side of the bit or the whole bit and ran maybe or even of he grabbed one side and then tossed his head to prevent you from turning but if he is NOT attaching himself to the bit the waterford is NOT called for. you just mention flipping his head up.

She also said:


His basic MO is to throw his head, kinda grab hold of the bit and speed up


Sometimes we'll start down the longside and he'll get in to "plow" mode and no amount of half halts will get his attention. I have to basically rip his teeth out to get his attention.

This is why I suggested the waterford.

beeblebrox
Feb. 14, 2009, 08:31 PM
Ambrey ,

The waterford is not what everyone would consider a "gentle bit", it is certainly not for the hands of someone who does not why a horse was tossing his head. IN my entire career I have only used it on a handful of horses. EXPLAIN to me how you feel it is a gentle bit compared to normal snaffles, sick to death of watching people see sawing with them running the knobs across a gaping mouth. They certainly do not keep a horse from flipping his head and in fact some horses who want to snatch the bit and pull down start head flipping in them as they can not find purchase. Look the lady is looking for a way to stop the horse from head flipping and suggesting a more harsh bit than she is using is in my opinion not super responsible. More training is obviously in order not more bit. :eek:

For me they are used more often in place of training and have run into a few students who have come to me with them and we find dental issues and other medical or training issues as the root of the problem.

Gentle bits in my book are smooth snaffles weather they be plastic, rubber, french, mullen etc.
They also do not encourage contact, the OP ask if they are legal in dressage meaning she is looking for proper contact. If she was asking about galloping XC or jumping and her nappy horse was snatching one side of the bit sure. BY the sounds of the op comments MORE bit is not the answer and excuse me for finding it frustrating in offering more bit before more foundation and more training.

bornfreenowexpensive
Feb. 14, 2009, 08:58 PM
more bit and probably even a different bit is probably not the solution.

I agree with the above poster about waterfords. They are not a bit to teach contact or even to ride on the flat on...and to be honest...I've never found them all that useful.....and they are Not legal for dressage (for a good reason...they don't encourage correct contact). I've only known two horses that went in one...both show jumpers and they only used them for jumping.

Does the horse filp their head and speed up on the lunge line with side reins? If not....It is probably not the bit.


For the plowing...that is easy, HALT. But halt correctly with your legs on..LOTS of transitions. But make sure that you and not pulling...it usually takes two.

For the head flipping...that is harder. I have one mare that does this if I get tight in my arm....tight at all. I don't know if it is the right but I would ignore it...focus on rhythm. If they do flip and speed up...I'd try and follow with the contact so that fliping didn't allow them to escape the contact (easier said than done...), make sure that I'm not tight in my arm...and ask the horse to bend or circle.

And most of all...don't let the head flipping or the plowing suck me into riding a horse's head. The focus should be on the hind end and riding them back to front. The head, pulling and all that other crap comes together when you get them straight and working from behind in a good rhythm.

It could just be a protest. I have one mare that shakes her head when I first really start asking her to work correctly (straight and through)....when she does it, I actually know I'm on the right track and about to get some really good work! But it took a few dressage lessons to get me confident in what I was asking to not have her convince me with her head shake that I was doing something wrong;)

Janet
Feb. 14, 2009, 09:30 PM
Many reliable sources would disagree with you there.
It is quite definitely NOT legal for dressage.

Ambrey
Feb. 14, 2009, 09:35 PM
Well, I can't argue with any of that logic. I was merely clarifying where I got the suggestion, but as the OP has already said she's not looking for interim bit but a bit she can show in it's a moot point ;)

I have been on the "fix the problem with a new bit" path before and never found the miracle bit, so I tend to agree that there's no quick fix for most of these problems, but she asked for bit suggestions for a horse that plows and I gave her the bit I've seen suggested for leaners.

joharavhf
Feb. 14, 2009, 09:36 PM
Thanks everyone for your responses!!!!! I hope we all don't get in a peeing match here though :) I'm going to try to answer all the questions presented.

First, I do want to add that I have him in a jawband noseband (that I do NOT crank closed) with a flash.

The pony does flip his head when my instructor has ridden him. He also does a myriad of other things such as throw his shoulders around and "pop" in to the canter because he is anticipating and wanting to do the right thing. The pony is very green, but he is a solid citizen and a doll, so we are working with him consistently.

He has been seen by a chiropractor in October. Our next appointment is February 24th. (She also does accupuncture.) When she was last out she suggested every 6 months, however, I wanted her to look at him sooner because of this issue.

When he flips his head on the lunge, it's more of a "sassy" response. I do lunge him in side reins, and on occassion he has gotten his tongue over the bit. He has actually only done this when I've fed him a treat WITH the bit in the mouth and prior to lunging.....So note to self - don't feed a treat with bit in mouth! He doesn't flip his head at any gait other than the trot - never at the walk, and we are just STARTING to work the canter more, so he's still more in the brace/I can't bend mode. I mentioned earlier that he was a driving pony - he is 6 now and he was started on the farm equipment as a 2 year old - ie he's been pulling stuff around for more than 1/2 his life.

When he does flip, he gets very high headed - and there is nothing I CAN DO. I just stay quiet and ride through it. He does most of the head tossing within the first 10 minutes of the trot warm-up, which leads me to believe (now that we're discussing it) that it is more of a strength/tight muscles issue than a bit issue.

However, I still have that "plowing" issue. I do work a ton of transitions in, but once I hit the longside and we go straight, he, like I said "bares down and goes". It's funny since he so thinks he's smart. I'm wondering if I should try "capitalizing" on his enthusiasm and start asking him for more of a trot lengthening (and this point it MAY just be a quicker trot, since, ya know....he's really on his forehand!)

I do admit that I'm a creature of habit. I do tend to ask for transitions in the same place, our workout varies very little. Some of that I have done on purpose to get him to understand easier (like canter transitions where he gets frustrated) and some of that has to do with the fact that I am a creature of habit.

Anyways. SO I think we are of a consensus that I don't want a harsher bit. My Myler snaffle has a roller bean in the middle and it squeaks almost the entire ride....but he also flips his head MUCH more in that bit than the KK. Maybe if I went to a standard mouth bit with a roller?

beeblebrox
Feb. 14, 2009, 09:50 PM
Is you're instructor versed in proper long lining. I have to say after reading you're post above I am even more convinced it is not a BIT issue and in fact upping this smart little buggers mouth hardware may bring about a few more NOT so cute behaviors.

If you can find a GOOD TRAINER who knows his/her stuff you can work the pony in hand and work through this unmounted first and still be able to put him through his paces of circles, down the LONG side, leg yield, moving his haunches and shoulders as well as transitions.

If not make his world smaller and when he goes to drag you down the long side use a tear drop loop back to the rail in the opposite directions and how many half halts.... AS MANY AS it takes ;-) IN fact you can do this all day up and down the same long side. You can make it more effective by using a transition as you join the rail after the tear drop say from Trot to walk and then just a few steps and BACK to the work. Every attempt to drag you is met with a huge exhale (you do not want to get angry) and a year drop loop with as many half halts as the tantruming pony needs. They learn pretty quick running turns into more and more work for them. DO NOT GET MAD though just keep breathing deep and pretend he belongs to someone else. ;-) That is just one exercise there are so many good ones I am sure others will suggest them. I like the one above because it is easy to stick to a plan, the tear drop can be anywhere from 10-20 meters just so you know where you are going! To clarify I am not suggesting you rip his head to the right or left and whip him back to the rail. But that you have a half circle connected with a straight line back to the rail in the opposite direction.

piaffeprincess98
Feb. 15, 2009, 07:33 AM
My TB did this when I first got him, so I rode him in a standing martingale. He bumped up against it and learned to stop after a few months.

yellowbritches
Feb. 15, 2009, 08:40 AM
My TB did this when I first got him, so I rode him in a standing martingale. He bumped up against it and learned to stop after a few months.
I had the exact same thought. A lot of our young horses will spend a little time in a standing at home. It is such a passive, easy thing, and it only does its job when they do the bad thing. Hell, I rode a grown up, gone prelim a bunch event horse every day at home in a standing because he was obnoxious in general, but especially so with his head!

Hilary
Feb. 15, 2009, 10:10 AM
I forgot this when I first posted, but Star went through a head-tossing phase last summer. And my instructor kept saying "Ignore it and ride the hind end" And sure enough, she stopped fussing once she figured out the harder work wasn't going to kill her, but it was very tempting to want to fix her head.

As for the plowing down the long side, don't go down the long side for any farther than he can do it nicely. If you spend a couple of weeks circling every 2 steps, so be it, but make him do something that will avert the plowing. He's been under saddle for less than a year - he's green and doing green horse things.

Carolinadreamin'
Feb. 15, 2009, 01:31 PM
My horse started the head tossing thing when I tried out a myler bit. It went away when we went back to a snaffle.

Since your horse has been under saddle less than a year, everytime you ride are you constantly in training mode or are you able to just hack out and chill? In addition to what others are saying, perhaps he needs some relaxing down time. Just a thought.

joharavhf
Feb. 15, 2009, 03:16 PM
Absolutely Carolina! I certainly WISH we had more downtime during this terrible winter! Before winter (through mid-December) I got out 2x per week on a hack, tried to go to the beach with him, did some jumping, hunter paces, etc. We did tons of "stuff" and didn't focus so much on the flatwork. Now we're in the dead of a terrible winter. It's been snowing and icing since the middle of December (December 11th, to be exact!).....So we've been all indoors. I try to mix it up a bit - I usually do 1 lesson at the trainer's once a week, and then I ride 3-4 times a week indoors. It's not all riding, all the time though. Sometimes I free lunge, or lunge with side reins. Today we went to the beach (where we had a blast and did trot sets!).

So I absolutely try to mix it up. And actually, when we're NOT doing boring dressage (hard) work, he never flips his head. Like today at the beach, I didn't pick at him, I just let him trot along and enjoy stretching his legs. (And then we cantered along!). I am REALLY looking forward to when our rail trails aren't icy and I can start taking him outdoors to ride more! (Still have a while before I can ride him in our field since it gets so wet!)

Janet
Feb. 15, 2009, 06:22 PM
I had the exact same thought. A lot of our young horses will spend a little time in a standing at home. It is such a passive, easy thing, and it only does its job when they do the bad thing. Hell, I rode a grown up, gone prelim a bunch event horse every day at home in a standing because he was obnoxious in general, but especially so with his head!
Same here.

kookicat
Feb. 15, 2009, 07:32 PM
I would also suggest a standing martiangale. Let him make himself uncomfortable. If he flips his head and bumps the noseband, it's coming from him, rather than something you're doing. I bet he figures it out pretty quick!

Have you tried laying out a few ground poles to give him something else to think about? If he has to think about where his feet are going, I bet he'll quit fussing with his head.

piaffeprincess98
Feb. 16, 2009, 07:17 AM
As for the plowing down the long side, don't go down the long side for any farther than he can do it nicely. If you spend a couple of weeks circling every 2 steps, so be it, but make him do something that will avert the plowing. He's been under saddle for less than a year - he's green and doing green horse things.

I agree with this. In addition to the standing martingale on my guy, as an ex-racehorse, he also plowed down the longside, mostly in canter and with his hind end to the inside. I just didn't go all the way down the longside. My trainer and I gradually taught him shoulder-fore and then shoulder-in and I would do a few steps of it down the longside, then circle. Now he knows full-fledged shoulder-in in trot and I can control him quite nicely down the whole longside. Canter is still a work in progress and I can't tell you how much I hate the BN tests where you have to transition to trot from canter on the longside!

I actually used the standing martingale mostly for jumping and riding in my jump saddle (he just seems to know when I put it on! We're working on that; he needs to know that just because we're in the jump saddle trotting around jumps, doesn't mean we are jumping!) Since he was quite strong in between fences when I was first starting to train him to jump, he would toss his head because he felt restricted. The standing martingale just said to him "Hey, that's not allowed, you have to go the speed chosen and not get upset about it". Now we're graduated to a running martingale just because he has a giraffe neck in general! But once in awhile he will toss his head because he feels I am restricting him even though he going the right speed. That is just the issue of me trusting him, putting my hands forward a little bit and riding him off my seat. He is so clear to tell me now when I'm riding too much with my hands.

Sorry that was so long, but that was kind of his training over the last year and a half. I realize your greenie has been under saddle for a lot less time. But maybe trying a standing martingale might help.