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head tosser

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  • head tosser

    I am trying out a potential horse to purchase, she has been out of work for 6 years maybe more. I have permission to ride her and try to work with her issue.
    From buyers words and some pictures the mare did seem to work nicely under saddle, nice light contact.
    Not so anymore. On the ground if I ask her to put her head down with poll pressure or lead pressure she will drop (almost throw) her head down then bob it up again immedietly. After asking several times she then simply stops putting head down. No amount of continous pressure on lead will drop that huge head, mare is 16.2.
    Overall the mare is a bit pushy but will be respectful if you hold your ground.
    Under saddle mare is somewhat herdbound, eager to get back to the barn. Doesn't hate contact but continues with the sudden head bobbing. When I try to make contact she acts like she understands (not like a baby who's mouth is not used to a bit) then suddenly does the head jerk.
    I have started youngsters and reworked several spoiled horses but this is new to me. I would describe it like someone messed her up somehow.
    I am not used to side reins, have never tied a horses head down but am wondering if lunge work with some type of side rein or chambon might be a safer easier way to see if this head issue can be worked through.

    You are wondering why I am bothering so much with a horse I don't own? Well, she is simply has the nicest best movement of any dressage horse I have ever seen, never mind owned. (yep she probably is for sale because of this little quirk,not the no time to ride reason....)
    She (apparently) wasn't purchased as a riding horse, brood mare, had quite a bit of riding before then, so word of mouth goes.
    Looking for opinions before I take her back. Thanks!

  • #2
    How did she vet? Did you do neck/back X-rays?

    Comment


    • #3
      Pain is a possibility - back and teeth tend to be pretty common for connection issues, but xrays could also help eliminate something like cervical arthritis or kissing spine. I'd also wonder if saddle fit is a cause for this.

      With horses that are this inconsistent in the contact I am actually not a fan of static "rein-like" tools - side reins, martingales, etc. What can happen with horses like this (I owned one and this was something that a really good pro helped us realize) is that they reach the end of the (martingale, side reins, chambon) and almost bounce back off of it because of how static that contact is - regardless of if something like a side rein has a stretchy donut/component, it just doesn't have the give of a good rider's hand, so you end up with a horse that is bouncing around the tools.

      The horse I owned that had this issue (and admittedly, it sounds less extreme than the situation you're looking at) was not a pain issue, it was a training/bad rider/bad hand/bad handling issue. He picked up the habit initially trying to escape a hard/see sawing hand that kept picking at his mouth, and just kept it up from that point on. He would waffle from putting himself behind the vertical (nose to chest) and then you could try to correct him to pick his head up and then it would go all the way up (and this is where he would "hit" the end of something like a martingale, chambon, or side rein - at which point the head bounced right back down, and then right back up). Worth noting, he was also resistant to putting his head down on the ground as well - he fought against poll pressure and while he might yield eventually, the instant you gave in response to him giving, the head would come right back up.

      The thing that worked with this horse - again, diagnostics indicated that pain was not an issue so we were comfortable pursuing this under saddle - was really reaffirming the stretch under saddle. Tail to nose, just a very long, low way of going that had impulsion and swing throughout his topline. This helped school contact in a way that didn't seem threatening to him because we weren't asking for anything complicated (connection in a more uphill way of going, for example). It was key for us though to establish forward energy, balance, rhythm, etc. though. I think a lot of connection issues come from a lack of impulsion. The horse I talk about above was able to overcome this tendency, but it took a lot of time to really become reliable, and I had a lot of professional help that made it possible.

      Instead of lunging with side reins, it may be worth seeing if you can double lunge her. The contact has a lot more refinement than side reins and you have the ability to establish an outside rein/start with light contact, which I think might be educational to see how she responds.. is it any contact at all that is the issue, or is it contact + a rider... etc.

      Comment


      • #4
        You are asking a horse that’s been out of work for 6 years to go in a frame.

        You will need to learn new tools/riding skills to get away from the « front to back » training you are doing, especially if you want to keep this mare’s good movements. You are thinking about the head too much and not about everything else, which is more important.

        A vet check prior to the trial should have been done to make sure the horse was sound and relatively pain free in back/hocks/neck/feet/mouth.

        She might have somehow muscle pain now from your training. Not saying that your riding was harsh or anything, but being off from work for so long and being expected to suddenly carry a rider and work is strenuous.
        ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

        Originally posted by LauraKY
        I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
        HORSING mobile training app

        Comment


        • #5
          Sometimes it is a physical problem but often it is Hands! Hands! Hands!

          And I haven't had much luck shoving a horse's head down, but forehand scratches work wonders.
          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Vet check is clear.
            Alibi I am not asking for a 'frame', unless asking for contact rather than a loopy rein is considered a frame. Is asking to go forward with contact front to back riding?

            Edre, it really sounds like you are describing this horse. I have tried to get her to stretch, owner says she should know how to but maybe not.
            What you say about the side reins makes sense.
            I have been thinking to try a couple of rides without contact just to try to get some consistent forward and rhythm.
            thanks for the thoughts.
            Otherwise I am thinking she is not the right horse for me but dang she moves nice.

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              Merrygoround, re hands, I have been told different ideas about what my hands should be doing, some say follow her head, some say keep ones hands where they should be, let her bump against them and find the sweet spot. This makes the most sense to me.
              What would you suggest?

              Comment


              • #8
                OP, here is your reality check:

                1. Horse has been out of work. Now you're expecting her to carry herself nicely with nice contact. That was probably something she could do a little when you first tried, but not for long and not for the amount you now expect. This is a strength + training issue.

                2. From your comment to Merrygoround on hands, I would say that you need more guidance on understanding the aids, including the use of the reins. It is hard to teach this over the internet. Do you have a good trainer who can help you with mare during this trial period?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by colorfan View Post
                  Alibi I am not asking for a 'frame', unless asking for contact rather than a loopy rein is considered a frame. Is asking to go forward with contact front to back riding?
                  It depends, but from your answers below, I’d be tempted to say yes.

                  I have been thinking to try a couple of rides without contact just to try to get some consistent forward and rhythm.
                  (...)
                  some say keep ones hands where they should be, let her bump against them and find the sweet spot.
                  This makes the most sense to me.
                  If you look at the training scale, the rhythm (with energy and tempo) comes first. Then relaxation. If you don’t have that, you cannot expect to have a good connection.

                  You were aiming at a connection first, so yes, the way you described it, you were riding front to back.

                  And regarding hands, again with the training scale, I believe you have lost the concept of following/supple elbows and elastic contact.
                  Each time the horse « bump » itself against the bit, it makes it behind the bit.
                  Again, the concept of a soft, even and consistant contact place for the horse to seek and go seems misunderstood.
                  ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                  Originally posted by LauraKY
                  I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                  HORSING mobile training app

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    You don't want the horse to ever bump against the bit like that unless they are doing something totally not ok like diving for grass. It is not a ttaining technique.

                    Scenario to me looks like, potentially lovely mare develops head tossing problem who knows why, gets sold on as brood mare because no one can figure her out, sits in a field for six years. What I call a fallen through the cracks horse. Sometimes these horses are very green and the humans have failed them, and you have a 12 year old recently gelded unhandled baby. Sometimes they were injured
                    Sometimes they had bad habits.

                    Then you have a middle aged question mark and "no one remembers" what the original problem was.

                    Then someone comes along all starry eyed about recognizing the horses true potential. Starry eyed is never good.

                    I would say that a skilled pro might be able to fix this (unless she has ingrown wolf teeth no one has found yet, or neck arthritis, or just hates being ridden) by going back to zero and restarting her, maybe bitless for a year.

                    From the questions you are asking you do not have the chops to restart a problem horse, and indeed few of us do, or even want to. That's why Miss Lovely has been in a field for 6 years.

                    If she is all that and no.one wanted to ride her for 6 years? Well you have your answer.

                    Keep her, pay a lot of money to a trainer and completely rebuild your own skillset. Or send her back and keep looking.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Scribbler post is right on the money.

                      If someone gave me this ride for free and covered all of the expenses, this would be my plan of action:

                      1. Vet check - not a "horse looks good annual exam" but a full lameness and neuro exam with x-rays about any joints or areas of concern

                      2. Saddle fit - not a "doesn't seem to be pinching" but a phenomenal fitter who can think outside of the box and really assess how the saddle fits in motion

                      3. Dental - again, not a "they got floated in the last year" but a sedate, speculum, and critical review with an eye towards any subtle issues, TMJ, etc.

                      4. Buckle rides - I would hack this horse anywhere and everywhere using minimal contact for steering and getting the horse relaxed and swinging. Walk and trot hills, canter through some fields, let the horse figure out how to use her body to rebalance without a hand to impeded or try to support.

                      5. Gold Star training - Find a really amazing trainer who has a reputation for patience and an independent hand. Put the horse in training for 30, 60, 90....6 months. However long it takes for the horse to joyfully seek contact at all three gaits and for you to be able to find that same feel on your own.

                      Doing a true evaluation and restart could be an easy five figure and 12 month + project. There is probably a reason that a super nice mare ended up as a broodmare with an unknown history. You can probably slap on some sidereins and push this horse into a false frame for free. Depending on the horse they will either learn to go around downhill and ducked behind the contact or you will get a rapid escalation in escape tactics.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Some good advice provided already. I can't really tell by your description of the horses behavior, but is it possible this horse is a head shaker? Headshaking is a "syndrome" (for lack of a better term) where a horse flips or jerks their head due to the firing of the trigeminal nerve. Horses that experience this can be triggered by a variety of things - sunlight, exercise, wind, etc. Sometimes the horse will not do this while at rest, and it is only triggered by work. It's possible that's the reason why the horse has been out of work for a while. You could do some searching online and see if videos or descriptions are similar to the behavior your horse is displaying. It's a confusing condition because triggers vary by horse and it can be seasonal. Just thought I would mention it as something to explore.
                        Last edited by slp2; Jun. 5, 2019, 07:26 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by colorfan View Post
                          Merrygoround, re hands, I have been told different ideas about what my hands should be doing, some say follow her head, some say keep ones hands where they should be, let her bump against them and find the sweet spot. This makes the most sense to me.
                          What would you suggest?



                          When does the head start flipping? Wen you set hands and push into contact? The trouble with that method is that if you dont' have an educated feel, she can give and you'd not give her a proper response.

                          There is more in contact than just following the head, it goes with relaxed arms, and hands. The only thing that locks in general is the thumb and forefinger on the reins. The hands do not grip. Good contact can be learned but it can take concentration for some riders.
                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by merrygoround View Post




                            When does the head start flipping? Wen you set hands and push into contact? The trouble with that method is that if you dont' have an educated feel, she can give and you'd not give her a proper response.

                            There is more in contact than just following the head, it goes with relaxed arms, and hands. The only thing that locks in general is the thumb and forefinger on the reins. The hands do not grip. Good contact can be learned but it can take concentration for some riders.
                            Because of the horses history I am guessing this behavior developed years ago in response to however she was ridden then, most likely incorrectly.

                            OP might have average hands such that there would not be obvious trouble riding a horse that was either accepting of front to back riding, or hadn't yet shown problems.

                            But from the way the question is phrased here I don't think OP has the skillet to fix a mare that has an ingrained resistance to this kind of riding, that she retains even after 6 years as a pasture pet.

                            Some trainers might. But honestly I would look for another kind of project horse and leave this one to someone happy to ride in a bosal for as long as it takes, or forever.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by slp2 View Post
                              Some good advice provided already. I can't really tell by your description of the horses behavior, but is it possible this horse is a head shaker? Headshaking is a "syndrome" (for lack of a better term) where a horse flips or jerks their head due to the firing of the trigeminal nerve. Horses that experience this can be triggered by a variety of things - sunlight, exercise, wind, etc. Sometimes the horse will not do this while at rest, and it is only triggered by work. It's possible that's the reason why the horse has been out of work for a while. You could do some searching online and see if videos or descriptions are similar to the behavior your horse is displaying. It's a confusing condition because triggers vary by horse and it can be seasonal. Just thought I would mention it as something to explore.
                              That's fascinating! I was wondering if it could be something neurological.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Yes, I would absolutely want to try her on a longe line with side reins, because I would want to see how she goes without a saddle and rider. If she can keep contact and her back round, and moving through well without tossing her head without a saddle, then I would suspect a saddle fit issue. It would be a great test to see if she is still tossing her head without a saddle and without a rider's hands, but with steady contact she is being asked to move into. If she is still tossing her head, but you can see her trying, I would suspect a cervical or tooth issue.

                                Longe line with side reins is a very good way to get a good look at how a horse is going on a 20 meter circle, with steady contact. You can bring the horse in towards you and then spiral out again, too. You can observe lameness, you can observe oddities, such as the head tossing, and you can see if it is happening in both directions. You can condition a horse with side reins, too, allowing the horse to move into contact and carry himself correctly in both directions is like horse yoga. Invaluable.
                                Airborne? Oh. Yes, he can take a joke. Once. After that, the joke's on you.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Scribbler- It is fortunate that she does not have a skillet to fix the mare with.

                                  I'd have PMed this but the board wasn't cooperating.
                                  Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                                  Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                                    Scribbler- It is fortunate that she does not have a skillet to fix the mare with.

                                    I'd have PMed this but the board wasn't cooperating.
                                    hahaha. that is such a silly typo that I will leave it.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                                      Scribbler- It is fortunate that she does not have a skillet to fix the mare with.

                                      I'd have PMed this but the board wasn't cooperating.
                                      Thanks.

                                      I’ve learned a new word and had a good laugh.

                                      After riders being tossed coffee mugs at, watch out for skillets!
                                      ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

                                      Originally posted by LauraKY
                                      I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
                                      HORSING mobile training app

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        I bought a similar horse who was green and also a broodmare. She had a very thorough pre-purchase exam that did not reveal any unsoundness. She is also a beautiful mover, but like Scribbler said there is a reason she was a broodmare instead of a riding horse. Let me tell you it has been a two year project to correct the head tossing. She is much better now and we are progressing but this is what it has taken to get there:

                                        -tried 13 saddles to find one that fits (head tossing decreased significantly with a properly fitting saddle)
                                        -changing to a Micklem bridle, trying 5 different bits
                                        -anatomical girth with stretch
                                        -first lunging with chambon to get stretch at walk, trot and canter
                                        -then lunging with side reins
                                        -riding horse in stretch at all three gaits
                                        -riding forward as soon as head comes up
                                        -leg yielding into upward transitions to prevent head from coming up
                                        -taking lessons specifically on contact on my horse and other horses to improve my feel, timing and steadiness
                                        -being patient and not overly relying on gadgets (I only used the chambon initially to teach the idea of stretch and rarely use the side reins anymore)
                                        -floated teeth, mouth exam
                                        -treated for ulcers
                                        -burned some sage to get rid of the demons (just kidding, but I thought about it!)

                                        I have learned a lot and improved as a rider, but I can see how many people would not want to take this kind of project on.

                                        Comment

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