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Draw Reins

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  • Draw Reins


    I have a 5 y/o thoroughbred who is very very hot and green. Lots of potential but is a nervous wreck. He's jumping courses OK and has basic training down. He's a beautiful mover and good jumper, and I'm trying to train him as a hunter.

    I just bought him 2 months ago and it's been interesting. He's much wilder than when I tried him. New barn and he hasn't quite calmed down yet (he even needs to be tranquilized for the farrier, won't go near the wash stall).

    He is jerking his head up a lot (and pulling), and it's almost the entire time I'm riding him - he's just extremely nervous. After a lot of jumps, he gets nervous about the lead change and just wants to bolt.

    I used to compete with green horses at a very high level and didn't have this problem. I've tried everything I know in the book, and simply don't have the strength to keep muscling him. I'm just riding for fun now, not showing since I'm working, so I don't want to go over the top with anything.

    His last 2 owners were eventers.

    Would you recommend draw reins, or is that an easy way out/bad horsemanship? I used to use those with an eq. horse way back.

    Thanks in advance!!

  • #2
    I would say either give him time off or go back to basics basics. The worst thing you can do is try to pick a fight with a nervous horse. Wait to do the jumping and lead changes till he is 100% on all of his basic flatwork, he just sounds like he is overfaced to me. At five years old he is still really young and draw reins really wont help to do anything but put him into a false frame....


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by eqrider1234 View Post
      I would say either give him time off or go back to basics basics. The worst thing you can do is try to pick a fight with a nervous horse. Wait to do the jumping and lead changes till he is 100% on all of his basic flatwork, he just sounds like he is overfaced to me. At five years old he is still really young and draw reins really wont help to do anything but put him into a false frame....
      That makes perfect sense. Thanks a lot!


      • #4
        I'd advise against it; I do use draw reins on occasion and with green horses, so I'm not in the "draw reins are evil" crowd, but I have seen a few too many "nervous" and "hot" horses go up (and over) because of draw reins. Go back to the major basics and spend some time on ground work. He'll get over himself.


        • #5
          Oh boy this horse sounds like my daughter's horse. When we first got him he was nervous about everything. I recommend time and patience while he settles in to his new surroundings. For the first couple of months we lunged him prior to riding. When I look at him six months later I can't believe the difference. He has bonded with my daughter and will go and do anything she asks him. Good luck!


          • #6
            Originally posted by eqrider1234 View Post
            I would say either give him time off or go back to basics basics. The worst thing you can do is try to pick a fight with a nervous horse. Wait to do the jumping and lead changes till he is 100% on all of his basic flatwork, he just sounds like he is overfaced to me. At five years old he is still really young and draw reins really wont help to do anything but put him into a false frame....
            I agree. No way I would be jumping him if he is nervous and pulling/etc, that is only going to make things worse.

            I am not a huge fan of draw reins. I would definitely go back to basics. Maybe even see a dressage trainer for a few lessons to help get you guys back in line. I would do lots of flatwork...riding outside the ring...hacking...heck even lunging or long-lining. Circles, serpentines, leg yielding, work him over ground poles, etc.
            Originally posted by barka.lounger
            u get big old crop and bust that nags ass the next time it even slow down.

            we see u in gp ring in no time.


            • #7
              I wouldn't go to draw reins right yet as you would be treating the symptom (head up, pulling) not the problem (anxiety). I think draw reins can be a useful tool on occasion but they can also create new and different problems if used incorrectly.

              I have a hot, anxious TB. What has worked for him is taking everything slowly and getting him comfortable with the program before moving on. When I first got him trotting or cantering over poles was enough to make him rush. Once we mastered that, we progressed to gymnastics where the distances were set for him. Using gymnastics helped him relax about jumping.

              My goal with him is to have him feel successful at each stage so I've been careful to create a training program where it's easier for him to succeed without feeling overfaced.

              Good luck with him. Remember that two months is a very short time. I used to ride with a trainer whose mantra was, "taking it slowly is the fastest way to achieve your goals." She was right .
              Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
              EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


              • #8
                Originally posted by Bogie View Post

                I used to ride with a trainer whose mantra was, "taking it slowly is the fastest way to achieve your goals." She was right .
                A very smart lady.

                Another vote for more time. Easy work that will boost his confidence sounds like the way to go. If he's getting nervous over fences or about changes, put that on the back burner for a while. Working on basics in a way that is fun for him and not just a drill would go a long way to helping what sounds like a pretty fragile horsie ego.

                Good luck with this one. Hot and green sure is a challenge. I've had my share of those as well. They certainly make you work harder and think outside the normal parameters, but the pay off is usually quite high.
                "Aye God, Woodrow..."


                • Original Poster

                  Thank you so much everyone, that is huge help. It's encouraging to know others have known horses like mine, and that there's light at the end of the tunnel - it'll probably be relaxing for me too, to get back to the basics with him.

                  Again, thank you for the great advice!!


                  • #10
                    I think we just had a draw rein thread that didn't go directly down the drain! Yay!

                    Keep us posted on how it's going, Missy.
                    "Aye God, Woodrow..."


                    • #11
                      All great advice.
                      Does anyone remember a children's book written years ago about a horse that had lost his confidence and the boy who helped him? I think it was a series. Anyway, he would take the horse for long hand walks. I did this with a horse I had years later, and it worked. Instead of riding, we just groomed and walked in the fields and woods. I used a lunge line in case things got hairy, and we just explored. It was great! At first we just went in a halter, then graduated to the bridle, and then all tacked up. I tried to revert to his early halter training. When you're on their back they feel more alone when approaching the unfamiliar. Walking beside reinforces the herd instinct, (safety in numbers) and his trust in you. Maybe work on some voice commands while you're at it so when you are mounted your voice will be both trusted and reassuring.
                      He is definitely a "do-over!" It's nice to hear someone who's willing to put in the time! It's pretty rare these days!


                      • Original Poster

                        Originally posted by Long Spot View Post
                        I think we just had a draw rein thread that didn't go directly down the drain! Yay!

                        Keep us posted on how it's going, Missy.
                        Thanks a lot I gave him some time off, and we're starting up on our work today. Again, I appreciate the help, everyone gave great advice.


                        • #13
                          Since he's a nervous nelly, you may want to look into ulcers and ulcer medication for him as well. Also, make sure your saddle fits and he's not in any pain elsewhere. Also, I'd recommend a french link snaffle for sensitive horses - a thinner one for the horse that pulls and a fatter snaffle for the horse that's afraid of the bit. I know it sounds trite, but pain can be the cause of a lot of problems.

                          I'd wait on the draw reins as well. You might unknowingly teach him a bad habit of how to evade the bit and still run through your hands. Perhaps a standing martingale for the head flipping? Make sure you lunge him in it a few times before getting on so he knows what it's like for his head to hit the end of the martingale. Don't make it too short, but not too long either.

                          Unfortunately it sounds like this guy is just going to take a little longer to train, but he sounds worth it. Go back to the basics, poles on the ground, etc. No flying lead changes until he can come off your leg and accept your hand without having a panic attack. Then slowly increase the height of the fences. If he gets nervous, circle. Make sure that you keep breathing!

                          Good luck! Hope to hear good things in the future!
                          HorseStableReview.com - Tell others what you know! Post your barn or review today.


                          • #14
                            I'm not in the DRAW-REINS-ARE-EVIL-AND-CHEATING clan, but I only use them on rare occasion. I like to joke to my pony whenever I use them, "look pony, we're going to cheat today!" but yea. You can't rely on draw reins--there's a girl in my barn, nice rider, nice horse, but she relies on them way too much and she knows it. She ought to stop using them, but it's to a point where she feels dependent on them (she'd be fine without them, really. i don't see why she needs them) but that's what you want to avoid. Don't get to a point where you feel like you can only control your horse or get what you want by using draw reins. They are a good tool when used for the right purposes, in the right hands, on the right horse. I suggest you go back to basics--you said your horse is nervous, and chances are that new gadgets will only add to your horses frustration. You want to calm him down, not add to the problem As far as keeping his head down, try a standing martingale--it will not hold his head down, but it will prevent him from throwing his head so high that it could be dangerous, and also keep him from throwing his head up high enough to completely evade the bit (i obviously don't know if he does that or not but its a possibility). Make sure you check with a vet for all soundness issues that could be causing his behavior. Also make sure that the tack is properly fitted (if your trainer or someone around the barn knows saddle fit down to a T, it'd be worth asking them to take a look before spending a bunch of $$ on the vet check up, when it might only be an ill fitting saddle--but if that's the case and the behavior continues, do contact the vet, as there may be more issues). Also, have you had his teeth done recently? By a vet, or by a dentist? I tell you, it's a real shocker when a vet does their teeth-it's the kind of thing where they know a bit about it, can do a job, but might not know enough to do it right or necessarily do the right thing. Had a pony once who was a wack job on occasion, and it turned out to be that he had some serious teeth issues due to a vet doing his teeth in the past (and doing it incorrectly).. had a DENTIST (horsey dentist, obviously) come out and fix it up. Horse was much better.

                            Blitz <3 & Leap of Faith <3


                            • #15
                              several things about the OP jump out at me, first him getting nervous about the change, I would stop doing ANY changes on him (except thru the trot) for now. Sounds liek it is just too much for him to handle AND jump. Second, the head jerking etc, obviously, please have teeth checked on him, we had a nice young horse start acting in a simlar way and turned out he had a point on a molar that had caused a mouth ulcer. If nothing wrong with teeth, before I'd go to drawreins (which have a tendency to get a hot horse "curling up" behind the contact and then you have a REAL problem) I'd put a running martingale on him. It will correct him if he snatches his head up, but if properly adjusted will have ho effect when he is correct with ehad and neck and that would be the best thing as he will 'reward" himself. I'd get back to lots of basics with this horse, use take off/landing poles. as him to come back to you going to a small fence and if he does not, then circle and come again until he listens etc.


                              • #16
                                I'm going to agree with shawnee.

                                When breaking my mare she'd lift her head to try to get away from the contact, a standing martingale got her to cut it out until she got used to the contact and now she doesn't need it.
                                "For some people it's not enough to just be a horse's bum, you have to be sea biscuit's bum" -anon.
                                Nes' Farm Blog ~ DesigNes.ca
                                Need You Now Equine


                                • #17
                                  It sounds like you are pushing him too hard. give him time and patience, no jumping and certainly no draw reins.
                                  chaque pas est fait ensemble