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Old 03-02-2007, 08:27 AM  
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Head Tossing

I need your help again. I notice when my horse doesn't want to do what I want him to do, he tosses his head. The other day, I took him down the road and on the way back he started tossing his head up and down. He first tried to put his head down to the ground and when I wouldn't let him do that he started tossing his head. I hate when he does that and I am not sure why or how do I get him to stop. Can you help me? Thanks
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:34 AM  
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An easy fix is to put a tie down on him... BUT I would first check for ear mites, teeth issues, and if you use one, make it loose and get him used to it either on the lunge line or in the round pen before you ride him with it..

He may also outgrow this on his own if you just leave him and ignore it - he is young and it is not that unsual in a young horse... You can do some additional flex work with him, or line driving, to teach him to lower that head and work softer in the bridle whcih may help too
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:36 AM  
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When one of our's does that, he goes in the roundpen for some lessons. Once he realizes that he is not the boss, the headtossing stops.

Edited to add that we had already ruled out physical discomfort, he just likes to be a brat from time to time.
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:38 AM  
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I had his teeth done last fall but I will check for ear mites as well. I am pretty sure that isn't the problem though. He also does this when I ask him to back up when I am on him but doesn't do that when I am on the ground and ask him to back up. I will try the tie down to see if that helps. Thank you for your advice.
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:39 AM  
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This could be a lot of things
It is possible it is a discomfort issue and I assume that you are ruling that out, esp if he only does it when he is displeased about something
I will take the point of view it is a bit of disobedience. He is testing you to see if he really has to do this (sort of the aww Mom, why?)
You are right to not let him put his head down. Don't jerk his head up, but don't let him drop it. If he tries, use a firm leg and make him move forward. Same with the head tossing, sometimes you just have to ignore some things, but use your legs and seat, tell him in no uncertain terms that he is going forward where you want to go.
If the tossing is getting dangerous (in your face) you may need a standing martingale (tie down) but this needs to be fairly long so that he only hits it when his head is well above where it should be. Get someone to show you how to fit this.
Whatever you do, don't give in, if he head tosses, ride another mile. Decide what you want to do and stick with it.
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:53 AM  
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Although a tie down will stop him from tossing his head, it won't fix the primary issue that he doesn't want to do what you're asking...he thinks he has a vote in the situation! Head tossing can be a way to "voice an opinion" and if that outlet is taken away mechanically, he may find a different outlet, like bucking. I had a gelding that started with headtossing and when I put a running martingale on him he moved to bucking. He only got better after we worked through who the boss is and sorted out leadership issues.
I would probably work on the basics (roundpenning, etc.) before I would use a tie down.
Somethng to keep in mind is that a tie down can also interfere with their head movement, so you could end up with problems if he stumbles, etc.

I agree with ruffian, though-don't give in to him fighting you-you're reinforcing bad behavior. Ride through it and keep him busy with something else until he doesn't realize he's doing exactly what you asked for.
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Old 03-02-2007, 08:54 AM  
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I always lunge him before we ride as we have lots of snow and I find that he can get rid of his pent up energy before we ride. He is very respectful of me when I lunge and on the ground, he also never does this when I lunge. I agree with Ruffian though that he is like a spoiled child though when he doesn't want to do anything anymore he acts out. I just wasn't sure how to get him stop. I asked my trainer about this and she didn't say anything on how to correct it. I did make him ride longer as we were on our way back and he could see the barn when he started to do this.
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Old 03-03-2007, 08:27 AM  
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I would definitely teach him collection and start making him stay collected. He is loudly saying NO! and doesn't want to listen. If he stays collected and stays focused on you he will stop that nonsense.
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Old 03-03-2007, 08:34 AM  
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maybe when he headtosses instead of fighting him, divert him. send him in circles or teach him shoulder in or leg yield and put him in that. hopefully he will get out of the habit. I used to ride a horse who did that it was part attitude part of fear of the bit. My trainer had me put him on a loose rein a lot to relax him, now he does not do it anymore. when he starts head tossing try going against instinct which is to clamp tigher on reins to stop it. let the rein completely loose . see if he stops it. then ask him to walk on or circles etc.
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Old 03-03-2007, 05:58 PM  
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Head Tossing

I have mare that does that. She only does it because she thinks she's the boss for that moment, I just let her now who is boss by usually stopping her right where we are at and if she continues just lightly pull back on the reins and say "NO!". She usually realizes she's not boss and calms right down.
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Old 03-03-2007, 06:10 PM  
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head tossing is just a behavior, don't read anything into it that is not there. It can be from pain; dental, saddle****, shoulder, feet or bit. It is also from boredom, or stubborness, or not being involved in your activity.

Look to the deep cause and work on that. Tie downs and more tack are the simple solution, that cause more problems. Identify when and why and work with that. Ground work...... sorry it is boring but often you will see a way to engage the mind. It's work and your horse wil love you for it.
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Old 03-03-2007, 06:11 PM  
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I have a head tosser as well. I bought her 5 months ago and she came that way. I was told to ride her with a very loose rein by the previous owner. Yes, it makes a difference, but I keep wondering if giving her a loose rein also means that she "wins"?
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Old 03-03-2007, 06:29 PM  
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My mare will toss her head when she gets impatient. She does it while riding, or just in the pasture..

I tend to ignore it and she quits when she sees that she doesn't get a reaction from me...

No, riding on a loose rein does NOT mean she wins. Actually riding on a loose rein requires more "conrol" than riding on the bit..
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Old 03-03-2007, 06:40 PM  
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Well that makes sense, thank you RH!
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Old 03-03-2007, 06:41 PM  
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Interesting post...I don't think horses think in terms of "winning" and "losing" the way people do. I just don't think they have that kind of abstract thought process. After much reading etc, I beleive they live in the moment. When they head toss, they are either nervous, resistant, or in fear or having a bout of stubborness. head tossing almost seems like cribbing- a stress reaction and habit.

Giving them a loose rein just removes a thing for them to fight against ( a tight rein) nothing more, nothing less. Then they can relax, and you can ask them to do other things, or just walk them on a loose rein a while and then move on with your riding. It took a long time, but it worked for the horse I was riding who was a head tosser with other problems ( bucking etc) my trainer suggested it, and sure enough he no longer head tosses and no longer bucks. these habbits in horses are deep rooted ( like smoking in a human) and take a long time to resolve, but once the horse stops relying on it , the habit is broken, unlike a mechanical solution like a tie down, which works physically, but not on the horse's pysche, encouraging a horse to overcome a problem in partnership with you.
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Old 03-03-2007, 06:54 PM  
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What you are saying makes sense JoAnne, but I am new to horses and I hear constantly about how you should not let your horse "win" i.e. have their way.
I did have an english instructor for a time, (long story, since I ride western) who wanted her on a tight rein. It was a miserable experience, and she was also one who told me that going back to a loose rein would be giving in and that the horse needed to learn to not toss her head. While I did learn some good things from that instructor, my mare's head tossing became almost unbearable (narrowly missing my face) during lessons with her and so I decided to go with a different trainer.
So I agree that a loose rein helps for us!
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Old 03-03-2007, 07:17 PM  
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I've been around horses a while but am still learning and rethinking things...there is a difference between letting a horse have it's way, re the horse wants to go right and you want to go left. in that case, you should make the horse go left. but to me that is different than a chronic problem like head tossing, which is probably due to traumatic training, and/or being ridden with harsh bits/ rough hands/ too tight reins in the past.

A chronic problem like that is not so much disobedience (to a horse, head tossing is neither good nor bad, it is a releif of tension or fear)...it seems to be more a case of working through the problem in a humane and effective way, including perhaps using a loose rein to relax the horse.
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Old 03-03-2007, 07:32 PM  
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Hmm, interesting, I had not thought about the head tossing in those terms before. Since she also seems to do it in response to being asked to do something she does not want to do, or to display dominance to other horses, I have tended to see it as a form of her sort of asserting herself. ??
Sorry to the OP, btw, I feel as if I have taken over your thread!
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Old 03-03-2007, 08:21 PM  
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Could be body language associated with dominance...out in the paddock of course let her do her thing.

if she head tosses when you ask her to do something you want, ignore or soften your reins so she has nothing to fight against , and insist she do what you want her to do. In other words, if let's say you want her to go into a canter and she does not want to, so she start head tossing.

Now she has dominated , as she is now engaging you in a head tossing vs. tight hands on reins contest, instead of cantering on! Try ignoring the head tossing and sofen the reins to deflect it, meanwhile calmly insist on her doing what you asked for.
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Old 03-04-2007, 06:22 AM  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rocking Horse
My mare will toss her head when she gets impatient. She does it while riding, or just in the pasture..

I tend to ignore it and she quits when she sees that she doesn't get a reaction from me...

No, riding on a loose rein does NOT mean she wins. Actually riding on a loose rein requires more "conrol" than riding on the bit..
I tend to agree.

Head tossing falls into 2 categories - a physical irritation such as mites or flies or just a communication behavior to communicate impatience or irritation.

Watch him in the pasture - if he doesn't toss his head there, you can rule out a physical irritation unless you have ill fitting tack.

Assuming the head tossing is "complaining" to you, if you ignore it, it should just go away once he learns he doesn't have a vote in where you are going or what you are doing.

Just about all mine toss their heads when I first start them. I try to find a situation that prompts them to head toss and purposely work them through it repetitively until they learn it won't accomplish anything.

Typically, when I first start mine they are herd sour and when I take one out they will head toss when we come back and approach the barn - just impatience to get back to the gang. I just ignore it and turn them around and go back out on the trail - then come back, turn them around and repeat. It doesn't take that long for them to learn that no matter how much they complain, they can't have their way. Once they learn that they usually just stop on their own.

In my opinion, this works much better than roundpenning or trying some sort of discipline, because it is difficult for them to make any association between the head tossing and why they are being asked to work or are being disciplined. Because head tossing is a communication, it is more effective in my opinion to make them think we don't understand what they are saying rather than try to teach them they "can't" do it.
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