10-Day Fundamentals & Intermediate ClinicDownunder Horsemanship RanchLearn More
If your horse is constantly tossing his head when you ride him and you’ve ruled out a health issue and yourself as possible causes, he may be doing it because he lacks training. In other words, if every time you pick up on the reins your horse roots his nose out and flings his head in the air instead of softening to the pressure, he’s just not broke. He’s tossing his head because he is stiff and resistant to the bit pressure. It’s kind of like a kid throwing a fit – he’s developed an attitude about giving to the bit. It’s like he’s tossing his head and saying, “I don’t want to do this; get lost!”
You need to go back to the Fundamentals groundwork and riding exercises and the foundation trail riding exercises at the beginning of this series to put a solid foundation on him and teach him to give and soften to pressure. The lateral flexion exercises – Flexing the Head and Neck and Flexing at the Standstill – are the key to getting a horse soft and supple. The softer you can get a horse from side to side, the softer he’ll be when you use both reins to ask him to collect.
But you can’t just focus on your horse’s mouth in order to get him light in your hands. When people complain to me about their horse being stiff and resistant and pulling on the bit, I tell them that horses don’t have hard mouths, they have hard stiff bodies. Soften and supple the horse’s body, and he’ll feel like velvet in your hands.