Issues From The Saddle: Horse Won’t Give His Head Logo

Question Category: Issues from the Saddle

Question: I have a 2 year old that is not giving his head I can pull it around but he will not give the bit at all. He has a short neck but I have never had one that would not give a little bit! I have tried changing from a sidepull to a snaffle bit but nothing is working! Any help you could give I would love!


Answer: Robyn,

Without seeing you and your horse in action, it is difficult to guess what the problem might be but it is clear that you horse is not understanding what you are asking. My guess is that you have released him at the wrong moment. Whatever the horse is doing at the moment you release him is what you are training him to do. Since your horse is so young, it is unlikely that previous training is a problem.

I would start from the ground, with the horse saddled and bridled, in a plain ring snaffle. You definitely do not want to use a full cheek snaffle, because that often makes horses want to lean into the pressure that is on the opposite side of their face.

Slide your hand about halfway down the rein, then slowly and gently bring your hand back and up to the pommel, locking your hand against the pommel. Putting your hand in a fixed place that he cannot pull any slack from is critical. If you just let your hand hover without being anchored anywhere, what happens is that when he pulls, he moves your arm and gets a little slack. The other problem that a hovering hand causes is that when he does give a minute amount, you keep pulling, thus taking away his incentive to give.

He needs to learn that when he gives, all pressure goes away. I call this teaching the horse to seek out the slack in the rein. Wait and watch and move sideways with him if he tries to move (don’t try to stop him because that would be asking him two things at once). Watch his muzzle and the rein very closely and the instant there is the slightest give, causing slight slack in the rein, release completely and make a big fuss of him. As with all of horse training, timing is EVERYTHING. If you even think he was thinking about giving, release him.

Once he understands that breaking at the poll and giving to the pressure on the rein will cause you to release it, he will gladly give. My guess is that this is a matter of timing of the release and/or that you inadvertently released while he was opposing the pressure and taught him the wrong thing. But he is young and teachable, so with good timing, you should be able to get him to give. Good luck!


Copyright ©Julie Goodnight 2000. All Rights Reserved. No part of this website may be reproduced without owner’s express consent.