Most horses toss their head as a negative reaction to tight reins or a painful or uncomfortable bit.
Horses are basically claustrophobic animals so they have a lot of trouble with confinement…and tight reins are nothing if not confining.
The type of horse most given to head tossing is usually a fairly high energy, forward-aholic horse. People often find themselves hanging onto the reins to try to control these horses, but the more you hold them back with tight reins, the worse the horse’s head tossing gets. This can even lead to rearing and plunging as horses frantically try to free themselves of this terrifying constriction.
The Parelli Natural Horsemanship approach offers some very helpful horse training techniques for getting horses to manage their own fear and impulsiveness. In fact, this is one the primary topics covered in our Calm Ride DVD. You’ll learn a lot about how to prepare the horse on the ground first so that he’s confident and calm. Then you’ll see the strategies that work best to keep the horse calm once you’re in the saddle, including stopping the habit of using two reins for controlling the horse.
Two Reins for Communication, One Rein for Control
“Two reins for communication, one rein for control” is one of the favorite sayings of Parelli natural horse training. Unfortunately, pulling back with two tight reins is something humans instinctively want to do when they feel their horse getting out of control. However, in reality it makes things much, much worse and increases – not decreases – the horse’s head tossing behavior. Using just a single rein disengages and relaxes the horse. It is a great habit for a rider to adopt, and is particularly important for a rider who’s experiencing his or her horse doing quite a bit of head tossing due to tight reins.
The basic principles of natural horsemanship include the belief that a horse’s behavior is always communicating something – and it’s our job to figure out what the horse is trying to tell us. The more you learn to read and respond appropriately to horses, the more success and the less frustration you will have.
In cases where the horse is exhibiting what we humans think of as “negative” behavior, the horse is usually acting out of a sense of fear or a need to dominate. By responding in ways that make them more fearful or feel more dominated – such as using too tight reins – we are doing the exact opposite of what will calm our horse and get us the results we want. So think about trying the Parelli method instead!
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