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Horse pulls reins from my hands


My name is Chantal. I live in Hawaii. I have heard about you, and I hear you are a great horse trainer. My horse is just wonderful for me but he has a head problem. He pulls on my reins constantly. He pulls the reins out of my hands completely, at least twice every ride. Some people say I should be quiet with my hands but I'm as quiet as can be. Do you know how I can eliminate this bad habit??

Please, email me back- Thank you!!

Hi Chantal,

Thanks for your question. I am currently in Colorado and won't be back on Maui until July. But I would be happy to offer some suggestions.

Horses that pull the reins out of the rider's hands are trying to get away from being abused at the mouth. They have been pulled on so hard, with more & more severe bits, their mouths have toughened up at least enough as needed to pull the reins from a rider's hands. Its caused from heavy hands on heavy bits. First off I would have the horse's mouth and teeth checked by a vet. That is number one before trying to problem solve anything.

Once the vet gives the horse's mouth an AOK, here are a couple of things to try. Do not try to collect the horse. Just stand or walk very slowly in a round pen or arena. If the horse tries to pull the reins from your hand, rather than pulling at all on the reins and bit, try jiggling one rein enough that he brings his head up immediately. He may just stop pulling for a moment or so. If he does stop doing anything, release both reins and give him a "Good Boy". Then proceed to walk slowly, do not collect the horse, keep a light rein with minimum contact. If he pulls his head forward at all immediately jiggle one rein. As soon as he brings his head up, release the reins and praise. Over a short period of time this has worked to help this problem. Another thing to try is rather than pulling back on the reins to hold on to them, immediately bend the horse to the side and around your inside leg 2-3 rotations in both directions. Then walk off forward. If he pulls his head forward again, bend him around your leg in the same manner, both directions then cue to walk forward. He will associate the unpleasant activity of making tight circles around your legs with his pulling his head forward. Both of these techniques are non-abusive ways to modify certain unwanted behavior.

Many folks do not realize they are over-riding or being too active or too stiff with their hands. There is a balance of soft, supple, pliant and yet in contact. Notice I said contact and not 'control'. It is never about control. It is more of a 'dance' like ballroom dancing. Willing cooperation, partnership and mutual trust is the name of the game. You horse does not trust your hands and that is why he pulls the reins away. I could coach you on the telephone if you like. I have several folks I coach once a week for an hour at a time on the phone. Perhaps you may like to try a session. They are very cost effective and allow for immediate feedback about successes and challenges. Please give it some thought. These techniques are training methods and generally require some real expertise in working with horses. They require precision and practice to really be effective. I think I could move you along quicker with a little coaching. Let me know your thoughts. Blessings to you.....and good luck.

Sincerely, Franklin

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