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Lowering the head to help rearing tb

Hi there I have to say what a wonderful site you have :)

I have been riding for about 23 years now I am 26 I started young (hehe). Any way a few years back I had a major accident on a young tb mare. She fully reared up and fell back on me crushing my legs. I was actually lucky that I did not break my back as she was a large girl ... I stopped riding for about a year after that happened as I had bad knees from the fall also I was very nervous about getting back on another horse for the fear of it rearing ... well now I have a tb gelding. He was steeplchassed until he was 8 then retired. He is now 14 and such a lovely gentle giant 17hh. He is good on the ground. He is a good boy to ride when there is only me and a friend out hacking. I have not put any pressure on him and have not ridden him with more company yet (I have only had him 6 months). He has to be ridden in a martingale as he holds his head rather high. What I am worried about is when I do eventually go out riding in a group and start eventing him I am worried he might rear as he tends to jig jog and canter on the spot when he is excited (typical tb). Is there anything I can do to calm him down to stop this ??? I lunge he is great with that but it seems to hype him up more. Any help is much appreciated.

Hi Billie (I hope that I got your name right),

Sorry it has taken such a long time to respond, but my travels have set me behind in answering some of my emails, as I said. Lets see if I can offer some suggestions.

How good are your ground skills? One thing I have found that works well with a horse that jigs or is nervous is a lot of ground 'play' before the horse is ridden. I don€št mean just lunging a few minutes for a warm-up. I mean dancing on the ground with your horse to get a good 'connection' and bond going strong (half hour). Tight bending (yielding the front and hind quarters) is excellent for settling a high-strung horse. Being able to bend a horse around an 'inside' leg, both directions, will settle a nervous horse while mounted. I ride a lot of horses that buck or rear with their owners. They do not do this with me and I believe it is because I do a lot of tight bending if I detect any nervousness or spookiness going on. I do it immediately and do not wait for the explosion. Of course this is after 30 minutes of good and focused ground play as well.

Another thing I would highly suggest is practice is having your horse lower his head on cue. This is an easy thing to teach your horse. Get a standard rope halter (western tack store) put it on your horse with a lead rope attached. Stand on the left side (switch to the off side occasionally too) facing forward. Stand about half way up the horse's neck. Hold the rope about 18 inches or so below the snap or knot. Look where you want the horse's head to go. In this case that is down. Bend forward and down slightly as your horse will mimic your body position with his neck and head somewhat. Only put the weight of your arm on the rope (do to try to pull the horse's head down). Each time you feel the horse has tried to lower his head (you'll know because the pressure on the rope gets a bit less), immediate release the rope. The release is the horse's reward for trying to lower his head. Then hold the rope again with just the weight of your arm. Release the instant he tries to lower his head (when you feel no pressure on the rope). Your horse will lower his head a bit more each time until it is as low as you want. You then slowly stand and encourage him to keep his head low. He may go to sleep a bit or at least get very relaxed. You should do this a lot, every day several times. Do it when leading the horse so he begins to walk with his head a bit lower. A horse with a lower head carriage is a relaxed horse. That is just the way the horse is made up. If his head is high he is nervous and looking for danger. If his head is carried a bit low he will remain relaxed. Getting your horse to collect easily and softly would be another goal that is worthwhile for you.

You can do this (cue a lowering of the head) from the saddle by taking the slack from your reins just a bit (not enough to back the horse). The horse will look for a way out of the rein pressure. As soon as he finds it by lowering his head just a bit, immediately and totally release the reins. Then do it again. Remember the release of the pressure is his reward. When he finds it by lowering his head, you can practice this a lot. Please do. Get him to lower his head standing still and then at a walk and then a trot, etc. Eventually you'll be able to throw away your tie down (martengale).

Good luck and keep me posted. I have some DVD's coming out soon. Check the website for information occasionally. This is one topic that will be covered. Blessings to you.

Sincerely, Franklin

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