Published in the June 2007 edition of the Western Horse Review.
My horse puts his head way up in the air when I bridle him. How can I make him stop?
~ Karen Talmed, Cochrane, AB
Generally the reason a horse’s head is up is an act of self preservation. Regardless of the circumstance, he is trying to escape. Perhaps he had his teeth banged when he was bridled in the past, or someone was rough with his ears.
First, you need to teach him to bring his head down to your level. Put pressure on the halter, pulling directly down. When he gives, even just a little bit, release immediately. Then try again until he is at your level.
If this method isn’t bringing his head down, use the same pressure, but side to side to help him understand the pressure and release.
If he throws his head, try to keep your hands on his face, but keep your hands soft and gentle. If he is flinging his head he generally is saying he doesn’t like his head being touched. Try to make it enjoyable for him by remaining soft and calm.
Ask his head to come down to a workable level when he has grasped the concept. Make sure you can rub his mouth, face, and ears all over, while keeping his head down. If you feel that he is nervous about the bit, try putting a rope in his mouth first, then just a bit, then with the bridle. When you do bridle him, try to be as smooth as possible by not poking him in the eyes accidentally, pulling on his ears or letting the bit hit his teeth. It can help to put the far ear in first.
Every time you bridle, don’t be rushed. Forget the rest of the world, and take the time he needs. He will get better as time goes on and as you remain soft and calm with his head.
~ Stevi Weissbach, natural horsemanship practitioner