Question: “I pulled a gelding off a kill lot in OK about a year ago. He is about 10-years-old, broke, and friendly (although it took a while to gain his trust). An old injury to a hind leg keeps him from being able to do really hard work, but I think he has potential as a nice trail horse.
Under saddle, he tosses his head almost constantly with any pressure–whether he’s in a snaffle, a halter, bitless bridle, or bosal hackamore. Watching his behavior I am guessing he was trained as a roping horse and that’s it, probably with a tie-down. He just wants to get into the arena, go fast, then leave. And he sidles away as you are dismounting.
So anyway, I know we have a long way to go with this guy, and if we could solve the head-tossing issue that would help a lot. So far, he has not come off the ground in a rear, and has not tried to bolt.
I wanted to ask, do you think a hackamore is the way to go? If so, what kind would you suggest? I am a total hackamore novice, so any suggestions are welcome. I have two bosals in the tack room, one large diameter but very stiff and coursely woven, and one that is finer but pretty small diameter…I am fine with purchasing another if needed.”
Martin’s Answer: “My first thought on the head tossing would be he was not comfortable with the bit in his previous life and likely because of the tension on the reins. They learn real quick to toss their head if the reins have discomfort to the bit and they toss their head to get slack, even for a few seconds before coming tight again.
To test this, you could put him in the corral with a bit on and leave the reins loose. See if he throws his head and, if so, if he would quit after a while. Then as you ride him, if he will maintain gait, ride him with a loose rein and see if he stops throwing his head.
The other approach would be to put him in the corral with slight tension on the reins to where he has to bring his nose in the slightest bit and see if he would accept and maintain that. If so, you could ride him that way with the slight contact.
The hackamore, on the other hand, could be a new approach and solve the problem. Without seeing your hackamores it’s hard to say how they would work, but I’m confident in how ours fit. And being ridden with a loose rein when you don’t need to communicate, and communicate whatever it may be when needed so he has a loose rein, he may learn to not flip his head with a hackamore.
Basically different headgear may make a difference, but it’s the hands on the end of the reins that they respond to, negative or positive.