Monday, January 18, 2010

Let My Face Go

At an evaluation tonight of a new student and her semi green horse I watched them ride around and around and I saw the same thing time and time again. Her horse would drop his head and she would yank his head up. I finally had to stop her and ask her why she was doing this? She answered that her horse would occasionally buck going into the canter. Well, OK, that seemed like a decent answer except that she was just trotting. So as she kept going I started to tell her to release her horse's head when he dropped it. She was hesitant at first, but I assured her he was just trying to stretch down.

After a few times I noticed her horse started to relax and really stretch neck down. Every time she tried to jerk his head back up I told her she was sending him backwards in his training. Now granted she is a little gun shy due to the fact her horse has bucked with her, but he was legitimately just truly just trying to stretch his neck and back, which would eventually help us encourage his head set.

So how can a rider, any rider, tell the difference in if their horse is just stretching or prepping for a buck?? A buck will begin with pinned ears, and a humpy, tense back. You may feel him tense in the bridle a little bit as well. He may kick out as a warning and start tossing his head. A buck is also more common during transitions, especially into the canter or lope.

When a horse is stretching, this will typically occur at the walk or a long trot, he will just gradually drop his nose down and may even bring his head up or down a couple times. Always allow your horse the option to stretch if you can. You'll feel that his back and neck will be quite relaxed and he should have a soft and supple jaw and mouth. He may even stretch or extend his gaits a little too. Once he is done stretching or you need him to bring his head back up, make it a soft gradual lift with your hands and reins so he doesn't feel you are jerking his head back up. That will only cause a hard mouthed horse and horse who doesn't or won't drop his head anymore...

6 comments:

Holly said...

I see this all the time. At an IHSA show in California a rider from a Major California Private University drew one of my horses. The horse is 8 yo, 16h and trained and shown in WP/Trail. MCPU student proceeded to try to ride her with more contact than I have on my English horses. If there was 18 inches between her hands and Venus' mouth I'd be shocked. I was so happy I decided to but her in a snaffle rather than her show bit. I find that most horses duck and buck when ridden with constant pressure. I've never ridden one that just randomly wigged out.

jennybean79 said...

Good advice - thank you!

Jenn said...

For newer riders, it can be hard to tell the difference.

I generally describe a horse about to buck as feeling like riding one of those super bouncy "super balls." Suddenly, it feels like the horse has all kinds of energy on its way skyward.

A stretching horse feels more like riding a rubber band where the energy potential is horizontal and gently stretched, rather than balled up.

Ears don't always go back. My big guy, when he's feeling particularly goofy and energetic, bucks with his ears up because in his mind, he's just playing, not hurting or being malicious.

GoLightly said...

Great title, great post, TreX!

The Pale Horseman said...

I had a loan gelding once who was hugely unpredictable when bucking. He would let loose a whopper in silly circumstances - horses walking past him, trotting in front of him, if he got spooked.... it was endless and most of it nothing to do with the arthritis in his hock. We had only loaned him while the owner was having a hip op, but we declined when she asked if we wanted to buy him. In the end she sold him for £2000 - way too much for a lame behind bucker.

Susan said...

It could be a mantra: Let go of your horse's mouth, stay out of his/her way.