Head Shy? can you fix it?

Discussion in 'Problem Horses' started by Jes_bm, Apr 6, 2011.

  1. Jes_bm

    Jes_bm Active Member

    One of my horses is quite head shy and its getting a little crazy, hes fine once your there touching the head but when he thinks your going to touch his head he flings his head in the air, I have a fractured nose #( I was clipping lead rope to halter and was to close and wow that hurt like hell, made my eyes water lots I heard my nose crack :(

    I dont do anything scary around his head so its clearly from a past experiance but I dont no how to fix it, other than just being very slow and gental round his head... its not working! He's bad when taking bridle off to you have to get the whole thing in 1 as he runs backwards out of it no matter how slow I try to take it off.
    Its not the worst vise in the world but my nose is very sore ( even though it was my fault for putting my face in the line of hire) both my othre horses are so chilled and I just wasnt thinking.
  2. Go the Distance

    Go the Distance Well-known Member

    At every opportunity when you handle him, stand at his shoulder and run your hand up his neck slowly approaching his ears. That way if he flicks his head you are in a relatively safe spot. He may have been ear twitched in the past or had a few floggings around his head that has caused this behaviour.

    By repeatedly gently persisting that he lets you touch his head he will learn to be relaxed. As for the bridle side of things you may need to consider getting a bridle and halter in one so that you can unclip the side of the bridle to take the bit off.

    I would not be trying to do things like clip him or bridle him with a normal bridle until he gets better. As you now know thier heads are big and HURT when they make contact:D. BTW can we have pics of your busted nose. I had a beauty of a black eye once after coming off!!
  3. Diana

    Diana Gold Member

    Aww ow :( hope your nose is ok. Horses have jolly big heads!

    When I got my boy he was a bit head shy. Just creep up his neck, even scratch his neck nicely so he actually enjoys it. Just start small.

    I've seen another way done but I'm not sure how to explain it. (It worked on the horse I saw it done on!) You go up their neck slowly, then very quickly run your hand (kinda firmly) over their ears and (maybe??) eyes then back again, before he even registers that your hand was there... Someone else on here might have an idea of how it works....

    Good luck with your boy. It's not nice when they're like that. Dave is now much more cuddly :) doesn't mind things near his head nearly as much.
    realalvin likes this.
  4. Jes_bm

    Jes_bm Active Member

    He's a bit weird ad its not normal head shy as he doesnt mind me touching his ears or face and doing up bridle. Its just when he no's im going to touch his head he flinches but once im there its all ok, and he needs to be shown everything that I intend to put near him an bridle on is ok but bridle off is a cause to run backwards with head in air?

    Just got internets set up at home so will learn to post pics to everyone can see all these crazy horses I keep taking about **) and my bust nose lol
  5. celestialdancer

    celestialdancer Gold Member

    Gracie became head shy after she copped a couple of smacks to the cheek when she tried to bite me.

    She doesn't bite anymore, so she's not been punished for anything, and she's no longer head shy. I do regret my actions for making her head shy in the first place, but after realising and smacking her on the neck instead, it all got better. Not sure how to fix your boy? All my horses get a LOT of face pats. Everytime I see them they get a big head rub, and all of them love their faces being groomed. I spend a lot of time working on the areas they don't like interaction with.

    Gracie's was between her back legs, a couple of teat cleans and a big scratch after, and she's fine now. I just do it every day. Rahni gets funny about his nose being touched. So he gets face rubs, nose tickles, chin tickles. Rocky just doesn't like cuddles at all, the grumpy ole' git. So he gets little rubs. If I push him he just gets grumpy. He's had too many years of being petted I think! Haha. But my suggestion would be to spend a lot of time in that area.
  6. Elanda

    Elanda Gold Member

    dont be slow and gentle, he will feed of the fact that you are tentative around his head and will think that he has something to worry about...slow and purposeful/confident is far better:) I reward (ducks for cover as I use food and pats for rewards for this:eek:) I rub the area I want to and when the pony is relaxed, reward. Do this everytime you catch them, walk past etc. They are soon itching (lol) to have their ears rubbed**) I also teach them to yield to pressure to get the head down when I do this, so that the horses head must remain where I want it:)
  7. miniequine

    miniequine Well-known Member

    Infinite patience will fix it so have lots of patience, as for the running out of the bridle, try putting a very loose bridle on him and stand besides him with both hands rubbing up towards the ears and scratching near the ears if he likes scratches then when both hands are up near the ears just quickly and smoothly lift both sides of the bridle behind the ears up and over quickly and he has no time to run back. hope I have explained this clearly, it stopped one of my horses who used to run out of his bridle. I would bridle him with the loose bridle at every oppertunity I got and as he got better and better I would just move the bridle up one hole at a time. He soon got used to me taking the bridle off and on with no problems. A bit hard to explain, much easier to show someone so i hope you understand me, good luck. nothing worse than a horse who is hard to bridle or unbridle.:)
  8. wattle6180

    wattle6180 Gold Member

    goodie and go the distance have good points that I'd use a bit of. I can't stress the importance I place in rope halters (LOVE THEM).

    I used to have mare that was extremely headshy. To put the halter on I'd have to put the nose-piece on and then the tie-up string would be placed mid-neck, and then into the loop and slowly take up pressure until the halter is fitted correctly. Having done that, stand at the shoulder and get the horse to give to pressure of the halter from the poll. So...get the horse to bend toward you and reward with a treat (I know - kill me now), or a small pat on the centre of the forehead (only you know what your horse will like the most).

    You have to know what your horse is going to do, and you need to control your responses to that behaviour. You can't allow anxiety or timidity to project to your horse. Make lessons very, very short and always leave when you've accomplished the thing you want to achieve. Even if it is as basic as putting on a headcollar 10 times a day, scratch pony and then remove and leave.

    I think this kind of training is getting a bit lost for people that have to agist or are very time-constrained (eg, parents drive u to agistment).
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2011
    realalvin likes this.
  9. Go the Distance

    Go the Distance Well-known Member

    Jes how old is he? Does he have an eyesight issue? He may have altered vision causing his strange response. Next time a vet does his teeth or something get them to check his eyes as well. Just a thought.
  10. moodymare

    moodymare Well-known Member

    my old girl used to run back out of the bridle and fling her head up when taking it off and I figured out it was the bit contacting the teeth, she had the bridle pulled off after throwing her old owner and chipped a tooth, then of course every time you went to take it off she must have remebered the pain.
    After a couple of weeks of undoing one of the chhk straps and carefully removing the bit to the side, she became more relaxed about the whole process and would leave her head down, which of course meant I was able to ensure no more banged teeth!, its amazing how one negative episode can remain so firmly with them, long story short after 2 months happy still horse allowing safe bridle removal
  11. Jes_bm

    Jes_bm Active Member

    GTD; he's 12yrs so but still could explain it, ill ask vet to hve a look when he's out.

    Moodymare: That sounds like exactly what he's doing! ill give your method a go and see if he likes that a little better.

    Cheers for replys **)
  12. Pinkie_Pie

    Pinkie_Pie Well-known Member

    Confidence is key. Elanda is right. If you are nervous about touching his head he will pick up on that and get nervey too. Cricket hated his ears being touched when we got him. If we push him too far he would rear, but we started playing around his neck and scratching his itchy spot and occasionally "accidently" brushing his ear with my elbow (he's a little one!). Just more and more "accidentle"(sp) touching and now at pony club when the instuctor askes my daughter to point out where Crickets ears are she can lean forward and prick them forward towards the instructor :)

    Good luck. And wear a helmet! lol, just to give you that little bit more protection! :p
  13. dpjg

    dpjg Active Member

    We had a very head shy horse and did all the good advice things like being slow and steady, extending the area of touch slowly etc. Then the horse dentist came and found that he had a partially dislodged wolf tooth that was just hanging on, moving around his gum and causing intense pain in face and poll. Problem sorted after a few more days. Never overlook pain.
  14. Jbear123

    Jbear123 Active Member

    HI Jess_ Bm:
    I have a few methods that I have used in the past when we have handled headshy breakers or horses we are educating that may be worth giving a go with your horse.
    Firstly does he has a lateral bend/ one rein stop aid?
    Does he yeild to presure when Tied solid or when asked by your hand laterally and vertically?
    Where is he most reactive on his head around his ears, eyes or mouth?

    If you get him to drop his head then bend his head around to you while you are standing at his shoulder reward him everytime he allows you to do this and touch him all over his head when he responds to this positively, then change sides, you will need to do this several times and when he has no problems and will let you fuss him in this position put the bridle on ( of course putting the bridle on for you isn't a problem but it is all part of the process ). To take the bridle off repeat the process just backwards ask him to bend his head around in a lateral bend then reward him " Big fuss " then slowly take the bridle off over his ears with one of your hands still pating him and lightly holding his head in the lateral bend with the other hand, slowly but confidently ask him to open him mouth when he does in a fluint motion let the bit out of his mouth paying a lot of attention not to let the bit hit the back of his Insisors ( back of his front teeth )........ If he throughs his head in the air and flys backwards stay at his shoulder holding the bit and bridle in his mouth ask him to drop his head and lateral bend to you at his shoulder then when he comes back to a relazed state try again. It is also handy to do this in a tie up bay or contained area so it is easier for you to stay with him when he get anxious or upset.

    If your horse doesn't tie up I would recommend teaching him or getting him taught my a professional trainer as if this problem continues tying him up solid is a useful training tool you can use to help you help him climatise and become aware that you are not there to hert him, most horses that are head shy do not tieup well. I would also recommend that if this problem has been happening for some time now and you think it is getting dangerous that you also seek professional advice or assistance.

    Patience, time and Good training tools you are confident using will all help you achieve your horse becoming confident and happy with you around his head.
    Goodluck I hope that this is of some use to you.

    I also agree wiht Dpjg, that getting your horses teeth checked is also a very good option as we all know what its like to have sore teeth not very enjoyable at all
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2011
  15. Roskyle Mr GingerbreadMan

    Roskyle Mr GingerbreadMan Well-known Member

    My pony used to very head shy when I first got him
    When putting on/taking off the bridle he would pull back to the point where he would rear
    I fixed this by coming from side on, giving some pats whilst still been firm with him, I then would run my hand up his neck and scratch in between his ears, when he noticed this wasn't hurting him he would start lowering his head so I would get the bridle and put the reins over his head, keeping to the side of him, if he would pull back I would stroke until he lowered his head, and then put my arm under his neck/head and hold the bridle from the other side so I had control of both sides and slide the bit into his mouth
    eventually he accepted this
    for taking off the bridle I would take it off from over his ears and hold it there, and when he lowered his head I would lower the bridle so he could drop the bit out of his mouth as he had bad experiences in the past with having the bit ripped out of his mouth
    I found doing this, combined with lots of facial pats starting on the side of his face and gradually moving up to the ears and down to the nose worked for him
    once he was more confident with his face I did alot of touching his ears and eventually I was able to clip his face without troubles :)
  16. dakota95

    dakota95 Active Member

    My boy suddenly became bridle shy and got very bad within a week, I knew it wasnt normal so I took him straight to the vets and the poor buggar had 4 wolf teeth that had all come up at once and a few ulcers in his mouth from sharp teeth way up the back. Apparently the previous person who did his teeth before he was broken missed all this only a few months before. Make sure you get the teeth checked and make sure you get them done by someone reputable!
  17. Snippit32

    Snippit32 Well-known Member

    Just a thought- when you take the bridle off, is there any chance he's banging his teeth on the bit? It's pretty common for horses to run back like that in anticipation of pain. (Hope that hasn't already been said- I just piped in when I saw the above quote :))

    Edit: Yep- already covered. Thanks MoodyMare :))

    Just one more thing- check his poll for pain, and make sure he's happy moving off pressure at the poll, both these things will help you to desensitize him and improve his outlook towards you handling his head.
    Last edited: Jun 24, 2011
  18. Banksia

    Banksia New Member

    My boy is a bit headshy as well. As soon as reins/lead rope goes near his ears he throws his head up, possibly due to being ear-twitched at a previous home?

    Anyway, I think someone mentioned what I do.. Which is a John Lyons method. I run my hands over his ears quickly and smoothly, almost before he is even has time to register my hand is there. Then (after time and patience) I can slow down my movements more and more until I can leave my hands there. Then (after more time and patience) I use a lead rope over his neck, and then a bit closer to his ears. And after a while he can just stand there was the lead rope draped around his ear.

    I also practice with my lead rope before putting the bridle on each time (I would much rather he destroyed that than my bridle!).

    Finally, when taking the bit out, I loosen it slowly so he can "roll" it out of his mouth tongue to prevent it banging against his teeth.

    Sorry for the essay, I hope this makes sense!
    Good luck :)
  19. blitzen

    blitzen Gold Member

    Yep, this. Try chiro and a session with equestricare. Besides massage, Jess uses this awesome laser hat to help with pain and tightness.
  20. blitzen

    blitzen Gold Member

    Standing on a milk crate also gives you a height advantage, which may make things easier.

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