Horse Tosses head While Riding

Has your horse recently started tossing his head while being ridden? When horses toss their head it can be a symptom of several different problems.

You should observe your horse to see if they keep tossing their head when alone in a pasture or stall. A horse that tosses it’s head while at liberty (loose) up can have neurological problems or even allergies and you should stop riding immediately and call your vet.

If your horse only tosses his head while riding, there is a good chance the bit, or other element of his tack, is uncomfortable or painful. Head tossing while riding can be related to an improperly fitting saddle, so you’ll want to have your saddle fit checked or try riding bareback. Usually, however, horses that keep tossing their head while riding are irritated by a bit that does not fit the horse’s mouth, or a bit that is being used improperly.

One of the biggest causes of a horse tossing his head while being ridden is the Tom Thumb bit! Innocuously marketed as a mild snaffle-type western bit, the tom thumb is actually anything but mild. When reins attached to a Tom Thumb are pulled, the bit is wrapped around the horse’s jaw like a nutcracker and the joint of the mouthpiece is driven into the roof of the mouth! Sensitive horses can panic and rear when bitted with this bit, but most horses react to the pain of the bit by tossing their head up. If you’re using this bit, it’s time to try something else and relegate the Tom Thumb to tack room decor.

If you turn your horse by squeezing a rein in the direction you want to go, try a a plain snaffle like the ones shown here. If your horse turns off cues from your legs and a rein laid against their neck, one of these plain curbs might suit your horse best.

Finally, if a your horse keeps tossing his head while being ridden after a change in bits, consider whether it might be your hands making the horse uncomfortable. One way to test this is to have an experienced friend or a professional trainer ride your horse for a few minutes. If your horse keeps tossing his head up with another rider, you’ll know the horse not is reacting to discomfort caused by the way you hold your reins. Ask that rider for a lesson in how they steer and hold the reins.

If none of these suggestions seem to help your horse that tosses his head while being ridden, consider whether his teeth may need floated. Horses need regular dental care in order for the bit to fit comfortably in their mouth. Without proper dental care your horse’s head tossing problem may become worse, as the pain increases, until the horse is unrideable.

So if you are having a problem with your horse throwing his head up, try these steps:

1. Observe horse untacked at liberty to see if head throwing is related to tack
2. Check saddle fit
3. Consider the type of bit
4. Consider the way you use your reins
5. Have horse’s teeth examined

A horse tossing his head up while riding is an annoying and dangerous habit. If you follow these steps you will find and eliminate the cause of your horses head throwing and make your riding time much more pleasant.

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