Texas 6 year old  MFT ridden in  Mylar comfort snaffle and Sharon Saare Endurance in Pasture, ring by Intermediate rider.

Question: When riding behind other horses and I put him into his foxtrot he starts shaking his head and trying to pull the reins out of my hands.  It's as if he wants to go faster
and I want to keep him at a certain speed.  He becomes fairly aggressive about it and causes me to get out balance and move forward losing my seat and causing me to feel

He is dominant and I don't know if this is him being aggressive and wanting his own way or if it is the way I am riding (poor balance, bad hands, etc).

I might also note that when we are in front he gaits along beautifully without any this head business.  

Any help would be appreciated.

From Panelist Lee
Sounds as if he may be trying to "ride" you!  If he is pulling on the reins
(and not just nodding in his gait) he is telling you one of several
things --- you may be unconsciously pulling harder on them to keep him
behind the other horses;  he may want to catch up and pass them and be
annoyed that you are not letting him.   I vote for a combination of the two,
since he stops the behavior when he gets to be in front.  He is definitely
being dominant (part of why he wants to lead) and buffaloing you.  But, it
takes two for a pulling, head tossing  match.  If he is pulling on you hard
enough for you to lose your seat forward, that means that you are also
holding on to him with a tight arm and hand, hard enough for him to do this.
To break up this "chicken or egg" situation, one of you needs to change the
behavior that is causing it.  Since you are the thinking partner in this
relationship, the change must come from you.

Go for a ride with one other person who will help you if asked, preferably
in a large arena  (this is not a thing to do in a group ride the first
time).   (Of course, if the horse doesn't exhibit this behavior in an arena,
you will have to go out on a trail ride with this other person to teach this
lesson.)   Sit straight in the saddle, some weight in each foot, more in
each seatbone.  Relax your elbows -- and keep them close to but not clamped
to your sides.  Have the other horse go in front.  Yours will want to move
ahead.  Prevent this, by using light pulls and slacks  first on one rein,
than the other,  sitting with your weight just slightly back in the saddle,
*not* a steady pull  on both to tell  him to stay behind where you want him.
Keep up the pulls/slacks until he responds by slowing down and allowing the
other horse to lead.  When he stays where you want him, spaced nicely behind
the other horse, discontinue the pulls/slacks and ride with very light
contact, if any.  If he speeds up again, repeat the pull/ slacks and the
deeper, slightly tipped-back seat.

If he starts the head tossing, turn him sharply in a tight, small circle,
using one rein to turn him, and pushing him into the turn with the opposite
leg. (this is called doubling, and is a strong correction for misbehavior).
Instantly slack the rein as he finishes the turn, then ask him to stand
still a moment, before continuing on. If he refuses to stand still, double
him again, no more than a single 360 turn, then again ask him to stand still
with your reins slack.   It may take several repititions, or he may figure
out that you are serious the first time you do this.  If you don't fall back
into the habit of pulling back steadily on the reins, he should stop the
head tossing and work instead on a light rein, staying where you ask him in
relation to the other horse.  It will take a little time to teach him that
this is what you *really* want, but if you reward him by leaving the reins
quiet and relatively slack when he stays where you want, and remind him with
the pulls/slacks when he forgets his place, he will figure out that a quiet,
slack rein is more pleasant and will stay where you want him.

Good luck.

Lee Ziegler

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