Missouri, 2 year old TWH, just started him to saddle, ridden in single twisted bit and  English saddle in pasture, ring by experienced rider.

Question: Would like to know how to get more head shake. Is it in the bit? If
it is what do I need. He is a nice walking colt but I feel he needs a little more head nod.

From Panelist Nancy

Your horse is just a baby.  Be pleased that he is coming along so nicely.  I don't understand why so many people are worrying so much about the head nod. As long as he is relaxed and doing the correct gait you should be pleased.  A lot of head nod is looked for by the Big Lick judges, but I hope that you don't want your horse to go like that!  Those horses have a lot of head nod because they have to work so hard just to pick their feet up and walk.  (I guess you can tell my thoughts on BL!)  Also, your horse doesn't need a twisted bit.  Use a mild bit, such as a plain ring snaffle (no leverage). 
Remember, your horse is still a baby.

Nancy Cade

From Panelist Jonathan

No , it's not in the bit . It's in the genes . He is either a heavy nodder or not , he is young and time will tell .

Of course the same can be said for a quality gait as well .

But people have come up with all kinds of artificial ways of circumventing genetic predispositin for that , so manufacturing a little head nod contrary to his natural way of going shouldn't be all the dificult . You just won't get any suggestions along those lines from me .

Good luck to your horse


From Panelist Liz


This is such a young horse that if he has the structure to develop more head shake it will come with time. He still as not finished growing and will not for a couple more years. He could be in height but he still has bones to fuse and filling to do at this age. So the muscular support is still not in place to get every thing in the support or strength for the skeletal structure yet. Give him time and let the head shake develop with lots of flat walking.

I personally do not use any twisted mouth piece bits in my training. At this age I would still have him in a snaffle bit (no shank, No curb) for a long time yet. If you feel you need a twisted mouth piece for control the I would go back to getting the ground work more solid
so he understands all his commands and  more slow work with lots of lateral exercises under saddle to keep him supple and flexible so you can use your legs and seat more to help him develop gait and not do it all in the bit. Take your time and let him grow into being able to give you the best of his gait.


From Panelist Bob

A two year old is too young to ride! Give your horse a chance to grow up and develop before you start riding him. Headshake comes from the whole body working in a relaxed manner, not from any specific bit. A twisted wire bit is excessive! I start my 3 yr olds in a D ring, or full cheek snaffle.

Bob Blackwell

From Panelists Theresa

First I would change the bit if this horse were mine. I would go to a straight snaffle or a wonder bit. I have seen many horses who would love to shake, but are tired of being punished for doing so. 

The twisted snaffles are good for horses who are further along in training for other reasons, but not necessary for starting a colt. To achieve a shakier head, the gait must be a true walk. If he is "gaiting" and his head is stationary, stiff and high with a bend in the poll hes
likely to be racking. This gait would feel smooth, and you would hear the four beat, but it is not walking. It is difficult to know if the stationary head is due to the rack vs the pace from the information given.  Since you mentioned that it feels like he is walking with a slight headshake, I would guess its a rack.

If your horse is racking, to break the rack you must work your way to a lateral gait. Longer hind toe, heavier toe on back, and pacing out your horse for a period of several months will help your horse to achieve this. Then from the lateral gait, you will want to square up the horse slowly. Start with a pace, and slow him down to a shaking walk. Alow him to shake for a good period of time daily, with only a slight amount of contact on
your bit (But make sure to maintain some contact).  After he has consisently been brought to a slow shaking walk, you can  begin to shoe the horse lighter in the back (while maintaining the lenght of toe in the back), and continue with daily shaking walk while allowing the horse to speed up over a period of several weeks. At any point the horse begins to rack/trot he must be brought down to a walk and started over instantly.
If he begins to pace, he may gradually be slowed down till he reaches a shaker walk.
Make sure your hands are low and not punishing the horse while he is going.


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