|MFT hold his head off to the right.
California 8 year old MFT Gelding, working in riding ring and trails, Snaffle and Dressage saddle. Medium Level Rider
Question: My horse gaits well, he will work trails or in the ring fine. The problem I am having is that when I work him in the ring, he wants to hold his head off to the right. He does this both directions of the ring. I have had the vet check his teeth, he said there was no problem. I have checked the bit, it fits him and is in good shape.
What can I do to correct this problem?
From Panelists Nancy
This is certainly one of the most common problems, as almost all horses
are stiff on one side and hollow on the other. The cause of the horse
being hollow on one side is that he does not want to accept the bit on
that side. This will take a while to overcome. To straighten him,
you must keep working to make him accept the bit on the hollow side by
taking a light feel of the right rein and then give little tugs on the
left rein to straighten him.
From Panelists Laura
Some horses tend to be one-sided, just like some people are right or
left-handed. If he carries his nose to one side no matter which direction
you are turning, this indicates to me that this may be a habit he has developed,
rather than a pain response (you may want to have a horse chiropractor
or massage therapist look at his back to be sure this isn't
There are a couple of things you could try which may help to straighten
First, try working your horse in small circles, both to the right and to the left. Spend a little more time circling to the left. Each time you turn to the left, ask your horse to bend more (turn his nose & body in a nice curve to the left). If your horse can't bend at all to the left in a small circle, you will need to start with some ground work to help him out.
With just the halter on the horse, gently pull his head toward his shoulder,
first to the right then to the left. Pull slowly and urge him to
stand still. Pet & praise him for standing still and just moving
his head & neck. All you are doing is stretching his neck muscles.
When he gives easily to both sides (this is called doubling), tack him
up, stay on the ground, and
Now mount up & try to pull his head towards your knee on each side. It may take a few days to get him relaxed and doing this quietly. Pet and praise him for even small amounts of head movement toward your knee.
Now go back to riding in small circles, mostly to the left. Whenever you are riding and he starts holding his nose out to the right, quietly go back into a small circle to the left until he is relaxed and then continue on your way. It takes a while to teach your horse to follow his nose, but have a little patience and you will get there.
From Panelists Lee
Your problem in most probably in the natural stiffness in your horse's body that prevents him from bending to the left and the curb bit which does nothing to encourage him to bend or flex his body laterally. If possible, have him checked out and, if necessary, adjusted by an equine chiropractor.
To solve the head cocking habit under saddle, I would put the
horse back in a snaffle (a D ring, an Eggbutt or a full cheek would be
my preference) and teach him to bend. First teach him to go on even,
light contact on the snaffle bit in a straight line, even if he does cock
his head. If necessary take a bit stronger contact with your
left rein to keep his head as straight as possible. Then try basic
dressage exercises in both directions, first