Non-USA 4.5 year old TWH with three months professional training, ridden in D ring snaffle and Tennessean saddle in Trails, fields, country roads, by advanced beginner

Question: This gelding is a very good walking horse.  He had a very good start by a pro trainer.  I think we are doing fairly well.  I dog walked and flat walked him most of last
summer (lots of riding) and started the run walk in the fall.  I feel he is coming along fairly well.

The Problem:  This is more annoying than anything, but this gelding is a "tail swisher". He is pretty responsive to leg pressure, and almost always is compliant, but he swishes his
tail every time I apply any leg pressure - in turning, backing up, varying speed etc.  I think I'm fairly light with my leg cues, but it doesn't seem to matter.

I'm really happy with this horse - except for the above.  Is there a solution to this - or do I just put up with it? Thanks in advance for your advice - great site - I've learned a lot!

From Panelist Erica

Tail swishing is a sign of discomfort, dissatisfaction, unhappiness, confusion. Be sure to have your saddle checked as well as his teeth, and bridle/bit for fit. Another common place for horses to have pain in is their back - possibly have a chiropractor out to check his back and have it adjusted if need be. 

Otherwise I would have to guess perhaps it is something you are doing that simply annoys him as much as his tail swishing annoys you. :-)  Take a good look at all of your cues - whether they are deliberate or not. Another thing you could do is have a friend ride him once and see if he reacts in the same manner (once you have had all of your tack checked for fit), or another thing that works well is have someone video tape you riding so you personally can revue what you do in the saddle. Good luck with your boy!!

Erica Frei

From Panelist Liz


I might check my saddle first to be sure it has not got any sharp points from a screw or anything else on the under side of your saddle. Are your bleven buckles sharp or are the buckles of the hobble straps the that hold the stirrup leathers digging in. Check the whole
underside of the saddle and check the horses back to be sure you do not have a sore spot or that the spine is out of alignment too. 

This is a sign of something going on. Also use even lighter leg signals just use the calf and no heal at first and start out with the lightest pressure possible till she responds instead of using to much at one time.


From Panelist Lee

He may be ticklish on his lower body.  He may have been started with spurs (?) and anticipate pain. He may be uncomfortable with his girth.

Sometimes you have to work around little glitches like this.  If the tail switching bothers you and the cues you use always result in it, you may have to modify your cues.  How to resolve this ... my first thought is that maybe you are using your lower legs very strongly to cue him -- really squeezing hard with your calves?  A very different leg cue might be in order... try using your upper leg (thigh) for cues rather than your lower one.  It is also possible that when you cue him you shift your weight too much in the saddle.  Try sitting more quietly and see if that makes a difference.  

On the other hand, you may also be just squeezing with your legs to ask for things, rather than preparing the horse with a slight weight shift or breathing change for the change of movement. Try using your body to prepare him for a coming movement change(sit deep to let him know you want to slow down, or back up, look to the right  before you ask him to turn right, etc.)

I once had a horse that would freeze solid with any leg cue -- he was terrified and sour about any leg cue at all.  (he came to me that way)  I ended up retraining him to only slight weight shifts and the use of the upper thigh as cues, both foreign to his experience, and he came along nicely with that type of riding. But, he remembered his earlier "training" and would freeze into a complete stop from a canter if I forgot and used a lower leg cue.  You may get the tail swishing every time you use a lower leg cue, even if he stops it with a different cue.

Good luck, and be glad you have such a minor problem!

Lee Ziegler

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