What to Avoid When Working with a Head-Shy Horse

Posted by Allie Layos

These common mistakes can ruin a training session like nobody's business.

Horse owners deal with some unique problems, and head shyness can be one of the most frustrating. Life becomes a lot more troublesome when your horse won't let you work around its head and ears, and things like grooming, clipping, bathing, and even haltering can become dreaded activities.

When simple things become this complicated, you need to work to overcome your horse's fear, but rehabbing a head shy horse can be a long and difficult process.

Here are some things you should avoid during the journey.

Asking for too much at once.

Horses work best in small, incremental steps. Excited by progress, you may be tempted to jump ahead, but that won't help your cause.

Introduce new things slowly, and reward even the smallest improvement.

Getting angry when you don't get the results you want.

Anger is the most debilitating emotion when working with horses, especially head-shy horses that are already afraid.

Horses pick up very easily on emotions, and if you're angry, they will want you working around their head and ears even less.


Tying or confining him.

Horses are flight animals, and taking away their ability to flee only makes them more nervous. You will have much better results if you give them a choice, and then let your actions encourage them to stay.

Instead of tying or cross-tying your horse, just hold his halter or lead rope. It will allow him just enough movement to feel safe.

Being too sneaky or slow.

Many horses don't like when humans are sneaky, and it actually makes them more nervous, not less. Even if you have the rare horse who doesn't mind, and your tactics seem to be working, it is still a bad idea since it dictates how you can act around your horse.

You shouldn't have to go into ninja mode just to slip on a halter.

Relying on treats.

Training will be more effective -- and you'll end up with better results -- if you avoid using treats as a crutch. Do you really want to feed him a treat every time you need to brush his head?

Rehabbing a head-shy horse is always a long journey, but if you avoid these five stumbling blocks the road will be a lot more smooth.

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