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THE REIN SNATCHER

By
John O’Leary
Horseman
www.horseproblems.com.au

 ©2002

 

 

 

 

These horses frustrate the hell out of me and no doubt the rider's aboard them, but we can never blame the Horse. Why does it happen and how can we fix it? It isn't easy.

The term 'Resistance' sure describes this habit but what causes it?  There are all sorts of forms of resistance and this is yet another one.

When the young horse is broken in, hopefully it knows not to be resistant and only gradually, due to the inexperience of riders' does it learn the various forms of it. The more I think about this subject the more technical I could get but I shall try not to.

Perhaps I can start by asking you this question. Why don't horses with side reins fixed on chuck and reef their heads in an attempt to gain a longer rein? You would think that they would do it more as they are restricted more whereas the worst culprits seem to be the kid horse/pony clubber or mum's trail horse. Perhaps the key lies here.

Certainly there is a common thread of inexperience in a lot of these riders' and a kindness that is taken a little too far with regard to the assertiveness and rule setting with rein control.

To answer the previous question re the side reins then, it is my humble opinion that the horse knows the guidelines when side reins are set, it knows the boundaries, it knows that there is no profit in reefing soft or hard as they are not going to move and above all, they learn that if they stay soft they get 'reward and relief' and find a more comfortable place to be. It is their decision. They gain the benefit of the best 'timing and release' that there is, themselves. So how and why do we train the rein reefer?

To start the answer to that question, let me ask another one. Why do people insist upon holding a contact against the mouth of a horse when it is not under the Judge's eye in competition or in training mode for whatever discipline one engages in? This is where the problem starts as horses are not stupid. They are great judges' of riders' who do not have empathy or treat them without justice. So a couple of classic examples:

  • Riders' are just standing around having a gossip. Their horses are trying to be asleep but the rider insists upon holding a slight contact on the mouth of their horse. Why in hell would you? The horse sure knows they shouldn't and so they soon learn that a little reef of the head gives them a moment of relief. Allowing the neck to stretch out into relaaax mode. If the rider gave the horse a loose rein, it wouldn't reef any more but they don't. They are brainwashed by the English riding system that they must feel that contact. It is their comfort zone and bugga the horse. Like a baby with a dummy. So the horse learns to reef on and pretty soon it becomes a learned habit and after that it becomes a mental condition.
     

  • The rider goes out on a trail ride. At the walk they hold a contact. The horse still has it's head stuck out like a lama, the contact hasn't requested the horse to go 'round', just a contact so the rider can feel the mouth of the horse as their worry beads. The rider forgets the horse is supposed to be also enjoying the trail ride and would like to stretch it's neck out and down and possible take a peek at the birds in the tree's and so on. You pull on the mouth of a horse, even ever so lightly, the horse will pull back and so on and on and on.......


This has been simulated.

This is what happens.....

I have closely watched horses at play with the hands of riders' and I am convinced that the reason why they continue to pull on the hand is that they know that they can actually move it, control it, even though it may mean minor discomfort to their mouth, but predominantly, they do it to get a break.

When a horse tries to reef away from a set of side reins, they run into a brick wall with their mouth and at their choosing, they experience the degree of discomfort that they are willing to bare but they will always find their level and give up. With the hand of a rider, they soon find that they can move it backwards and forwards and it soon becomes a play thing. They never experience a true demand as in Dressage training, rider's leg on, horse driven into the bit until horse gives and goes soft and then the rider softening to a kind contact. So, this is how it starts, but how to fix it? as some horses even get to the stage of having a mental condition with it.

  • The first thing one must do is to remove the hands of the rider right out of the equation. Throw the reins away as we say and give them a giant loop, so much that the horse cannot feel the hand of the rider no matter how violently it reefs it's head forward. The look upon such a horse is priceless. The look upon lot's of riders' is even more priceless. This must be practiced where there is no grass of course. Nothing to pull against means no reason to pull......."but then I won't be able to make my horse stand" I hear some say. Pre-train your horse via my system which can be found here and then handle any walk off with one rein which is not does fit the category of fighting with the mouth of a horse.....or....
     

  • Re-educate the horse to accept a proper contact via the use of side-reins, running reins, chambon etc
     

  • Lock up your rein hand on to the saddle so that when the horse goes to reef your hand forward, it runs into a brick wall which simulates side reins etc and the horse will learn to not bother. You see it is the movement of the hand that the horse finds control and hope in.
     

  • I have even put a head check on a ladies horse recently and threatened her with death if she doesn't give a looser rein than the adjustment of the head check. The horse and the lady were both amazed that once it had reefed a few times and ran into a brick wall with it's mouth, it stopped reefing.

  • However, it is the first option that I would hope that you train. The one that gives the horse as much comfort and pleasure as for you. In reality, there is absolutely no need to want to hang against the mouth of a horse at the halt or the walk unless in training or competition. Unless you are a fan of the 'Upside Down Neck' as lot's seem to be.

     

     

    Mr. HP

     

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