Here is a scenario and question I asked several horse people from different disciplines: "
Below is an answer to this from horse woman, Penny Stone, who is the most senior TTeam practitioner for horses within several states, and an all-round capable teacher who focuses her horsemanship teaching practice on connection, health and performance.
"This is a question that deserves a detailed and thorough answer. The answer depends on whether or not the rider has had any past TTEAM training. If so here is what I would recommend.
First and foremost is safety for horse and rider. If you can't get your horse's focus and cooperation back while on her back, get off. This is not a battle of wills which you have to win, or a chance to “show her who is boss”. Your horse is genuinely frightened, and trying to coerce her into cooperation is likely to escalate her behavior if she doesn't believe that you can provide safety.
It is imperative to get her to focus and lower her head. High headed is high strung, and until you can get her head lowered and her focus on you, she is just a “head spinnning through space” with no connection to what her body is doing. Acknowledge that your horse is trying to alert you to danger. If you can see what is causing her anxiety, name it. Thank her, and tell her you've heard and “you've got her back.”
Both of the following strategies will help you lower your horse's head and return her focus and leadership to you.
Start by holding one rein of the bridle close to the bit and stroking your horse from head to toes in long slow strokes using a TTEAM wand or similar 40” dressage whip. (This length keeps you out of harms way while allowing you to reach all parts of your horse). By working in this way you can stay at the horse's head and calm her with the wand strokes.
If your horse is too anxious to stand still for wand stroking, pick out something along the trail to use as an obstacle – trees, bushes, big rocks, - anything that you and your horse can safely walk around. Using the wand to stop, start and turn your horse, and keep her in her own space, weave carefully around your obstacles with lots of starts and stops. Try to do a bit of wand stroking each time you stop. If your companion's horse's are calm, have them stand around and watch while this is going on. Their calm presence will help your mare calm down.
When your mare can keep her head and neck down and relaxed, and she is stopping, starting and turning by following your lead with the wand, try having her stand quietly for a couple of minutes while you stroke with the wand. When she can do all of this you are ready to remount.
If possible have one of your companions hold the side cheek of the bridle, and stroke from her throatlatch down the front of her chest and front legs to the ground with the wand while you mount. Once back in the saddle, you can continue stroking you mare with the wand by lying it across her back just behind the saddle, then stroking as far down the hind leg as possible. Do each side of the horse. You can also use neck jiggles, modified inch worm and TT circles on the neck and shoulders to relax and refocus her while you are riding.
All of this could change the horse's attitude and behavior in 5 minutes, but it may take longer. Take however long it takes. It is time well spent, as each time you provide safety and soothing you are expanding your mare's trust, confidence in you, and self confidence so that fewer and fewer things will be able to upset her and throw her out of balance. When they do, she'll look to you for leadership.
Some other tools from the TTEAM system that would help in this situation would be:
Wraps. If the horse is accustomed to wraps in the arena you can wrap a horse like this before you go out on the trail. The wraps give the horse a sense of being in their body, their boundaries, and safety. As the horse gains self confidence and confidence in you, you could take the wraps along on trail rides, “just in case”.
Balance Rein. This helps the horse telescope the neck and stretch the back – postures of balance and relaxation. It also helps the rider keep their balance, and gives them another tool to stop the horse instead of trying to do it all with the reins and bit. It can easily be tied to the saddle so that it will not slide down the horse's neck and will be there when you need it.
The most effective leadership is chosen, not coerced. Using these tools to become a source of soothing, safety and balance will refocus and relax your horse, defining you as a desirable leader. If applied with perfect presence and authority, you'll be creating leadership that your horse WANTS to follow." Penny
Penny is leading two rider clinics for us in our Women and Horses series. Join us for fun, learning and riding on:
Saturday April 6, 10 am to 1 pm, on a private ranch to learn some TTeam approaches to handling challenges with your horse on the trail, and
Saturday May 4, 10 am to 1 pm, on the same private ranch to apply your learning to challenges on the: water, tarps, bridge, carwash, poles, navigating steep ledges and narrow trails.
Sheila Armitage helps individuals and organizations adopt everyday resilience practices that boost work, home, and health.