Equine Behavior Questions and Answers

The Question: Why does my horse toss his head and sweat a lot when I ride him?

I have a 15 year old, bay gelding.that I have had for year and half. After I ride him for sometime, he seems to get really impatient and starts to throw his head. He does not try to throw me off or anything, he just throw his head like he's bored and has to go faster. The more I slow him down the more he throws his head. He also sweats a lot. I can load him in a trailer to go on a trail ride and by the time we get there he's wringing wet. By the time we get back from the ride its like he has been swimming. The other horse don't do it.

The Answer


It sounds like you have a very nervous horse, and you need to look at exactly whatís making him nervous. The first thing I always check when a horse is tossing his head is how his tack fits. Is the bridle the right size for his mouth or does it pinch his mouth? Are you riding him with a bit thatís much more strong than he needs? A lot of people like curb bits for trail riding, but some horses are more comfortable in a snaffle bit, bitless bridle or hackamore Ė I have a horse who tosses his head when I put a curb on him, so we went back to using a snaffle and heís happier. Also check how the bridle fits, is the brow band wide enough? Is there enough room between his ears and the crownpiece of his bridle? Is the bit properly adjusted?

If his bridle fits fine, examine the saddle and how it fits. Make sure thereís nothing poking or pinching him, and make sure he has no sore spots on his back or in the girth area. If all the tack fits well, have a veterinarian check his teeth and give him a general exam to rule out any physical problems.

If you can rule out physical problems and equipment issues, then you may need to spend some time retraining him at home, Work with him in someplace he feels comfortable, taking short rides and rewarding him for staying calm and relaxed, and gradually increase the length of your rides. Once heís riding well at home and staying quiet, start trying some short trail rides. Again, reward him for staying quiet and calm. The Equine Behaviorist

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