I have a 7-year-old Arabian mare that I have owned since just before she turned 4. When I purchased her she was barely halter broke. She had been purchased by a breeder to bring a new line into her breeding program and so had very little handling because she was never to be sold. When I go her I treated her like a weanling because that is where I felt she was mentally and as far as her training went. I spent literally about a year and a half handling her everyday the same as I would any baby, progressing as she progressed. When it was time to start her under saddle I did it at home myself and really without incident. I rode her about a half a dozen times at the walk trot and canter in both directions both in the round pen and the arena and she really was perfectly well mannered. I didn’t interfere with her face at all… just worked on allowing her to go forward. I have a real confidence issue that began a number of years ago after a scary incident and I have a really strong fear of riding strange horses so I found a trainer I thought would continue with this mare where I left off. Within about two weeks my mare was shaking her head so badly that she couldn’t be ridden. I don’t know if the trainer pushed her too fast, hit her (another trainer suggested the mare acted like she had been really “BEAT” in the head, or if she just developed an escape behavior. I took her home and had her teeth, ears, neck and back check as well as her nasal passages and esophagus scoped. Under saddle she will go along fine with maybe a few ear twitches or mild shakes until you make any contact with her mouth. If I pick up on the right rein to soften her on the right she will begin really shaking her head and within a few seconds she will have folded her neck around to her left shoulder and will be frozen in place. She feels like if you push her forward she will either melt into the ground or blow straight up. The right rein was just an example. She is equally as reactive on the left. My saddle fits her well, as does the bridle. She is in an offset D-ring snaffle with just a 7/8ths sweet iron mouth. I have tried one or two other bits… also very mild snaffle. She will head shake even if she is just free lunged in just a headstall. She is better if I ride her in only a rope halter, but she still gets upset when you put any pressure on her. Before going to the trainer she was very soft in the face and was becoming more and more soft throughout her body. I really would like to be able to show this mare in the future, she is a wonderful mover and generally is very willing and really wants to please. Any suggestions?


Hi Lynne,

I can only suggest what I would do and from what I am hearing it sounds like she was doing better before you took her to get trained. I am not going to point blame at anyone because I cannot see the actual horse. To find a trainer the next time, go to and look up under your state for a list of qualified professionals. As what to do now it sounds like she needs an egg butt or rubber snaffle and I would gently check her head around, not tight, but just slightly to the right. I would do this both directions where she will not hurt herself, but learn to yield to the pressure. I would gently increase this each day, only doing this for twenty or so minutes. Ground drive her again and teach her to give both directions. Once she is yielding to the bit, start riding her and slowly working at flexing left and right, and she should be fine by then.

Let me know how it goes, thanks……….