Why does my OTTB shake his head?

There are two reasons why your OTTB would shake their head

  • You have put to much bit in their mouth
  • You are trying to ride them on a loose rein

The biggest misconception out there is that your off track horse is going to be hard mouthed and crazy. The worst thing that most people do when they start to retrain is over bit them.

Every thoroughbred is trained and raced in some sort of snaffle bit mostly D bits. They are trained to pull against the rider for balance, and so that the rider can lengthen and shorten their stride. As a race horse you want them to take a hold of the bit and pull into it, not throw their head in the air to get away from the pressure when they break from the gate. If they had to much bit on them to race most of them would not run at all, they would slow down, or stop all together.

 Jockeys and exercise riders train and race with a cross in their reins. The cross is used by the horse and rider for balance and control. Jockeys ride with very short stirrups. The cross allows the horse and jockey to pull into it for balance and the jockey to use it as a brake and to lengthen the horses stride. Without a cross in their reins most riders would not have enough balance to keep their hands steady, not jerk on the horses mouth, and not throw the horse off stride.

Your OTTB is used to having steady pressure on his mouth when they are being ridden. Your horse is throwing their head to try to get you to take a hold of them, that is they way they were trained. Try your horse in a softer bit and take a hold of their mouth, keep your hands low and see if that helps.