Chris Cox: Bring Your Horse's Head Around to the Side

Do you know the right way to bring your horse's head around to the side for suppling and control? Clinician Chris Cox shows you how to do it safely and effectively. Part 2 of 3.
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Do you know the right way to bring your horse's head around to the side for suppling and control? Clinician Chris Cox shows you how to do it safely and effectively. Part 2 of 3.

In Part 1, you learned how to take up your reins smoothly and efficiently in a movement I call the "choke." I also showed you how to ask your horse to give laterally to each side at a standstill, in preparation for this lesson.

Now, I'll show you how to use your reins to bring your horse's head around to the side. This maneuver can be used to supple your horse, or, combined with moving the ribcage and hindquarters over, as a way to deal with a buck, bolt, or other misbehavior.

When a horse gets "strong," his power comes from his hind end and ribcage through a stiffened neck. By bending his neck, suppling his ribcage, and stepping over or "disengaging" his hindquarters, you take his power away and soften his mouth at the same time.

I'll coach you through the maneuver at a walk; after you've mastered it at that gait, you can use the same technique at a trot and lope. Correct technique is extremely important, especially as you increase speed. If you pull your reins the wrong way, especially in an effort to regain control of a misbehaving horse, you risk dragging yourself out of the saddle or pulling your horse over on top of you.

As I explained in Part 1, proper rein management in general means good communication with your horse and improved safety for you both. It also enables you to let your horse travel on a loose rein between maneuvers. This promotes his peace of mind and encourages him to move freely. The goal throughout these lessons is to be able to use your reins smoothly yet quickly, in a way that makes sense to your horse and preserves the responsiveness of his mouth.

To Get the Most from this Lesson

  • You'll need: A level work area with good footing.
  • Outfit your horse in a snaffle bit with a roping rein or, as I'm using, a mecate rein. Eventually you can use my methods with open reins, but it's easiest to start with a closed rein. Mark the precise midpoint of your reins with a piece of duct or electrical tape.
  • Prepare your horse in advance by working him on the ground with a lead rope or however you ordinarily do to discharge excess energy and get him in sync with you.
    Check out Part 3 in the July 2005 issue of Horse & Rider, where I cover bridging your
    reins for vertical flexion.--Photos by Darrell DoddsHorseman Chris Cox has traveled the United States, Canada, South America and Australia for over 17 years presenting clinics and demonstrations. His approach focuses on building confidence through knowledge and establishing a relationship with your horse. Raised on a cattle ranch in Australia, Chris attended Longreach Pastoral College, an agricultural school where he earned the Horsemanship Award for top scores in class work and practical skills. Today his home base, from which he conducts clinics and produces "Chris Cox Horsemanship" for RFD-TV, is his Outback Ranch in Mineral Wells, Texas.This article originally appeared in the June 2005 issue of Horse & Rider magazine