How to Cure a Headshy Horse

Head-shyness is a common problem in horses, and can be extremely difficult to ease. It is important to remember that head-shyness is a result of fear and anxiety, so it is best to take it slowly. Some horses will always have some head-shyness left, but with great care and plenty of time, most horses will, at the very least, improve.


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    Expect it to take a while to remedy. Keep in mind that head-shyness is often the result of abuse.[citation needed] Your horse likely has a reason to be afraid. You flinch when something comes at your face, and so does your horse. It is really hard to stop that natural reaction. Getting frustrated and trying to take things too fast will only make the problem worse.
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    Use advance and retreat as a retraining method. With your horse haltered and lead in hand, start gently rubbing his shoulder. Gradually move on to his neck. As soon as he shows any sign of discomfort (starting, leaning away, lifting his head, panicky eyes), immediately (but still gradually) go back to rubbing where he was comfortable. After he relaxes again, move your circles back up his neck bit by bit. Again, at any sign of fright, retreat back.
    • Don't go all the way back to the shoulder, just far enough that he relaxes. Don't try to get all the way to his head in one day. Just gradually work up his neck, then let him go.
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    Repeat every day, gradually working closer to his face. Talk soothingly to him while you rub.
    • Never move suddenly. Always move smoothly.
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    Be careful with the face. Once your horse is comfortable letting you pet his neck, don't jump right into touching his ears and face. Pay attention to what makes him uncomfortable and don't push his boundaries too much. Don't reach over his eyes or block his vision.
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    Don't ever assume that your horse is cured. Even if you manage to reach the point where he always lets you touch his face, don't take it for granted. Keep being gentle with his face, because one misstep could cause the problem to reemerge.


  • Make sure to do this exercise in an environment where your horse feels safe, and where there you will not be disturbed. You don't want anything to spook him.


  • If you choose to tie your horse instead of keeping the lead in hand, be sure to use a horse knot that you can easily release in case he spooks.
  • Remember, working with horses is always dangerous, and head-shy horses are especially anxious, which means they may spook at seemingly nothing. Always be prepared for your horse to spook and make sure you have enough experience to handle the situation if he does. If you don't have that kind of experience, you are more likely to make things worse instead of better, and hurt yourself in the process. If you don't have that experience, get professional help or recognize that this horse might not be a good fit for you.

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