When a horse resists having his head touched, he may be suffering from any number of physical maladies (painful teeth, poor eyesight, inflamed sinuses, infection in the ears, tumor developing in the skull, etc.). Perhaps the resistance stems from past physical abuse or use of a tool such as a twitch on the ear or the nose.
To overcome this resistance, and to more easily rule out the physical possibilities, the training is the same. The keys to overcoming head resistance include:
1. Use a halter and lead rope, but keep at least one foot length in your lead rope to allow your horse to move if he feels it’s necessary.
2. Always ask your horse’s permission to come into his or her personal space.
3. Release the pressure when your horse has his head toward you.
4. Reduce your horse’s stress by using calming homeopathies (Dynamite’s Relax, Bach Flower’s Rescue Remedy and Star of Bethlehem, or Essential Oils like Lavender, Frankincense, Roman Chamomile and Rose) during the training sessions.
Ask your horse’s permission to come into his personal space by presenting your hand palm down with shoulders softened. Read body language to determine if you can get closer and rub around the shoulder/withers area, then gradually move toward the head. Go slowly and make it enjoyable. If he begins to pull away, ask him to bring his head back; and once he does, step away from his personal space. This will release the pressure. The key is to release when he has his head near your hand or allowing your hand on his head. If you release when he has pulled his head away you’ve just taught him to pull his head away from you.
Overcoming head resistance will not happen overnight. Build up the acceptance and go at your horse’s pace.
Training Tip from Kim Baker, KB Natural Horsemanship, www.kbnaturalhorsemanship.com