Rooting With His Head

My perfect gelding is doing so well! He is in part training with a dressage trainer and then I get a lesson once or twice a week as part of the training package.

He will sometimes root down and try to yank the reins from me. I am still building core strength and balance after not riding for over a year (the horse I bought last winter, who sent me to the hospital for two days with broken ribs, a punctured lung and a torn bicep does not count because that accident happened on my first ride at home).

Any ideas on how to handle my guy and his rooting? My instructor tells me to use my core to keep him from yanking the reins. Which works. I think I know what you all will tell me: build my strength and my core and he will learn that rooting is a waste of time. He is super smart and once a behavior stops working he gives it up. When I first started riding him in September he would lift his head up in the air to evade the bit. So we rode him on the buckle and had him balance himself. He is a retired track pony horse who was use to a tie down to balance on. He is reaching for the bit now and comfortable with contact. I am using a loose ring French link that he seems to like.

He is very broke, super tolerant. I am a para rider and I think he is going to be freaking crazy good as a para horse. He tries real hard to do the right thing.


Assuming you aren’t asking too much of him and he’s not rooting because of muscle soreness…

With your disability, how is your ability to give him a boot when he tries that?

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Rooting with head? Kicking with leg.


Or if your weak tie a stirrup leather from the crown piece loosley to a sissy strap… but thats for 30 lb kids on ponies that can shake them off…

But if your healing it might be a temporary fix.
Also get a pair of spurs. And kick.

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How often are we talking about? Once or twice per ride? Several times in a row? Is it after a transition (like he wants a release)? Does he do this to your trainer too? If so, how does trainer respond (consistency is a good idea here)?

Other suggestion - to kick - is a good one. Here’s another:

If you have some idea when he is likely to root, another “gimmick” that can make an impression is to hold one rein firm and release the other one. This may make it easier for you to sit up (free hand on pommel or neck) and it may surprise him when he yanks one side of his mouth, thereby unbalancing himself a bit.


Thank you for the advice. My disability is that I have no feeling from the waist down. However, everything works. I just can’t feel it.

He has had chiro treatments and is feeling and looking good. I have a oh crap strap and can hold on and kick him forward. I have not worn spurs with him, but easily could transition back to them.

So, kick him forward and see what happens. I can do that.
P.S. It turns out he has a lovely walk-canter transition and he now picks up the right lead every time. At first he would counter canter. His left lead was solid, coming from the track that would have been his go to lead. He really is a lovey horse.


I have been taught to release one rein and hold the other. It’s uncomfortable for them to push on the bit when it’s uneven like that, they don’t get anything out of it (like yanking the reins out of your hands,) and (in general) they’ll stop doing it.


He tends to do it with me as opposed to my trainer. She has a core made of steel and he learned that yanking on her did no good. He tends to do it two or three times in a lesson (30-ish minutes long), especially when he knows the other horses are coming in from turn out and getting their meals when they come in. He knows the rhythm of the barn!

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Does he get walk/stretch breaks during the lesson?

I am asking these questions to allow for the possibility that he is trying to tell you something - like he’s not comfortable staying on contact as much as you are. I am thinking that since he’s such a nice horse, maybe he’s not testing you as much as expressing a legitimate preference.


yes, he gets walk breaks on the buckle. Mostly because I am not currently strong enough to ride for more than five-ten minutes without a walk break.

I also don’t dismount and take him to the barn at the end of the lesson. I will stand and talk to my instructor or cool him off by walking. So he isn’t going straight back to the barn after the lesson is over.

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He is an honest, hard working boy and it could easily be him trying to tell me something.


It could be that you are slightly hanging on his mouth with your shoulders.
If you allow your shoulders to sag or come forward it causes your hands to also become heavy .
My gelding used to sneak the reins from me all the time.
One day I was working on keeping my shoulders down and back and I noticed that my horse was a lot happier . Light bulb moment for me .

Another thing is to check your grip on the reins.
I was really bad at keeping a consistent length because my thumb was flat. You want to angle your thumb down to touch your finger .

It really works

Hope this helps.


Working on my shoulders makes sense. I use think, pebbly rubber reins because I have some arthritis going on in my fingers.

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As far as keeping your seat, it will take less strength if you make sure you’re not tightening up in your glutes or scrunching up your shoulders to resist the pull. Instead, keeping the glutes relaxed will help you stay down in the saddle. Then think of your elbows being anchored to your hip bones. I like the image of the fat Buddha - he has a low center of gravity and is relaxed but upright. Good luck towing him out of the saddle. I agree with the kicking forward because they can’t root and engage the hind legs at the same time. When he’s a being a good boy, offer him a stretch so he learns he can go down there, but only politely.


He may need to gain a little more strength behind and once he does the rooting will diminish.


I would give a kick, and maybe even a swat and ask him to hand gallop. He’ll fall on his face, every time he tries that trick, he gets tons of work, asked to move out smartly. Enough of that BS, never let him get away with that. If he roots, let go of his mouth and make him canter, gallop if you can, and gather him up, then work, work, work, in a good circle for a good while.

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On further consideration, if he was traveling with a high head in September then his back muscles are still in the process of adapting to their new role of lifting the rider and the saddle. His core is feeling the demand of holding that posture through transitions. Especially if your trainer has achieved “throughness” even in a Training Level frame, this is a lot of change in 60 days.

I would give him the benefit of the doubt and offer releases as often as you can when he is being good. Certainly let him know that rooting is not okay, but don’t punish him.


Ok. Any other Aussies on here that are really cracking up over this thread?

“Rooting” is basically what you say when you mean “f…king”. “Let’s have a root” is about as bogan courtship as you get.

I’m in stitches here.

Sorry, carry on!


I have an OTTB that likes to try and take rein away (“rooting at the bit”). I found that a Turtle Tactio was good for him. He was basically using his tongue to brace and push the bit around, the turtle plate helped to keep his tongue quieter. Maybe your chap needs something like a hanging cheek that he can’t “push around” as easily?

I didn’t go the hanging cheek route only because I found it just didn’t fit my micklem style knockoff bridle, otherwise I’d have tried one.

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Kick and a yank, while moving on forward like nothing happened.

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