With a little training, your horse will learn to drop his head quietly for you to put his halter and/or headstall on. Sounds nice, right? Here is how you achieve it.
Always teach your horse from both sides.
To begin with, I stand on the left side of my horse making sure I am not crowding him. Hold the lead rope in my left hand (just below the clip), and my right hand on the top of his head just behind the ears. Simultaneously, I push down with my right hand and gently pull down on the lead rope in my left hand.
At first he may not understand what you are asking him. You may need to add a bit of pressure to the top of his head with your finger tips until he figures out what you are asking him to do. Remember, a horse moves away from pressure. When he drops his head, release the pressure. Even if you only get a little bit at first, always reward him by giving the release. In addition, I like to reward him by stroking his neck, letting him know he is doing what I am asking. Repeat the process a few times. Once he gets it, I stop using the hand with the lead rope and only use slight pressure on top of his head.
Move to the Opposite Side
Next, I move to the opposite side, again don’t crowd him. Left hand on top of the head, right holding the lead rope at the base of the halter. Apply pressure to the top of his head and gently pull down on the halter. When you get the desired response, reward your horse by giving the release. This reward will give him the confidence that he is doing what is expected of him.
Your horse may not get it at first, or he may only get it on one side. If that is the case, take the time now to make sure he understands it from both sides. This is a process and until he understands it thoroughly do these steps each time you put his halter and/or headstall on.
Allow Your Horse to Learn
Remember, you are working with your horse’s mind. How you work with him will have an effect on future training. With that said, don’t force the response; allow your horse to learn what is expected of him. Connect with your horse by using trust and gentle patience instead of force and speed.
I like to add a voice command to this process as well. As he drops his head, I use the command “drop”. I use this command each and every time I put his halter and headstall on.
After you have complete success with this, start working with your headstall. Again, it is a process. Achieve success by using trust and gentle patience.
There are variables to this; are you working with a young horse, or breaking a bad habit in an older horse. If it is breaking a bad habit, the process may take longer…don’t give up…it will be worth it.
When I walk up to my horse with headstall in hand, I ask him to drop his head, he does, and I slip his headstall on… just like that.