I have a 6 year old Arabian which I trained by myself. He is a pleasure to ride and very willing, but there is this one little annoyance:

When we train in the indoor arena, he becomes a total neckshaker sometimes. He does that even without any equipment, and it doesn't seem to be related to me sitting on him as he does that at free dressage, too (and very heavily). Funnily, when I ride him in the outdoor arena or go hacking in the forest, he never shakes his neck.

From his character he is very eager, awake, brings a joy of learning (he sometimes starts showing tricks to make me work with him from the ground instead of riding which is very adorable sometimes), but also very hard-running, he loves to move outside (but he is rather lazy indoors most of the time, no blame on that).

The neck shacking is to all sides and a very big movement of the neck, a rotation starting from the shoulder so heavily that in his first year of riding he even often lost balance. I must say to that, I conciously taught him the allowance to tell me when he doesn't like something (I clearly want him to and try this yet new way for me), and sometimes he does in very heavy ways (now that he understood he may talk and say no I still sometimes need to set the borders as he will test them on a regular basis, but I am able to handle him, so that's okay for me).

I ride him bitless and with a saddle that is fit several times a year (the saddle chamber had to be widened three sizes already - he's under the saddle for 1.75 years now), but also got a saddle pad. Funnily, when I stand on him an direct him, he will not shake his head since then he is totally focused on the task, just as he will not shake his head whenever I teach him something new.

My impression is, that he does that when he gets playful as he sometimes trots or galopps towards me and shakes his head. But he also does this when I ride him on a circle sometimes, and in that cases he is rather calm - but why only in the indoor arena? Lately I watched a video from three years ago right after I bought him and noticed that he used to shake his neck like that when he played with other horses.

I don't really mind if he'd do that his whole life since I go hacking most of the time anyway, but I do want to understand why and if there is anything I should change.

Is this an expression of boredom? I sometimes think he just doesn't like riding indoors.

What experiences have you made with excessive neck shaking?

YouTube: Neck shaking at 1:28

  • 1
    My filly would do that quite a bit (she died last year). It was playful. But I don't know why he's doing it in the indoor arena only. I know he has a change of mood when you're riding him, but I suspect it's playful. He looks like such a sweetie
    – user6796
    Mar 9, 2020 at 4:05
  • I'm looking at your youtube videos, you're a great horsewoman.
    – user6796
    Mar 9, 2020 at 4:07
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    thanks <3 Yeah, at first I thought it was the saddle, but when he continued at hand, I really started doubting that. Might be playfulness, though that is very odd when you sit on the horse
    – kaiya
    Mar 9, 2020 at 8:19
  • @Melissa Loos - My filly currently does that when I work her inhand in our outdoor arena if I don't escalate the training quick enough. She can have quite a firey/spirited temperment and she will usually do this around 4-5 strides before a buck. For her I know it's boredom as well as evasion. I don't like what we're doing so I'm going to misbehave or at the very least make her annoyance known. Your Arab could be displaying smaller signals (E.g Not doing the buck :') ) to let you know he's irritated but still willing. With that being said I haven't watched the video yet either. ;) Mar 10, 2020 at 16:38
  • @MelissaLoos - After watching the video does he shake his head sideways or up and down? It could well be headshaking syndrome. We have a polish warmblood x TB who has this and he gets significantly worse in summer or in dusty environments which could explain why he's worse in the indoor arena. Would you be able to get footage of you riding him in the indoor? :) Mar 10, 2020 at 16:43


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