Neck Reining How-To

Neck Reining How-To

Teaching your horse to neck rein is simple with a few specific exercises; here's how from Certified John Lyons Trainer Keith Hosman.

By Keith Hosman
Teaching your horse to neck rein is simple if you've done the prior exercises; here's how.

Neck Reining How-To

Prerequisites: This is more of a "finished-horse maneuver" so much work must be put in before attempting this material. You must have the ability to disengage the horse's hips (see "Steer the Tail" and "Hip-Shoulder-Shoulder"), excellent shoulder control (see "The Clockwork Exercise"), and mastery over the material covered in "How to Teach a Horse to Pivot on Its Hindquarters," "Train Your Horse to Travel Straight," and "Simple Steps to Power Steering." (All can be found and printed out at

The day you begin working to teach your horse to neck rein should be at least one day AFTER you have really nailed the exercises listed in the "Prerequisites" above. Neck reining is really just the culmination of having learned shoulder and hip control so you'll need the tools (read: abilities) found in that material to teach it.

In the horse world, the word "cue" means something that signals the horse to do something. It doesn't "make" the horse do something, it asks. Kissing to the horse says "move" - but doesn't make it move, see? We cue the horse to do something (kiss, shift our weight, move our hands, etc.), then apply "motivation" should that cue be ignored. Example: If I kiss and the horse just stands there, I squeeze (or kick) with my legs. The legs say "Don't ignore the kiss or you get the boot."

Basic stuff, I know - but it's surprising how often folks tend to get the two concepts ("asking for something" versus "making something happen") mixed up. There is a very real difference between "requesting" and "enforcing" and it's critical that we understand this going forward - especially when teaching our horses to neck rein. This is because neck reining is simply teaching your horse an "associative cue," "When I move my hand, you move your shoulders and feet." It's not: "I move my hand and pull you through a turn." To illustrate: How many times have you seen cowboys in a John Wayne movie take their hands...

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