Help - Jaw Locking! - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 5 Old 01-21-2011, 06:26 AM Thread Starter
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Help - Jaw Locking!


I wonder if someone can advise how I can stop my horse from sticking his head on his chest and locking his jaw. He is currently ridden in a grackle bridle as you can hear him crossing his jaw with a happy mouth bit.

I have tried riding him in a snaffle bit but this seems to only make him stronger! 9/10 out of ten he's lovely to ride but when we start to canter is when I have trouble keeping him from taking off with me around the school.
He can be lovely for 8/9 strides and then all of a sudden he will stick his head down lock his jaw and take off and I can't pull him up. The more I pull the more he sticks his head down and pulls! And then all I can do is sit tight and circle!

Does anyone have any suggestions or any help how I can resolve this??
Any advise would be very much appreciated!
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post #2 of 5 Old 01-22-2011, 09:19 AM
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What a pretty fella!

First order of business is to eliminate any and all physical reasons for the horse to resist. Your horse isn't crossing/locking his jaw for his health, and the grackle isn't doing anything but masking a symptom. How old is the horse? Could he have teeth coming in? I would schedule a dental exam first thing if he hasn't been seen recently. Look into his saddle fit as well as any potential muscle/joint pain that could be contributing to his resistance. Your horse is trying to tell you something.

What kind of bit do you normally ride him in? You said it's a happy mouth with the grackle setup, but they make happy mouths in a lot of styles, snaffles, gags, curbs, etc.

My "fix" to your problem will be dressage/flatwork based, so if that isn't "your discipline", please bear with me a bit.

First, reevaluate your tack. You've got a lot of hardware in the pic you posted - is it all necessary? I would take it back to a well-fitting saddle and a snaffle bridle with a cavesson fitted only tight enough to not be dangling. I recommend a French link snaffle, adjusted only tight enough to maybe create 1 wrinkle at the corner of his mouth. The French link will minimize any nutcracker effect and mouth discomfort. Lose the martingale for now - it won't be necessary for some basic flatwork exercises.

Second, you say that he gets excited and resistant at the canter - I'm betting that he does this at the walk and trot, too, but in a less extreme way. Go back to the walk and try some basic suppling exercises.

Start with a loop in your reins, riding the buckle. Ask for a turn from your seat and legs. Sit tall and "kneel" in the tack, look in the direction that you want to go, apply your inside leg at the girth (think of that leg as a fencepost that the horse is curling around) and your outside leg behind the girth to encourage bend. Feel his ribcage swinging with each stride and use that to your advantage. Lastly, open the inside rein to guide his nose where it needs to go. (This is an exercise described and demonstrated in much greater detail in this video: Riding Basics | Horse Videos – Video Library --- All of these videos are worth watching ). When he's calm, relaxed, and accepting of the exercise at the walk, try the trot.

Here's some more on just allowing the horse to relax and work freely without getting chargy at any gait: Riding Basics | Horse Videos – Video Library

Practice whoa and go on a looped rein. This video explains these ideas much better than I can:

You may need to reevaluate your use of your hands and your position. Address any reasons why you may be contributing to his resistance through your position or use of your aids. If he starts even thinking about locking up and bracing at the walk and trot, start bending him "Chris Irwin Style" as outlined above to supple him again. Don't think about pulling him up, think about easing that tension and resistance. Pulling just creates more pulling.

Sorry for the novel. Perhaps anyone with more experience dealing with ingrained resistance like this can add to or correct my advice.

More on Crossed/Locked Jaws:

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #3 of 5 Old 01-23-2011, 06:23 PM
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I have a few ideas.

Assuming you're on a circle, bump him once with your inside leg to get him more into the outside rein. I always get an immediate reponse in terms on hind end engagement, even if it is only for a few strides. The more extreme version of that is to bump him a few times to where you're practically leg yielding around the circle. I'm not sure how subtle you want to be, so I just throwing this stuff out.

My other trick is the gently change the flexion every 2 strides at the canter, just enough to see the inside eyelashes each time you change. It seems to keep them from locking up.

That's all I've got for now.

You just have to see your don't have to like it.
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post #4 of 5 Old 01-24-2011, 04:35 AM Thread Starter
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Hello - thank you for your advice, it was very helpful in answer to your questions he's 8! but he's very behind for his age, it's more like teaching a 4 year old. I dont think the people who had him before did much with him (although they said they had!) He's ridden in just a straight bit- no curves and not in a snaffle style. When I first got him I had problems with circles and him resisting to bend so I had his teeth checked out and done so this eliminated and resolved one problem, and the saddle I brought him with also didnt fit so I've changed that to a new proper fitted saddle. I also had his back checked out and the saddle had made him sore but he is now totally sound and comfortable. Is there anything else I should check that I might have missed? Oh and that picture was taken at a showjumping competition I actually now don't ride in a martingale as like you said it's un-neccessary.
Can I ask what the cavesson is? and what it's meant to help with?just I've never used one before!
He actually has a lovely trot and doesn't lean or lock on you - it seems to be only in the canter when he gets to excited (which after what you have said seems a little odd that it's only in one transition). And the only way to stop him is to circle continuously.
My instructor said that I might be to light for him? so therefore I dont have enough weight in my saddle to hold him when he does play up, he can just pull me forward out of my seat - my weight shouldnt make a difference to how he is when ridden should it?
Thanks again! x
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post #5 of 5 Old 01-24-2011, 07:33 PM
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A cavesson is just a "regular" english noseband.
And your weight won't have anything to do with how he is when he's ridden. Trust me on that one, my trainer is a 5'4" petite woman and successfully took a 17 hh Irish Sport Horse around advanced level eventing, no simple task in and of itself. Add to that the mare was very pushy about her dressage! It's all about being EFFECTIVE with your aids.

I agree with MyBoyPuck. Also, make sure that you aren't just pulling on him when he curls and locks his jaw, that will only make him want to brace and go even faster. Give a half halt, lighten, and encourage him to carry himself UP and OUT, not down and curled. It's hard to explain, but it's like you want to half halt towards his ears. Literally lift your hands up and forward when you half halt. It's a bit extreme, but you want him to realize that he needs to carry himself up. He's probably curling and locking his jaw because he's getting tired and lacks the muscle to continuously carry himself at the canter, so he's trying to avoid using his muscles properly.

"Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn. Then, always be a unicorn."
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