02-03-2013, 11:08 AM
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You just need to take the time to teach him bending exercises on the ground.
I worked long and hard with my 2-year-old last summer and she is moving well off of the leg, bending & stopping without ever having a bit in her mouth.
Basically, you get him soft at backing up on the halter and brining his head around to his shoulder. There are many different exercises you can do to get softness before you even step into the saddle.
One is to stand at the horse's shoulder and ask him to bring his nose to you. Go slow and release when he gives you what you want. Let him think and then try again and increase the length of time.
Another one is tostand on one side of your horse (left for example) and use a long rope, especially if you have a big horse. Put the rope on the opposite side of the horse and draw it across his body and around his hindquarters. Then step back and pull the rope gently. This exercise causes him to bend & turn away from you and then come around in a full circle and face you again. Some horses don't like it at first and want to back up, but just be calm and patient and remember to release the moment he gives you what you want.
Another is a good way of getting them used to body/leg pressure before you even get on. Again, stand at the shoulder and press one hand/fingers into the side of his throatlatch or even his cheek and the other right around where the girth would go. Start by pressing the girth first and then immediately push on his face/neck.
Again, most horses want to step away or even back up when you first try this but eventually they learn to yield their forehand away from the pressure. Depending on the horse, this can take anywhere from a few tries to many.
Oddly enough, it took no time at all to teach my 2-year-old this whereas it took my 18-year-old, well-broke Arab mare quit awhile to do this without walking forward.
PATIENCE IS KEY remember so don't be worried if he doesnt grasp it right away. You have time to work it out and he will be so much softer for it without having to use a bit and when you do put a bit in his mouth, you shouldnt have to apply as much pressure either to get a response because he will already be good at responding to light pressure ;)
Just a few ideas!
Also, once you do get on his back, before you even set off at a walk, it is always a good idea to get him relaxed at bending his nose to your toes to make sure he has a soft feel.