Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: Southern California
I have worked horses with this issue and have found it helpful to first teach the horse the proper place to have his head for bridling and unbridling. I will also teach the horse to release to downward pressure of the lead rope.
The best place for the horse's head is bent around your side, your hand on the poll and the horses face next to your stomach. First I would get him to lower his head when you put pressure downward with the lead rope then your hand on the poll. I would say rein, but the bit is an issue so we won't use that just yet. Every time you put pressure on him look for the head to drop. Release the pressure as soon as it goes in a downward direction. He may take it up before down, but don't add pressure and release immediately when the head goes in the downward direction.
When he will willingly drop his head to your hand on the poll, place your other hand across the bridge of his nose and place pressure on the off side, toward you. Release the pressure as soon as he brings his head toward you. Same as before, if he takes it away, just follow and release on any movement toward you.
With both cues work with the horse until he will bring his head into the right position. Work with your horse until he will place his head there willingly and leave it there until you ask him to move it.
I would then use something soft to take the place of the bit, like a soft rope. Place that into his mouth and if he raises his head or pulls away, use your cues to bring him back. Once you have the bit in with the horse's head in the correct position, work on taking it out. Only let him spit it out when his head is in the correct position.
Next you can try a snaffle type bit as the curb is more difficult. Do not let it get near his teeth unless his head is in the correct position and I hold the bit (same as putting it in, thumb through the left ring and ring finger through the right ring, first two fingers can move the lips out of the way if needed and thumb can lay on the gums to encourage mouth to open) to be sure it comes out when he tries to spit it out so it will not touch the teeth. I would not put the bridle on completely either, just hold it steady on the bridge of his nose. Also, I would leave the halter on as well so you can control his head with the lead if need be.
I would stop the lesson when he keeps his head in position and drops the bit once. Give the horse a break and do again.
You may need to teach your horse to open his mouth and to do that, when he is keeping the head in the correct position, place your finger on the gums where the bit rests. Use your cues to keep his head in position. If he does not open it, touch his tongue. If still not, use two fingers. BE VERY CAREFUL to stay away from the teeth. Practice until he will willing open his mouth with a touch to the gums and leave his head in the correct position.