Bridling a very sensative horse?

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Bridling a very sensative horse?

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    08-28-2011, 04:47 PM
Teen Forum Moderator
Bridling a very sensative horse?

I'm sure all of you know Sour and that she has some.... erm...quirks.

Anyways, I recently bought a leather driving bridle for Sour, along with a 3.5" half cheek snaffle bit. I pre-measured everything, then went out to try her with it.

The first time, I enlisted the help of a friend of ours who has cart-trained most of our miniatures to help me bridle her. The trainer first had me tie Sour's head down to the lower rail in order to keep her head down...something I didn't really understand since not only would it scare her if she tried to pull her head up, but she's only 32"'s not like I couldn't reach her head if she DID hold it high. But, since she had done this more than I had, I followed her instructions. She then had me take the bridle (I had taken the reins off at this time), hold it up to Sour's mouth- and offer her a few pellets of horse feed to coax her into taking the bit. As soon as she took the bit, I was to give her the food. She did really well, taking the bit. Ofcourse, being her first time- she kept her mouth open and kept drooling- but the Trainer said that this was to be expected. We left the bridle on for one minute, took it off, gave her some more grain, then repeated the exercise.

Two days later I decided to try again. This time though, I got the bit into her mouth but when I went to slip the bridle behind her ears, she jerked backwards, scaring herself. I figured that the browband was scaring her, as she'd never had me pull her ears under something before, so I backed off (my first mistake) of bridling her and worked on some ear desensatizing. I should have tried bridling her again afterwards, but wanted to stop on a good note.

The next, day, I tried again- but without the browband. I didn't even get as far as getting the bit all the way in her mouth before she suddenly jerked backwards, reared- and fell over. This, ofcourse- shocked her. I checked her over and she was fine luckily, but I think it scared both of us. I coaxed her into taking the bit afterwards, not wanting to make the same mistake again, but didn't put the whole bridle in.

What I want to know is if there is a way to make it less scary for her, or to coax her into taking the bit without a fight. (she does a LOT of head shaking, tounge thrusting, and ear pinning when I'm bridling her.) I've taught plenty of horses to take a bit, but I've never had one so determine not to give in to it! A friend recommended rubbing some apple juice or honey on the bit...I don't know if that would work or not?

I'm bridling her with a halter on at the moment for more control, while she is tied (not down, like the trainer first had me do, BTW, with enough room to take a step in any direction.) with grain to entice her. Should I be having someone hold her while I bridle her? Everything seems to fit right so I don't think it's hurting her.

Any help would be great guys, thanks!
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    08-28-2011, 09:27 PM
My horse was very resentful of being bridled for a while. I found a bridle that had easy to remove snap on things to hook the bit on with. I put the bridle on over her head; then I put the bit in and snapped it on. It worked. I don't know if this is ideal. I would be very scared to tie a horse that is scared of the bridle to put it on her. I would just hold on to the lead rope so she won't commit suicide.
    08-28-2011, 11:29 PM
Molasses works well, too - they love the flavor. I dripped Dr. Pepper on the bit the first time (I happened to be drinking it at the time) and then molasses on my young horse's bit for the first few bittings. I tied about 2 1/2 feet of twine to the snaffle rings and made it just long enough to go around his poll. While he was wearing his halter, after he took the bit, I tied the twine so that the bit was in the right position and let him wear it for a while. This way, he didn't have to get used to the bridle and bit at the same time. Also it's important that they are used to having their ears touched and rubbed and flattened, so you might work on that with other things like towels, ropes, etc. before you try putting the bridle crownpiece over her ears again.
    08-29-2011, 02:50 AM
Does it go on her head easily? If the bridle hurts her ears or head while you're putting it on she may be doing that to avoid the bridle, not necessarily the bit.

It sounds like she's used to bad experiences with bridling. If she takes the bit fine and fights when you put the actual bridle on, you may want to desensitize her more to things touching her face.
    08-29-2011, 01:53 PM
Teen Forum Moderator
Thank you so much, everyone, for taking the time to read this and give me advice.

Celeste- that is a very good idea. At the moment I can't afford to buy a new bridle (just bought the driving one, and it was a good $60 plus the special bit) but I have some extra snaps for our leadropes. Do you think that if I shortened her bridle, attached the snap- and used that- it would work just until she gets used to being bridled? I, also was very wary of tying her, but decided that the trainer probably knew best. (I'm fairly sure that I was wrong in that assumption now, though) I did tie her myself the day she flipped over, but the reason for that is, because of Sour's abnormal hate for other people (which we've worked on but she hasn't totally given up) I figured she'd feel more nervous if someone else was holding her. I guess she's just going to have to deal with it though, as having someone else hold her will be much safer....atleast for her xD

Ladytrails- that is also a good idea! I don't think I'll use the twine idea for Sour though. She's a chestnut and I've found that she has EXTREMELY thin skin. She even gets sores from wearing a nylon halter if it's on for more than an hour or so, and from her driving harness (I had to get cotton padding for almost the whole thing because of it). Twine would probably do more damage than good.

Horseloverd2- It's snug enough to keep the bit from hitting her teeth, but it's not tight. I do have to maneuver her ears quite a bit before I can get the bridle on, but having it any looser seems to be too loose. Maybe I should just go ahead and loosen it, then hold it in place for the time being?

I'll definitely take your advice about desensatizing. I'm going to back off of the bridle for a week or so and do some more ear, cheek, eye, and jaw desensatizing before I try anything else.

Another thing I'm wondering about, is if there is away to prevent her from getting her tounge over the bit? Is it too big or something?
    08-29-2011, 02:04 PM
She isn't scared, she's figured out what works. Put some feed in the hand that will hold the bit and she'll have to open her mouth to get in. In goes the bit. Then remove it making sure she lets go of it. After this is going ok insert the bit then give her a treat. The move the bridle upward holding it between her eyes and treat. Do this a few times and then put one ear through. Always push it forward as back is the anger position. She's smart and will figure out that if she cooperates treats will come. Be sure to have plenty.
    08-29-2011, 03:15 PM
Originally Posted by horseloverd2    
Does it go on her head easily? If the bridle hurts her ears or head while you're putting it on she may be doing that to avoid the bridle, not necessarily the bit.
I don't think that she is afraid, but I do like this suggestion. I would get her used to the bridle going on without the bit attached to it.

Why do you need to feed her to get her to open her mouth, can't you put your fingers in behind the teeth and open it yourself?
    08-29-2011, 03:31 PM
Originally Posted by Endiku    
Maybe I should just go ahead and loosen it, then hold it in place for the time being?
That's what I would do when you start bridling her again, or as AlexS said just take the bit off completely. Some horses absolutely hate having their ears messed with.
    08-29-2011, 05:25 PM
Teen Forum Moderator
SaddleBag- that is what I have been doing. Using small amounts of grain to reward her for taking it, and using it to get her to willingly open her mouth.

AlexS- it's not that I need to have her open her mouth herself, just that I figured that if atall possible- willingly taking it instead of using my fingers to pry her mouth open would be the best option. Not to mention (and I admit this) that I'm a little wary of putting my fingers in her mouth- teeth or no teeth. When I first started working with Sour, she kicked, bit (not nipping, full fledged ripping a chunk off of you. I have scars to prove it xD) spun, trampled, you name it- she did it. She's much better now and hasn't tried to kick me in almost a year, and she only occasionaly nips (and is instantly repreminded) but I can't help but be just a tad scared of sticking my fingers in her mouth. Guess I'll just have to get over it xD

Should I leave the nose and browband on when I'm practicing with her?
    08-29-2011, 05:37 PM
Green Broke
Asking a horse to take the bit that way is not the best way to start them. They wont know what to do with it and it just confuses them, also it doesnt make having the bit in thier mouth pleasent.

Personaly when bitting a horse for the first time I start with just the head slip and bit so no noseband or browband, leave it fairly loose and coat the bit with either molasses or golden syrup (depending what I have in stock). Finger in behind the teeth, press down and the bit is in their mouth and bridle is up over thier head before they have time to register it as even remotely scarey. By which point they are then concentrating on getting all that lovely sugar and nice tasting stuff off the bit.

If you slide you fingers in the corner of her mouth behind the first set of teeth but infront of the 2nd set then you wont have any issues with your fingers as she physically can't do anything at all.

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