Bridling a youngster- how to do it right? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 11-17-2011, 08:48 PM Thread Starter
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Bridling a youngster- how to do it right?

Hi guys! Well, after months of ups and downs, I really had a good session today with my now 16 month old gelding. I picked his feet, brushed him, saddled him while he was loose in the round pen, walked and trotted him on a lunge line, etc. Basically everything but actually ride him. But we do have a hang-up that seems to be getting worse instead of better. Bridling!

When he was a weanling I would bridle him with a snaffle just to get used to it and he did awesome. He actually liked taking the bit in his mouth (he was very mouthy, and still is). So putting a bridle on his was no big deal. He would grab for the bit. But he would also grab his halter. It took me months to get him not to grab the halter in his mouth. And I admit I popped him in the mouth a few times for grabbing the halter (he wouldn't let me put it over his nose, it had to go IN his mouth.)

So I finally broke him of that and he halters like a normal horse. But, you guessed it, now he doesn't want to take the bit. I realize I screwed up and it would have been better for him to grab the halter than refuse the bit, but now that I am in this predicament, what can I do?

I started putting jam on the bit and that worked for a little while, but today I had a heck of a time getting the bridle on him. I ended up putting some grain in my hand with the bit, and then basically tried to get it in his mouth while he was getting the grain. He starts out with his head nice and low but when he knows I am trying to slip the bit it, his head goes up. So yes, he will lower his head, but not keep it there to bridle.

I realize this is a bad thing because not only does he not take the bit, but I am probably causing him some discomfort with the bit against his teeth while trying to get the bit in while he swings his head around.

I would love to fix this sooner than later because I don't want this to be a life-long problem. I don't want to force him to take the bit and have this problem haunt me for the next 30 years. Help please?
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post #2 of 6 Old 11-17-2011, 11:19 PM
Join Date: Jul 2011
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Well work on lowering his head without the bridle. Do it in a halter, without anything (loose in a pen,) when tied/cross-tied, on the lungeline.. basically everywhere.

Then, start asking him to work his mouth. Stick your finger in the side of his face until he relaxes his jaw and chews.. make sure to praise. Do it everywhere.. don't let him back up and escape. Only take your finger away once he relaxes and chews.

Once he's got both of those concepts down, then you add the bridle. But take the bit off.. just work on putting it on him without him moving. Get him to keep his head lowered, and slip the halter over one ear, then the other.. practice fastening it up. Once he has that down, then you start asking him to relax and chew with his bridle in... then you add the bit back on the halter and make sure you time it right so when he opens his mouth to relax his jaw.. you slip the bit in without it clinging on his teeth.. that hurts!

It's a long drawn out process.. but you don't want to just muscle the bridle on. That will lead to a very sour horse. Yes you do need to be the leader and what you say goes.. but a horse's mouth is very sensitive and you want his experience to be positive.

Just to add on, it helps to have the halter fastened around his jugular so if he tries to back up to avoid the bridle (resistance) then you have something to make him stand. But keep in mind a horse feels vulnerable when they can't see what's going on behind them so he may turn his head or try to look behind.. just get him refocused.
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post #3 of 6 Old 11-18-2011, 12:48 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
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Hey, i feel the pain... sadly we can't keep a horse's head down now can we? No... so with my arab, i got him last year he didn't want the bit what so ever... so what i did was played a game... i would use the clicker training method... do you know of it? look it up if you don't.

Anyways. you hold the snaffle bit without the bridal attached to it. Hold with both hands around the rings... let him go to the bit. click for the action remove the bit from site and reward with a treat... petting, cookie... etc. But to get this you need the basics.... it won't take long if the horse is bright and willing to learn, the method is all positive and is not very usual in the horse world but it works for my boys. Trust me... i was made fun of at fair with my clicker and treat bag fanny pouch while i was out with the others... but if it works for your horse than it works and that's that... i use the method with my dogs and flipped it over with the horses... There are books and videos on the subject...
Hope all goes well and the riding will be on its way!
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post #4 of 6 Old 11-18-2011, 06:13 AM
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as long as you don't give up untill the bridle is on then it'll get easier over time. regardless of how you do it. if the horse is one to throw its head up far enough so that you can't reach then it may be usefull to teach him to lower his head, but unless it's taller than you and your arms at full extension i'd just stay with him untill it's on.

painting something like honey on the bit will make it faster
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post #5 of 6 Old 11-18-2011, 09:32 AM
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I guess it all depends on what you want and what your will 'settle' for. Personally, I want a horse that is 'trained' to accept a bridle. I don't want to spend 30 hours trying to convince him that he should want to have a bit in his mouth. I do not want to 'coax' a horse into anything because then the horse knows that it is optional and the power to accept or refuse is in his hands (hooves maybe).

Did anyone read about how I use a 'lip string' or a 'sugar string'? This is a problem that is tailor-made for the lip string. I consider a lip string to be the simplest and best tool to provide a solution I can use to alter a behavior I want to change or teach. As I have said before, it ONLY works when you use it 'lightly' and do not cause pain. You only want to cause discomfort that can be instantly stopped the second you get the correct behavior from the horse. As soon as you lose your temper or cause pain, the horse becomes reactive and all learning stops. A hard to bridle horse takes about 10 minutes to 'fix' and about 3 or 4 follow-up sessions that usually take less than 5 minutes each. After that, the horse is perfectly willing to comply. He has been 'taught' that holding his head down and accepting the bit and bridle is the 'easy' thing to do.

Just slip a 1/8 inch diameter string under a horse's upper lip (right above his upper front teeth) in such a way that you can tighten it and release the pressure very easily. You can run a string from the upper right side ring on a flat halter, through the lower right side ring, through his mouth above his teeth, out of the left lower side ring and to a regular lead-rope. If you have a loop tied in the string, you can just snap a lead-rope into it. If done this way, the string only needs to be a little over a foot long.

You apply light pressure to the string until the horse lowers its head. Then, you release the pressure. You 'mess' with his mouth and every time he elevate his head to evade the action, you simply apply pressure to the string until he gives it up. Then, you go to bridling the horse. It is easier if a second person does the bridling while the other person uses the string to get the correct head position from the horse.

This works in a few minutes for horses that do not want to be dewormed, bridled, have their ears touched, stand for eye drops -- you name it and it can be used to get about anything reasonable accepted by a resistant horse.

It teaches a horse to behave and does not coax or try to talk a horse into behaving. I cannot imagine why anyone would want a horse to learn something is optional when it is so simple to teach one that doing the right thing is easier for both horse and handler.
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post #6 of 6 Old 11-18-2011, 12:23 PM
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Also keep in mind that his mouth is changing and that carrying the bit may actually be painful for him at this point leading to him refusing to take the bit. Have you had wolf teeth checked etc.?
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