I have a 4 year old Arabian/Paint pony. She is very sweet, she's the "puppy" of the group. I have worked with her from birth and her ground manners are top notch. She responds very strongly to voice, rather than force. Last fall I started saddle breaking her. I couldn't actually ride her due to an injury (me, not her), but I was able to bit her and get her used to the saddle and lunging with the equipment.
Over the winter she wasn't worked with much, I don't have an indoor arena. So this spring, we've started back up.
I have done all of this by myself without an arena of any sort, out in the open or in a small paddock. She is practically fool proof most of the time. She barely reacted to her first time with a saddle on her back. She knows she has to stand when I want her to stand, and that has followed through to make this process pretty simple.
My only problem is that she doesn't want to accept a bit at all. She gets panicky with the bit in her mouth. So yesterday, I put just the headstall on with a bit and turned her out on her own to get used to it. She ran around, bucking and kicking, tossing her head. Eventually she calmed down.
I cannot work with her with the bit in her mouth, she acts like she doesn't remember anything i've taught her. She gets nervous, she prances. This is my first time and i'm a total newb at this. So we are both learning together. I've tried a french link snaffle, copper mouth. I've tried rubber. She just goes into panic mode, "I don't like this - omg omg omg omg." She's not bad at all, she just is in her flight mode. Every noise will spook her, every movement. I'll post two video's from last year, the first one is the very first time she had the saddle on her back and the second is the 3rd. She is SO calm, she respects me, I barely have to even lead her. Most of her training to date has been based on Natural Horsemanship. As long as she knows what i'm asking, she'll do it. You can see in the vids that she is just very calm and accepting.
The bit however, she hates. She lets me put it in her mouth, she keeps her head low. But as soon as it's in she's a quivering mass of nerves.
I have tried working with her with reins attached to the halter and she does great. But she's going to have to accept a bit eventually. Do I just keep making her wear it? What's the best kind to use (i have access to many, all very gentle. My harshes bit is a curb I used to use for barrels) to make her realize nothing horrible is going to happen just because there's a bit in her mouth?
She's a very small girl, and i've had a hard time finding a bit that fits her really well. Her teeth were just checked and I was told everything was okay and no float was needed (she's pastured 24/7), but maybe I should double check that? That was about a month ago.
Any words of wisdom for a first timer such as myself? I thought about sending her off for training, but she's so easy going I really think I can do it myself. It's just hard with the set up that I have. We're getting there. Here's the video's.
Note: I *look* funky in the beginning of this one. There's no sound so you can't hear, but I was just giving her a pep talk because she was wanting to go the direction we usually worked in, and was trying to be pushy about it. I needed her to go the other way because of where the camera was set up at. And as you can see, she accepted it without a fess. Mostly verbal cues from me. She was always relaxed, willing, and very accepting. Why does the bit make her freak out?
Here's the other, I just put this one together for my mother to see. But it shows how wonderful she usually is. This was like her 2nd or 3rd time, and you can see how I can tack her up without assistance/her being tied. She's practically trained to ground tie.
*Disclaimer - I do not reccomend working with a 4 year old who has never had a saddle, by yourself, in an open field, and tacking/untacking without the horse tied. Do not try this at home!*