Getting her more responsive to the bit

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Getting her more responsive to the bit

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    07-04-2011, 11:50 AM
Getting her more responsive to the bit

Yes, another one of these threads!

Well, when I bought my mare she was in a snaffle, and then a combination of my poor riding and my own unconfidence produced some problems. So, my instructor advised me to put her in a Kimberwick, which she went pretty well in for about 9 months.

Now that I no longer have the speed and constant anxiety problems, I've recently put her back into the snaffle. She had about 3 months off for a variety of reasons, so the snaffle came after a good layoff.

Now, I'm noticing she's sort of...bracey...against the bit. I don't know if it's the bit, or the fact that she's just had 3 months off and is rusty. Most of the problem is her head and neck is very stiff. She doesn't like to bend; she just holds it straight out in front of her, even when she's looking and turning and stuff. I've given her a few little pops with the bit to get her to stop ignoring it, and we've done many little circles with her head popped to the inside. When we're stopped, I've pulled her head around to my knee, but she's still...not exactly pulling, but she's not giving to the pressure, either. Her neck seems to be particularly stiff on the right side, and she usually can't turn it all the way around to my leg.

Brakes are decent, she always stops within a stride or two, but I've noticed that she had a faster and more solid stop with the neck rope (before I laid her off, I rode her a lot in a neck rope or in a halter with two leads) than she does with the bit.

I usually neck rein, which she will do, but again, with little bend so I use a bit of contact to encourage it.

What do you think? I think she's definitely stiff/sore in her neck, especially 'cause she's so resistant to bending it to the right very far. Any stretches or exercises I can do to get her to loosen up? What else can I do to get her more supple and less resistant to the bit?
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    07-04-2011, 01:39 PM
I think she is mire likely responding to how you are using the bit.

You say you pop her in the mouth when she ignores you... All of my coaches would be likely to tan my hide with a crop should I do so. It is fundamentally wrong, and will cause pain to the jaw, tongue, as well as make the bit a negative thing t the horse.

A bit is a metal bar we put into the horses mouth and works on the basis of causing pain/discomfort. Less so with very soft hands, mire so when someone jerks on the reins... And a whole variety of in-between.

The issue here is not really the bit, but how you are riding. The bit should become obsolete the more you learn how to use your weight and legs to influence the horses movement.

What I would be doing, now that you are confident, is teaching your horse to respond to your body so that the bit becomes the last line of action. Work on a loose rein and try this exercise:

Put your horse on a circle... Without tightening your reins make the circle bigger or smaller. Start by going bigger... It's easier. Look over your outside shoulder, turn your hips to follow your eyes, keep your shoulders above your hips... Gently start to shift your weight in the direction you want to go, and take that outside leg away from your horse... She should start to drift out. If not, apply a little inside leg at a time until she moves over... Even a little bit, praise her like she won the Kentucky derby!

Repeat the process in opposite... To make the circle smaller.

The other thing you can start working in is, from the ground to start, teach her to move her shoulder away from pressure near the girth... Get her so she moves them a little for a light pressure, moves more for a harder pressure and so on. Try to keep her head straight, same with her body... Now from the saddle try it. Instead of riding a circle, you are going to ride a square. So go along the rail of the ring... Shift your weight to stretch your inside leg down (and pull it a little bit away from her side to make this clearer for her) and apply outside leg to the girth... She should try to move her shoulder (it can take practice) remember, no hands to turn her head... She has to pivot into the middle. Start by asking for 10 or 20 degree pivots at first, then work up to 90 degree turns, and finally 180 or even 360.

The idea behind all this... To remind her to listen to your body aids... Rather than needing to rely on the bit, to help her find better self carriage, and to help you understand how to use the whole of you to influence the whole of her without needing to fuss with her face .
    07-04-2011, 06:27 PM
So you'd tan this guy's hide?

I watched this, and just bump her mouth like he does when she doesn't respond.

So, you're saying just work her but don't worry about the bend of her neck? She's pretty good at moving off of pressure; I rode her bridleless and such all the time before she got laid off, so she'll work off leg and seat.
    07-04-2011, 09:25 PM
Is it a loose ring, egg butt or D-ring snaffle?
    07-04-2011, 09:37 PM
I did not like his use of the bit, no. Sorry, I don't care who you are or how successful you are, I think it unnecessary to jerk on the reins.

I never said I'd do the tanning anyhow... I said my hide would be tanned if I bumped on the reins.

Beyond that, no, I don't mean to ignore the bend of her neck either, exactly. I mean that the bend comes more from the leg than anything. If she is already going off your seat and leg aids, then you are further ahead of where I was thinking you were based on your first post. My square and circle exercise helps the horse understand leg and weight aids, As a whole, which includes the ability to understand moving the shoulder, ribcage, and hip depending on what weight aids are used in combination with leg. I was taught to teach this so all your hand really had to do was recycle motion. The theory being if the back is up and the horse is tracking well, the head will go where it needs to be for the horse to be in balance.

If it's just not happening for you, then you can help the horse out with a light, steady pressure with ONLY the inside rein, weight on your outside, and inside leg creating bend through the ribs. Increase the pressure until the horse gives... But release as soon as you feel the softening. You can start this at the halt.. Then walk.. Trot.. Etc I was taught that the amount of pressure you want in the end is the weight of the rein being lifted, ever so slightly. To achieve that the timing in the release needs to be right on.

Does that make more sense or am I making a muddle of it?

I have never found it necessary to jerk,tug,bump on the reins to do this, even with the stiffest horse. When they ignore the light pressure the pressure increases until they give...and it is released the second they give. They get the concept pretty quick.
    07-04-2011, 09:38 PM
Have you thought about any chiropractic for her ?

When I get my horses to bend, I do it off of my leg not my hand. If you want them to loosen their jaw/give a little more you can do a little massage on the rein with your hand. Bend comes from their whole body, not just their neck. I put them on a small circle at the walk, think of the smalled circle they can do. Bump bump bump with your inside leg until they give, then go the other way. When they do give, immediately stop bumping with your leg. This teaches them that inside leg = bend and give, not hand.
    07-04-2011, 09:41 PM
Oooh, ouch. No I would not suggest grabbing her with the inside rein like that. Thumping with the inside leg, yes to create bend, but if you pop her in the mouth, the last thing you'll get is a nice soft horse who likes contact.
    07-04-2011, 09:42 PM
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
Oooh, ouch. No I would not suggest grabbing her with the inside rein like that. Thumping with the inside leg, yes to create bend, but if you pop her in the mouth, the last thing you'll get is a nice soft horse who likes contact.
I'm talking about the video by the way. Don't like that dude's method at all. Softness in the head comes from softness in the body. You get that from proper bend by riding with proper seat cues.
    07-05-2011, 02:51 AM
Sudden movements are your enemy when it comes to achieving softness (or anything good really), so "bumping" is pretty ridiculous.

Rhythm is fine, as long as it's smooth and timed appropriately.

Also, persistence beats insistence, if you want a soft mouth have soft hands, etc.

Larry trocha does use some very sound concepts (that's most likely why he's successful), but his application of them are very crude, so by all means learn what you can from him but be very cautious about mimicking him.
    07-05-2011, 04:23 AM
If you are going to use reins to ride this horse, then use them meaningfully. I mean, if you can ride her with a neck rope, or mearly by seat aids, more power to you! Howver, if you add reins to the equation, then be sure that they are very meaningful.
So, by bumping the reins, it is harder for the horse to know exactly what they did to achieve a release, and it is important that the horse can earn itself a release for it to be involved in the learning process. When you aske the horse to bend around to you knee, but releaseed the rein while she was still leaning on it, you taught her to lean on the rein, becasue that is what earned her a reward. If you want her to "come OFF the rein", then you might ask her to bring her head around, maybe not so severely to the knee, and gently hold the rein, no bumping, and wait for her to stop pulling back. It might take minutes. She might spin, she might move her head up, she might freeze. You just wait and let her figure it out. But you keep sharp, because one minute she 'll move her head a bit closer to you, putting the tiniest bit of slack in the rein! She just GAVE to the rein! THAT is what you reward with a big, total rein release and a praise and let her walk forward.

You make the rein meaningful when you remember what you are asking for and don't reward the wrong thing, but do reward the very smallest thing that is Correct! Also, don't "ride the brakes" ,. Don't let the horse run through the rein. That is meeting her pull with an equal pull and you will only have a stalemate that builds dullness. You either meet her plus one ounce more, and wait for her to give , right? Or you utilize other techniques , such as circling and such to get the horse to give to the rein. Just don't hang out in the place where you meet each other's pull and the rein is negated and you are both grumpy about it.

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