Hard-mouthed. - The Horse Forum
  • 1 Post By GreenBackJack
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post #1 of 7 Old 03-19-2012, 07:15 PM Thread Starter
Join Date: Sep 2011
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Well, I'm back again. :)
Today I have a small issue. Specs is kinda hard mouthed. It kind of depends on the day, and he is pretty much always barn sour, but I'd still like to get him to be softer!
I think stubbornness is most of the problem. We don't have an arena, so we always just ride on the dirt road by the barn or the field by the barn. It takes a LOT of effort on my part to get him away from the barn. I'll cue him on, and he'll just back-up, nomatter what, so I always end up circling him til he gives up, then continue on. I'm usually the one sweating more than he is.
Yesterday on the dirt road, he threw a little fit, I circled him, then continued on. once i thought we were fine, I let him run because he hadn't been out in a few weeks, and after 200 meters or so, he stops abruptly and spins around, and thanks to the law of Inertia, I kept going the same way, front flipping over and landing on my head and back. (THANK GOD FOR HELMETS.) Needless to say I'm very sore today.
Anyway, I know it's not all his problem. I need to clean up my riding too. When he gets tense and naughty, i get tense and nervous, and I end up yanking on his mouth more than usual.
Is circling the wrong thing to be doing in a situation like that? It seems to be the only thing that works. I have also noticed him gaping his mouth when I slow him from a run, that's my fault, I think, but there's no other way other than the one rein stop to get him to slow down! I remember my seat cues usually (and I use them a lot,) but I'm not too great with my leg cues, and he doesn't really understand them, so I just don't use them much. I depend much more on the reins and my seat.
Can I have some tips on how to get him to be more soft, and maybe just generally more obedient? Also on how to get MYSELF to not be so hard handed?

Every horse is an angel... They just don't need wings to soar!
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post #2 of 7 Old 03-20-2012, 05:34 AM
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really depends how your doing the circles. if by circle you mean "turn left and keep turning left", then chances are good he's doing 'travelling' circles and is going wide when he wants to go wide (probably when he's facing the barn) and falling in when he wants to fall in (probably when he's facing away from the barn). if so, pick something stationary on the ground like a rock or a weed or anything you can see and that won't move (which we'll call "X", in this case representing the centre point of your circle) and don't stop turning him towards X untill he can easily go around it all the way for several consecutive laps. to start off with he might not go on the far side of it relative to the barn, and when you face him towards X and away from the barn he might even balk & back up towards the barn like you described, in which case push him forward, and if he responds to that by backing faster you can either pop him on the rump with a rein/whip or turn him. if you turn him, make sure that when he's going again you turn him back to X. if he goes wide, just keep asking him to turn the same direction and use more outside leg if necessary, if he falls in so much that he changes direction towards X, change reins and go around it the other way. and stick with it untill it's as easy as at any given point you just pick something as your X and he will willingly go around it/through it (if its a creek)/over it(if its a jump)/under it(if its something spooky above him) or stop within whatever distance of it. for barn sour horses, X is the barn so the more you focus on & enforce your chosen X, the less he'll focus on his decided X.

and RE softening your hands (thus softening his mouth), use your hands and reins 'as little as possible but as much as necessary', and try keep all your hand/rein movements smooth.
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post #3 of 7 Old 03-20-2012, 07:08 AM
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loosie is offline  
post #4 of 7 Old 03-20-2012, 07:18 AM
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'Hard mouthed' doesn't mean the horse is any less sensitive physically - strong bit pressure still hurts, but he's either reacting automatically, probably to pain or fear of pain & pushing against it, or he's learned to resist/ignore the pain. Gaping his mouth means it really hurts him.

It could be a physical issue - teeth, bit, neck, saddle, back, etc, so I'd want to rule those out first & foremost. I'd also consider a bitless bridle/halter.

You need to make the Right things easy & Good for him, so don't ask for too much, just a little & then reinforce that, with release of pressure/quit hassling, a treat, bit of grass, etc.

As you have said you get tense & bracey yourself, this is really likely to make matters worse, not to mention being unpleasant & if you persist, worse for you. Therefore I'd really consider lessons with a (good, positive & supportive to both of you) instructor & sticking to enclosed area. Electric tape & tread in posts make a cheap & portable arena if there's nothing better.

Start with basics & first teach him to yield to pressure and seat aids at a standstill before asking *gradually* for *a little* more as you both get it together.
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post #5 of 7 Old 03-20-2012, 12:04 PM
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Sounds like you two have trust issues. You don't trust him and so you pull on the reins and he doesn't trust you because you pull on the reins. As you've figured out for yourself, just because you have a bit in his mouth doesn't mean you can control him if you can't communicate with him. From what you describe I think you got pretty lucky the other day. It could have been a lot worse and unfortunately he's learned how to get you off. You can try all the tricks in the book for "fixing" this but if your horse doesn't trust you then you will always be fighting him and playing against the odds that the next one doesn't land you in the hospital.
It may not be the most popular advise but, I really think you need to work on your relationship with this horse. You have to be able to trust him on the ground before you can trust him in the saddle and vise versa. Right now it sounds like he doesn't trust or respect you and while you've been able to "force" him to your will, he is beginning to figure out he's stronger.
Take a deep breath and think about what is going on with him and with you. 'Cause it sounds like there is a lot of uncertainty/perhaps fear in you and he is picking up on that and running with it.
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GreenBackJack is offline  
post #6 of 7 Old 03-20-2012, 09:00 PM
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Well said GreenBack. I'd actually written a longer response, including lots about trust & relationships... & learning to *enjoy* eachother's company, but it got lost in cyberspace & above was the shortened version - glad you put it so well.
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post #7 of 7 Old 03-20-2012, 09:34 PM
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Ya kinda answered most of your own questions. The things you list which you have a feeling might be contributing to the problem, are. ;)
Ian McDonald is offline  

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