How can I get a soft mouth? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 07-09-2007, 04:38 PM Thread Starter
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How can I get a soft mouth?

I sometimes ride this 14hh pony, who is a school horse at the barn where I board. She is a lot of fun for someone who loves to jump and gallop around the ring, but whenever I ask her to 'collect' herself she resists and becomes heavier on the bit. She is also extremly hard to slow down, even from the trot and I sometimes feel as if I am about to rip er mout or something. She goes in a jointed corkscrew snaffle, and she does wear a martingale. Any suggestions? I would really like to show her soon, (she used to win champion ribbons at HITS) so any help is appreciated. Thanks!
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-09-2007, 05:28 PM
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I had a similar problem with a school horse...unfortunately, the problems you describe can take awhile to remedy and can be easily undone by the next student who comes along.

If you don't deal with this horse on a regular basis, the best I can say is make sure your riding sessions include a lot of figure work...circles, serpentines, etc. Also, try to do excercises with a loose rein; you will notice her starting to drop her head and neck. Eventually, she will give you her mouth, but it can take a long time to gain that trust when they've learned that popping their nose up in the air helps them avoid the bit. She needs to be relaxed and moving forward freely before you think about riding with that much contact...if her head and neck come up, you loosen your reins and start again.

Think less about using your hands to slow down her speed and more about how your seat and posture effect her momentum. If she starts racing around the ring, sit up straight and go back to the circles until she calms down again.

And, as always, make sure its not a body pain issue first...a poor fitting saddle could be adding to all the problems you mentioned.
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-10-2007, 10:24 AM
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That is called "release of pressure" that is how horses learn, what you could be doing wrong is pulling every time she gives a little, so she gives a little and you pull a little she is never getting that release of pressure she is looking for. What you do to fix that is pull on the rains and put your hands on your legs and don't move them until there is slack in the rains and then give her, her head. You may be holding them there for 30 mins until she gives.

Sara is right about the seat.
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-15-2007, 07:25 PM
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Yes, when she gives to you open your hands so that you give back to her. It's counterintuitive, but hard hands equal a hard-mouthed horse. The harder you pull, the harder they pull. They're stronger than you, so you can't out-pull. You have to convince them that life will be easier if they give to the bit and get in frame. Also a school horse is used to inexperienced riders banging on her mouth, so she might need for students to stay off her to really see a difference, if that's possible.

Also, horses tend to do better in a softer bit once they've given to a harsher bit. When she gives to the bit she's in right now, take her down to a milder one until you get her in a smooth snaffle. She may have scarring her mouth that requires a harsher bit so that she feels contact. If she's been ridden for years with hard hands and a hard bit she may not get down to a snaffle. In general though I prefer as mild as possible - they stay softer. Also it gives you the option to use a milder bit at home and then step up to a harsher one at a show, where she might need a little more bit.
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-15-2007, 10:26 PM
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I would say to use a square snaffle but you HAVE to know what you are doing just do what I said the other day and in time she will learn how to do it, it could take a week or a year. She will be a lot better at it if it takes a year.
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-16-2007, 11:36 PM
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A soft hand makes a soft mouth...

It is never the bit or traingsnaffle you use... it is how you work!

I would strongly encourage you to follow these simple and basic Training steps:
The Trainingscale:
1. Rhythm and regularity (Takt)
2.Relaxation (Losgelassenheit)
4. impulsion(Schwung)

You see the last thing is collection... and even the contact comes in third place, that is for a reason... you have to have a horse that is able to give you the first two things in order to be able to get the third, and so on...
Depending on how "hard" the horse is and how stiff it may take a long while to advance from one to the other...
you can't jump over any of these steps, and this makes a soft mouth....

"Der beste Reitlehrer ist unter dem Sattel" Max Walther
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post #7 of 8 Old 07-19-2007, 11:35 AM
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Haflinger has the right idea. In general, collection comes last, and take it slow. Some trainers may find a "quick fix" such as draw reins or even a harsher bit, but in the end you'll have a better trained horse and much nicer ride if you take it slow and work on the basics. A forced horse is never a pretty picture, even if you have its head in the right place.

Jazz and I worked under several different trainers, all of whom had different solutions to his hard yet rather finicky mouth. They tried all kinds of bits and contraptions, including curbs, draw reins, harsh twists, german martingales etc. Though there is a time and a place for some of them, most of it is just a temporary solution. He'd be good for a while, and then go back to either bracing himself against the bit or throwing his nose up in the air, depending on the equipment, tactic and mood he was in. He didn't like shows to begin with, so we gave up and took him to a small boarding stable, and pretty much retired him for a while, and I moved on to own and show other horses. I had my show horses in training with a trainer about 6 hours away, and kept Jazz in town to stay practiced riding. Once I became sensible and just put him in the smooth snaffle and worked together with him, we began to make progress. It's taken years to get him where he is now, but anymore I get on his back, check him back a little while applying leg and seat, give as he gives, and he's in frame and ready to go. Today I got on him bareback when he hadn't been ridden for quite some time, and there he was collected up and moving along.

Take your time, be patient, be soft, and remember to give back. You'll never win tug-of-war, so you have to convince the horse that her life will be easier if she gives to you: give back when she gives!
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-19-2007, 07:34 PM
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I too used to change my tack around trying to get my horses softer and more responsive. I am ashamed at the severity of some of the bits I used. I was a barrel racer and I don't think that many of the barrel racers up here put a proper foundation on their horses before running them as fast as possible, make flying lead changes and collected turns. It seems like the answer at all of my clinics and lessons was to try this or that bit to get more whoa before turns, try these draw reins for practice, etc., etc.

My 8 year old gelding is now jumped, competitive trail ridden, and shown in flat classes in a basic loose ring snaffle with no other aides (martingails, etc.). He was a "barrel racer" up until two years ago using all sorts of bits and contraptions. He was also used for lessons for several beginners (detrimental to his training). Basic pressure and release exercises worked well for him. He is now soft while jumping and moves in a beautiful frame. He is ridden primarily by 1 person - I think this is very important to keep training progress.

I ride my 5 year old stallion is in a basic loose ring for western classes and trail riding and an eggbutt for english/dressage -no other aides. Pressure-release did not work for him. He was really bad about pushing on the bit and gaping his mouth against pressure - an ugly site. He never softened any faster with release being the reward for pressure. I started early this summer taking lessons with a trainer in our area to learn reining. I signed on with this trainer after seeing him work many times. He taught me a different kind of pressure and release to help with my problem. rather than both reins, I now use lateral pressure-release. the pressure is very lightly picking up the rein, if he doesn't immediately move his head in and down away from the pressure, I kiss, and then begin driving him at a walk or trot and keep doing this until he gives me the headset. The release is that I stop driving and he gets to stop working for the moment. This exercise HAD TO be taught from the ground first so that he knew what I was asking for when I picked up a rein. I have also learned to use drive with me seat and legs for most of what we do, and very little, very soft hands.He has become very soft and responsive, very light on the front, and able to be driven right into a pretty framed front end. There are of course many more pieces to this kind of pressure and release - I would find a trainer who can show you this. I would also spend the energy to teach this on a horse that is not doing lessons. It will take a while to really engrain this in a horse, and each new student will cause a backwards step because they wont know how to ask for this or even to ask for it at all.

I agree-do not focus on different bits, aides, etc. - good training/lessons will be much more effective. Slowing from the trot and other gaits will come with softening. Good Luck
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