I don't think I've ever been as frustrated as I was yesterday with my horse. Granted I understand she's been out with a leg injury, but her disrespect for the bit is alarming at best. I'm not even sure if this is fixable giving my limited resources - right now, we have NOWHERE to ride except the road as everything is in puddles.
I actually had to get off and walk her home. I went out for a ride with Ashley just for a WALK to stretch her legs as she's coming off a layup. She rides in a loose ring french link snaffle - and she was literally uncontollable. I've ALWAYS had this problem with her, and even my Dressage coach wasn't sure how to fix it - she just braces on the bit and nothing short of JABBING her in the mouth will make her stop.
Yesterday, she was right back to her Arab tricks. We'd be walking nicely and I'd be working on some flexion, and as soon as I got some vertical flexion, she'd just brace every ounce of strength she had against my hands. She completely ignores my "sponging" until I'm literally YANKING on the side of her face to get her to let up on me. If Justus trotted to catch up, Zierra would throw her nose as high into the air as she could and run through the bit trying to bolt.
The fourth or fifth time, I got off and walked home. Because she's coming off an injury, I can't be fighting with her, letting her act up and put strain on that leg. We got home and I promptly threw the Western saddle and some draw reins on her to make her stop flipping her nose on me. No such luck - now she just tucks her dang chin to her chest and STILL leans on the bit.
This is the type of horse who will put her nose to the ground trying to lean on the bit. If you loop your reins around the horn, she will stand for extended periods of time leaning ALL of her weight against the bit with her mouth open.
I understand this is a training issue. I understand this is a "seat" issue. But HOW do I even BEGIN to resolve it when I can't even get her attention? Shay-las mom suggested I throw her in a hackamore and that's COMPLETELY besides the point - in a hackamore or even a HALTER, I have total control over her. She has a serious bit issue. I've had her teeth checked. My only other option is to slap a curb in her and make her start listening, but then all she's going to do is point that nose sky high and act like I'm beating her.
I'm so frustrated, I don't even know how to BEGIN re-schooling her to stop being a cow about the bit. I suppose I don't NEED to, I was thinking of maybe trying a bitless bridle on her, since she responds so well in a halter.
Not having an actual RIDING ring to school her in doesn't help. Once she was in the draw reins, we were doing leg yielding for about a mile at a trot and it didn't help - even as she's leg yielding, she's yanking on her bit.
Any suggestions would be great. If someone needs a vid to see how extreme this is and maybe point out what I'm doing wrong, I'm sure I could provide that today.
If you insist on riding in a snaffle at least try a running martingale. Honestly if gives you far more leverage, you will have double the pull of the plain snaffle. If you can borrow one give it a try. It hurts nothing and maybe, just maybe you might find it works??
Next how about a curb, any curb with a chain and don't be afraid to use it to set her down. Again you have nothing to loose. Be soft but when you ask for a halt don't be afraid to get mad and set her down hard. Teach her a little respect.
As for going bitless?? I think that is a bad idea, bad idea.
I would love to take her on a ride with you watching.
You can go bitless if you want. It won't do any damage or cause problems in any "future" home because I know you're keeping her until she dies. =]
If you want to keep going with the bit, I would wait to ride or have any more battles until she's back in shape from her time off, that way you don't have to worry about stopping mid-fight because her leg isn't strong enough yet. So stick her in the halter or the lunge line to get her back in shape. Then when you do go back to battling with the bit, I would bit her up. And if you have to keep using a stronger bit on her, then so be it. You don't have to be strong with it unless you want to be, and at least you won't have to worry about being unprepared for a blow up. But like RiosDad said, haul her ass to the ground if you have to. Being an Arab, she'll probably think you killed her, but after you haul her down the one time, you should be able to ask her more nicely the next time. Good luck!
Oh, and yes the running martingale could definitely help. =]
She's been ridden most of her life in a running martingale and it's almost helped quite a bit - she doesn't stop leaning, but at least I can control her. The idea was to get away from gadgets.
I think you're all right - and RiosDad, I'd LOVE to see you get on her and set the spinny witch down a peg or two. Riccil0ve I think you are 100% right - I need to just be riding her in her usual hackamore and tiedown at least until her leg is better to keep her sane, and then pull out the stops when she's 100%. And hopefully I have a dry field to work her in.
Now is not the time to be picking my battle, I should have realized that. Now is just about getting her back in shape any way necessary. I'll fight this battle with her in summer.
Also consider a three corner or triangle snaffle; it can be very useful in the situation you describe. It doesn't have to be severe; but the thin edge really discourages the grabbing the bit and yanking.
It's not a bit I would ride a horse in long term; but it might get you through this frustrating period of legging her back up.
I tried to find a photo to post and couldn't; essentially the mouthpiece is triangle shaped and the sharp edge at the point of the triangle points to the back of the horse's mouth. If they're not lugging or yanking, it's effect is the same as a regular snaffle, but it they do want to lug, yank or brace, they have to grab hold of that sharp edge. They decide pretty quickly they don't want to do that. It's great behavior modificaton because they associate the negative result with their behavior, not with an action or response by the rider.
I've always had one in my tack box, and I've lent it out dozens of time. Again, not a bit that you ride in long term; but great for nipping this behavior in the bud.
Honestly, what is a horse's intent in doing that? What are they trying to say? It goes against what I've encountered with my mare, she usually does everything she can to keep herself comfortable, or find her way out of something that is uncomfortable. I can't imagine how frustrating it is when they seem to be pushing themselves further into a potentially painful situation instead of looking for ways to find relief. Gosh, I don't know how I would be able to progress with Fri's training, as I rely on that quite often. As far as the similarities I'm experiencing with my own arab mare, we are currently getting her to release her shoulder and neck tension by concentrating on alot of lateral flexion. It seems like the hindquarters want so badly to work correctly, but she physically does not know how to release and carry her front legs quite yet, so from shoulder to toe she is quite straight, and I'm trying to get her to realize that it is far more advantageous to move without so much tension in that area. It's funny how horses develop their own way of moving, ways that are not beneficial to their whole way of moving and self carriage, and sometimes it seems like it is the equivalent of bad posture in humans. It seems like you can employ new bits, tack and so forth to keep the situation at bay, but the problem may lie in her bio-mechanics? From all your posts I've read about you and her it seems like she wouldn't be doing this in a resistant mindset, but I could be wrong. I would love to see the video.
I don't really have anything super helpful to say aside from kinda commiserating.
Lacey used to do a similar thing. She would be "light" on the bit most of the time, but she'd lean on it if I let her. I ended up just switching her to a bitless bridle, which I was totally skeptical about to begin with, and it actually seems like that's just what she needed.
She's much lighter in it and she seems a lot more comfortable with it. For instance, she won't drink water with a bit in her mouth and on long rides/rides in the heat (she couldn't seem to figure out how to suck water in around the bit, she'd try but all the water would come back out of her mouth), she needs to drink! And I can't just be hopping off all the time to remove her bridle so she'll drink, bitless solved that. =D She also reaches for it with her nose when I go to bridle her, something she never did/still doesn't do when I bit her.
The other plus about it is that I can haul her back on her butt if necessary in it (once was enough for her, haha) which I could not do in a snaffle without having her freak out like I was killing her. There have also been some situations, like on Thursday when my lovely lady got a little excited and forgot that she was not a war horse thundering across the desert, that I would have been, imo, royally screwed if I had been riding her in a snaffle since she had her head way up in the air.
I guess basically what I'm saying is look into bitless options, if she does really well in a hack and in a halter. There are some pretty cheap bitless attachments that you can get and attach to your normal bridle to try out different styles and see how she reacts if you don't want to commit to something expensive on the off chance she'll have an issue.
If she's always had this issue with the bit, maybe her mouth is conformed in such a way that carrying the bit is uncomfortable...?
Personally, I like to choose battles I know I can win. My horse and I have a partnership and part of our partnership is that I let her have some things her way (in our case, the bitless bridle, since I really prefer the look of a horse with a bit in it's mouth). That works well for us. I know that if I keep trying to do it my way and keep her in a bit, neither of us will be happy and both of us will "lose".