I am training a mare right now and she is very calm, willing, and listens just wonderful. The only problem I am having is she is very hard with her mouth. When you want to stop or turn, you have to really pull. She doesn't try to get out of the bridle or run away, its almost like she just isn't feeling me pull on her. If I put enough pressure on her she listens just perfect but I want her to be softer in the mouth. I am in a snaffle and running martingale right now and I am staying in this combination right now until she is better at what I am trying to train her in. She is a western pleasure horse that wasn't used for that for a few years and I am training her back into pleasure. I don't want any replies wanting me to use a stronger bit because this is the training bit I want to use and I want her to listen to me and not more pressure.
One of the main tricks is releasing the pressure at the exact correct moment, which is something that can't really be taught over the internet. When she gives even the slightest bit, release all pressure immediately.
The other main trick is knowing when to escalate the pressure and give her a pop for not listening. That's another thing that can't really be taught without being there in person. The main point is, though, you have to learn when you need to give her a firm bump with the bit to sort of wake her up and say "Yes, I did mean right now" or "Hey, quit leaning on me".
That is what I have been doing with her so far and I am just doing it consistantly...was just looking for other things I could do. When she doesn't listen, I make her do a tight circle and then stop. That seemed to help a little bit
You can about it this way, but I am ground training more and more and more. I would work on ground obedience and train with "English". BE brutally fussy about "walk on", "halt" (or "Whoa"), "back", "over", etc. If you lead with a short whip and give only one chance for correct behavior, your horse will learn how to stop with you on the ground and will translate that to the saddle.
I just want to "throw it out there" that using a snaffle may not always be the answer to getting a horse softer.
For example: Right now, to get this horse to stop, you must pull, pull, pull until she stops. You're having to use quite a bit of pressure to get that accomplished. However, what if you put something on her with a short shank? That would allow you to barely pick up the reins and BAM she stops instantly. Yes, you've moved onto a "harsher" bit, but really .... the harsher bit is actually softer, because you barely have to apply any pressure at all.
Just a thought, anyway. (Of course, the "harsher" bit has to be used correctly 100% of the time, or you will cause the horse to eventually ignore that too)
Another example: I rode my horse Red in a snaffle (mostly) all summer last year, trying to get him softer after I bought him. We didn't get as far as I wanted. So to get some help, I have him at a reining trainer. Guess what she's working him in right now:
And he's responding beautifully. Bending, flexing, and giving nicely.
So anyway, just wanted to say that a snaffle isn't always the answer.
I am going back to basics and I am not putting her in a full bridle (with shanks) until she is respecting me with a softer bit. I don't want to just use a bit for more whoa. I have experience with correction bits and I'm not a huge fan of them. I want to get her into a Kelly Mullen Mouth bit eventually. They have worked on every horse I have trained and I really like them. Right now I am just working on her walk and whoa. I don't want to jump to the other options for a while. I am just working on softening her at the walk and whoa because I want her to listen to me better. I am a big disbeliever in using bits to correct simple problems. A snaffle is a training bit...when breaking out a young horse you don't ever just jump to a shank bit. I am treating her like a young horse that I am starting over with.