Making horse softer in the mouth - Page 2 - The Horse Forum
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post #11 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 04:23 PM Thread Starter
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I'm using mouth pressure along with leg pressure to make her turn. I trained a pleasure horse last year but did not have this problem.

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post #12 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 04:33 PM
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Personally, I prefer to teach the halt bareback. I can feel the instant they're responding, and they can feel the instant my body starts to say 'stop' rather than waiting for some larger sign from my body or feeling me in their mouth being the first warning. From the walk, first relax the seat, then pick up the rein. Generally after just a few times, they're stopped before you even get a chance to use the rein.
At faster gaits, I generally relax the upper body and grip with the upper thigh (to make sure I don't wind up sailing through the air) before using the rein. Once the horse is doing it really well bareback, they seem to feel the seat cues through the saddle better. Obviously, if you're not great at bareback, stick to the walk! lol
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post #13 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 04:38 PM
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Have you considered a few sessions ground driving--with two 25 or 30 ft. lunge lines with the lunge-lines through the stirrups and clipped to a regular Hamilton-type halter--in the round pen and teaching a really good whoa? I was watching a short series with a Mustang challenge horse and he maintained his whoa training throughout the 100 days. VERY impressive.

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post #14 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 04:57 PM
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Originally Posted by beau159 View Post
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.

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post #15 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 05:15 PM
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Kay, using a snaffle, preferably a loose ring snaffle I will place my hands 8" apart and 4" off the neck just in front of the saddle and stroke the rein with my pinky. At the same time I will open my fingers on the other hand to release a bit of rein pressure. By stroking or tickling the rein the horse gets a very light sensation and will often respong. You are basically tickling her lip with the bit. If there's no response try tickling the rein in a rhythmic fashion. She won't turn a tight turn but you should get a response. When she does stop the ticklin and close the the other hand. Allow her to walk straight for a few strides and repeat. To assist her don't ask her to turn, (to the left) until her left foreleg is leaving the ground. As she begins to turn it will be easier for her to do the turn.
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post #16 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 05:21 PM
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I know very little about western pleasure but from what I can tell the horses are ridden on a very long rein with light contact and not direct reined but turned with a mix of leg and neck rein cues, they are sometimes taught to 'spur stop' too rather than any contact with the mouth at all.
If this horse has been ridden in a 'sharp' bit to discourage her from leaning on a bit in the past - as they have to appear to be very light on the hands - then your snaffle isn't meaning anything to her at all and the more you pull on her the less feel she's going to have.
I honestly don't think she has a clue what you're asking her to do and needs going right back to basics - lunging to teach her voice cues to walk, trot and whoa and then long reining (drive lining) to teach her to turn by direct reining because she's behaving like a horse that's never been broke but doesn't mind having a rider on her back
I'm sure someone else can find you better videos because I don't know enough to critique this but this guy barely touches the reins at all, its all done with legs and body cues
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post #17 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 05:23 PM
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have you checked her teeth and saddle fit? discomfort could cause the stiffness, there is a gelding on the farm that was getting a 'hard mouth'. he was ridden by an experienced rider with soft hands, and she wasn't sure where the problem was. It took me about 2 minutes to figure out he was bracing, and my first guess was pain. sure enough, vet found sharp edges on his teeth. he had his teeth floated the year before. Now he's fine.

There is another mare on the farm that had a similar issue, it was poor saddle fit.

aside from those, I love Clinton andersons 'cruise' exercise, and his advice to find a reasonably straight road or fence and just ride. Don't micro manage, just put them in a gait until they want to slow down, but don't let them until you feel like it. then ask for a 'whoa' It wont take very long before the horse will screech to a halt as soon as you ask for it.
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post #18 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 05:27 PM
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another quick note, I don't like martingales, although a running one is the least awful. I much prefer a horse learn to except contact and relax their neck into a natural position without unnaturally redirecting rein pressure.
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post #19 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 06:39 PM
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I feel the main problem is it sounds like you are trying to turn her and stop her purely using the reins. In fact by bumping her in the mouth constantly you will most likely create an even harder mouth (which I no you are aware of). What I would practice is really working on slowing your body and gently squeezing her into your reins with your leg, then only using a light squeeze on the outside rein which you can increase if she doesn't listen, however, she will soon get the idea. I feel the important thing is that you do not start a pulling war to try and stop her head if her body is just going to carry on pilling ahead. What you need to be doing is stopping her body with your body and using the rein as an almost back up. Whilst, I'm sure others could better explain this concept my point is I think she will become more light in the mouth from you using your reins less and body more.
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post #20 of 28 Old 05-07-2013, 06:53 PM
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If you are pulling, there's your problem, it's a lift and sounds like the mare is sensitive to that and not suffering fools. Lose the martingale and stop pulling, start flexing and learn how much calf pressure and where to apply to this mare's body to get her to respond. Unfortunately, if you already have got good at less than effective method of cuing a horse, it's hard to learn something else. Good luck.
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