Mom's having issues and I have to use super signals. Suggestions on bit change?
 
 

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Mom's having issues and I have to use super signals. Suggestions on bit change?

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    01-28-2012, 07:09 PM
  #1
Yearling
Mom's having issues and I have to use super signals. Suggestions on bit change?

I know it's generally frowned upon to rely on a bit to fix a horses problems, and that's not necessarily the case here. But I'm at the point where I feel like a new bit is our last ditch effort.

Our horse is turning 18 in April, so he's not exactly a young spirit. He has some issues but mainly he takes advantage of my mother when she rides him, and she gets nervous, lather rinse repeat.

We ride him in a regular single link snaffle on a generic english bridle. Now I can ride him around with very light contact on this bridle just fine, he will do nothing more than stick his nose out. Because he is so fond of sticking his nose out rather than bringing it down and softening he has an EXTREMELY over developed muscle under the neck and almost nothing on his top line, his ewe-neck is pretty ugly.

Picking up the contact with him and sponging and asking him to soften and go on the bit for me usually turns into him getting annoyed and sticking his nose out more or shortening his neck. It does not help. I have had lessons with various trainers with him for years, all experts at riding any horse and none of their instructions help. I've been told to just let him have his head completely and ask him via my leg (works slightly, but he still sticks his nose out a bit, he does prefer this to full contact) I've been told to shorten my reins and flex him with my inside rein using my wrist and hold him on my outside, which he will ignore, and various other bits of advice. It's not that he doesn't get worked enough, for the past month I had been riding him for at least an hour and at least 6 days out of the week.

I found that the only thing that I can do to get him to soften up and lower his head and go round and on the bit is to give him strong signals. By strong I mean holding him so hard on the outside that my inner elbow hurts and flexing him so hard on the inside that he has no choice but to look in and drop his head. One instructor tells me "If this is the only way he's going to actually listen, so be it!" and encourages it, only softening when he finally softens himself. This is the most successful method I've ever used. One instructor will literally rip my throat out if she see's me doing this. She will say "STOP TOUCHING HIS MOUTH! LENGTHEN YOUR REINS AND USE YOUR LEGS!" To which he moves out and sticks his nose out.

I can do just fine riding him with no contact and letting him move out with his nose up as long as he's listening, steers, and doesn't spook.

My mom, on the other hand, has an impossible time with him. He gets to a stick part of the ring and either drops his shoulder and leaves the rail, sucks in and pulls back a gait, or spooks. He is a complete butt head for her. A completely different horse than for me. He does not listen to her in the slightest and because of this she gets super nervous and never has a good time on him. If she lets her reins out he drags her around, if she pulls them in and takes contact he senses her nerves and well, drags her around. I really try to get him to behave for her by really getting him to soften, drop his nose, and listen to me but it's no use! And in order to use this I have to use painfully strong signals! Something my mom doesn't know how to use.

Our instructors main remark to my mom in comparison to him behaving for me better than her is: "Because she kicks his a**" I don't want to have to do that! I want to use normal signals and light flexion with my reins to get him to soften and listen. I think it's time to take a step up from the snaffle, mainly for my mom.

Any suggestions? Bits to play around with? I don't want anything harsh just a small step up from a snaffle, preferably something with more leverage, to see how it goes.

I don't want suggestions on riding techniques please, I under the advice of three trainers, and although they all have different advice (all riding the same discipline though!) they are all helpful techniques. Just suggestions on bits to play around with as a possible solution. I want to be able to relax my arms more when I ride!

Thanks guys...
     
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    01-28-2012, 07:33 PM
  #2
Foal
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey4793    
I know it's generally frowned upon to rely on a bit to fix a horses problems, and that's not necessarily the case here. But I'm at the point where I feel like a new bit is our last ditch effort.

Any suggestions? Bits to play around with? I don't want anything harsh just a small step up from a snaffle, preferably something with more leverage, to see how it goes.

Can I suggest something completely different? Try riding him in a gentle bitless bridle, eg a Dr Cooks cross-under or side-pull, or a LightRider (the LightRider's use a noseband and chinstrap which can be purchased separately if you want to convert an existing bitted bridle. The different styles put pressure in slightly places, so sometimes you need to try a couple of styles to find what your horse likes.

My riding school swapped all their horses over to bitless as a result of seeing how well it worked on one young mare who pulled hard and wouldn't stop. I swapped mine over when I saw how well theirs went. Their horses range from a 4 yo Standardbred to a 26 yo QH cross and all are much softer and willing when bitless. The bridles give good control and stopping power, even on my very forward high-spirited 8 yo Standardbred.

I understand if you are wary of trying this - I would have been if I hadn't seen how the other horses went. An easy way to try would be to put both his regular bridle and a halter on and attach reins to both, then ride using the halter reins - you will still have the bridle reins there if you need them. A bitless bridle gives better control than a halter, but the halter should give you an idea of how it will go.
     
    01-28-2012, 11:13 PM
  #3
Banned
Another vote to try bitless, but not necessarily a name brand bitless bridle. Even a rope halter might be sufficiently different to do the trick. Worth experimenting, anyway.
     
    02-06-2012, 11:06 PM
  #4
Trained
Another vote for bitless, at least until your horse can become more comfortable & responsive. I would NOT attempt to force him, with a 'harsher' bit. Regular snaffles are plenty harsh when used strongly.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey4793    
Now I can ride him around with very light contact on this bridle just fine, he will do nothing more than stick his nose out. Because he is so fond of sticking his nose out rather than bringing it down and softening he has an EXTREMELY over developed muscle under the neck and almost nothing on his top line, his ewe-neck is pretty ugly. ...Picking up the contact with him and sponging and asking him to soften and go on the bit for me usually turns into him getting annoyed and sticking his nose out more or shortening his neck.
First & foremost, sounds like he's dealing with a physical issue there & is hurting. I'd want to treat/rule that out before treating it as a training issue. It is not a comfortable way for a horse to go, but it may have become the most comfortable position for him to carry you in, if he has saddle fit, back, neck, mouth, bit, rider balance, hoof, etc... issues. Have you tried him bitless, to rule out mouth pain at least? I would quit riding him until you've sorted the physical issues out.

Training-wise, it sounds like perhaps it's your mother that needs more training, perhaps to begin with on a 'softer' horse, so she can learn & enjoy. If he is fine for you to ride softly, I imagine it is your mother's nervousness that is keeping her 'tight' - through the body & hands, which will understandably make him more antsy & resistant. Using a 'bigger bit' to allow her to inflict more pain on him is only likely to escalate his resistance.

I would work on getting your mum more confident & therefore relaxed. Is she nervous about everything, or is she OK with some? If she's OK with some things, I'd start with them, or else just start out getting her to sit on the horse, &/or be led around at a walk. Only once she's confident & relaxed about this would I ask her to try *a little* more. Get her confident at each step of the way before *gradually* doing more, so that she won't tighten up & make your horse reactive & bracey.

Quote:
By strong I mean holding him so hard on the outside that my inner elbow hurts
If it hurts you, imagine how it feels via a bit of metal in his sensitive mouth!! I appreciate you've paid that 'expert' to advise you as such, but IMO it's people like that that need to be bitted & yanked around. He must be a wonderful personality, to put up with this without (more) argument. Sounds like your instructors have not helped you see things from the horse's point of view & have never considered that maybe he physically *can't* softly do as you ask. Perhaps (as well as fixing physical issues first) you need a more considerate trainer.
     
    02-09-2012, 03:14 PM
  #5
Yearling
He gets his teeth done with all the other horses, so I know his teeth aren't bugging him, he get's his feet trimmed and shod with all the other horses, I know his feet aren't hurting. We've ruled out pain, but he does have a long back and the equine massage therapist who comes to our barn told us that the muscles of his back are very stiff and not very developed and can become weak and problematic if not reversed, she gave us TONS of advice to fix this which I have been following (Hill work, poles, flexion excersizes, and her main advice was having him soften and lower her head.... which I am trying so hard) His back muscles are looking better but I feel like they will have a complete turn around if I can just get him to soften more.

When I get my micklem bridle in the mail I am going to try it bitless, in a closed ring with someone in close vicinity in case something goes wrong. I won't say I'll have a trainer around because although I am an adult they generally don't support anything that isn't under their idea of standard, and bitless bridles would be just crazy to them.
     
    02-09-2012, 03:45 PM
  #6
Green Broke
Bitless or maybe something like this. Many horses don't like the nutcracker action of regular single jointed snaffles but like this one as it doesn't collapse on itself
     
    02-09-2012, 08:42 PM
  #7
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mickey4793    
He gets his teeth done with all the other horses, so I know his teeth aren't bugging him, he get's his feet trimmed and shod with all the other horses, I know his feet aren't hurting. We've ruled out pain, but he does have a long back and the equine massage therapist who comes to our barn told us that the muscles of his back are very stiff and not very developed and can become weak and problematic
Of course I don't know what else you've done to rule out pain & you may well be right that he's not hurting, but just because his teeth were done(Depending on age & other factors, generally need attention yearly, but can need more frequent) & his feet are attended regularly(6-weekly is average but again some require more frequent) doesn't rule out problems in mouth & feet or mean they were *well* attended. Your comments about his back seem contradictory & if he has to carry you with a weak back, that sounds uncomfortable at least & it's often difficult or impossible to strengthen it under saddle. I'd work on getting him fitter before saddle & rider are added.

Quote:
I feel like they will have a complete turn around if I can just get him to soften more.
I feel that you may get him to soften if you can get him fit first. I think it's counterproductive to try to force the issue. He's telling you how difficult this is for him, for whatever reason.
     
    02-09-2012, 09:18 PM
  #8
Trained
I'm kind of thinking in another direction here. My first impression was smart horse taking advantage of novice rider. If you've been riding him on the lightest contact possible, you've ultimately been letting him off the hook regarding working properly on the bit hence the ewe neck. You can still get a good ride out of him because you know how to cue him using other seat signals, which a novice rider cannot do. Most horses are saints until you ask them to do actual work which is why he misbehaves when your mom tries to use the reins. I don't think a bit can solve this, but a few lessons with a good trainer who can first fix the horse's contact problem and then teach you and your mom how to maintain it would go a long way. Sorry if that all came out wrong. It's just what I got from your post.
     
    02-09-2012, 09:39 PM
  #9
Trained
Quote:
Originally Posted by MyBoyPuck    
If you've been riding him on the lightest contact possible, you've ultimately been letting him off the hook regarding working properly on the bit hence the ewe neck.
Of course lack of good training is likely a part of it IMO too, but I think the ewe neck - and hollow back that goes hand in hand with that - speaks of long term discomfort & resistance to more than 'lightest' contact. IME a comfortable horse doesn't develop a ewe neck without heavier or unrelenting pressure.
     
    02-10-2012, 02:55 PM
  #10
Trained
I would bet you're not giving a sufficent or properly timed release or your horse would have caught on by now. At 18 with all those years of this behaviour behind him it will be difficult to change much. I have a sliding gag snaffle that I use on horses like this and it works very well as long as the horse has been taught to give to poll pressure.
     

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