my approach is not working... horse fearful of the bridle - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 03:30 PM Thread Starter
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my approach is not working... horse fearful of the bridle

My big girl is utterly petrified of the bridle to the point where putting it on is a traumatic experience for both of us. I want to get her mouthed sooner rather than later [something I intend to do myself as I did a pretty darn good job on mum's pony if I do say so myself] and because I show I really do need her going in a bridle, else I'd just train her to ride in a halter.

Once it is on the bridle doesn't bother her at all but PUTTING it on is darn near impossible and like I said traumatic on all sides.

I've trained a horse to bridle before but that was Satin who was at the time only 12.2 or 12.3 and a different personality type [left brained introvert, not scared of anything!] so my approach was "you can't get away from it, don't bother trying". The trouble is, Magic CAN get away, simply by lifting her head, because she's 16hh-ish and I'm 5'2" with boots on. The more I just hold it there waiting for her to bring her head down to where I can reach it the more likely she is to explode when I do finally get the **** thing on, and putting it on then taking it off then putting it on again sends her to her "happy place" from which she has her biggest explosions.

I am dealing with an EXTREME right brained introvert, to use the Parelli horsenalities to describe her. She's not a bad horse, just a difficult personality type for me to work with. I am not a mad Parelli-ite, I am just a horse person who uses bits and pieces of whatever I come across, and "right brained introvert" describes her without making her sound like a killer.

Does anyone here have experience in teaching horses of that specific personality type to bridle? I'd love it if I could teach her not to freeze in the first place but in the mean time it's the bridling thing that keeps weighing on my mind. She is injured at the moment so is having a break from the learning side of things, just being handled for treatment, but when she heals I want to get back to work with her and have some more ideas up my sleeve.

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post #2 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 04:36 PM
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Are you having trouble with the bit or bridle? Sounds like she needs some desensitizing. Get to where you can rub the bridle all over her. Get in a round pen. Keep her on her lead. Put the bridle up to her and if she moves follow her. Keep that bridle in the same spot (do not take it away while she is moving. It will only teach her to be afraid). Keep her nose tipped towards you so she can't take you for a sprint lol. Once she stops and calms down take the bridle away. She needs to learn that if she is not sure of something, stand still relax and it won't be scary anymore. Take the bit off the bridle and get to where you can rub it all over her head. Once you can rub her sides with it This should get easier. Only take the scary object away when she is relaxed. With the bit off the bridle slip it over her head and off. Do that for a while. Another thing that would be good is teach her to give to pressure on her halter. Teach her to put her head down when you ask. To get ready for the bit slip the lead rope in her mouth again and again as you would a bit. If she won't open her mouth a finger in the corner of her mouth should get her to open her mouth. This way she will learn to open her mouth for the bit without you worrying about bumping her and scaring her the first time. Horses like that need confidence building and desensitizing. I like Clinton Anderson's approach to spooking and scary objects. It's worked on every horse I've ever had. This is only one way to do this. There are other ways. This is just what has always worked for me :)
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post #3 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 04:42 PM
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Also use the desensitizing to run random things on her face. So much that she's not even surprised when you do it. She just goes "silly human. You're silly. I'm just going to stand here. " lol. I throw random things at my horses. I never hit them. Just throw things around them. They really don't care anymore :). With horses like this do not creep around them. Don't not try to scare them. If anything try to scare them. And do it until it doesn't bother them anymore. Just keep the head tipped toward you. If you try to give your horse a heart attack you will get a calmer horse LOL. Remember your nervousness will become her nervousness. With my horses I can crack whips around them, tie plastic sacks to their halters, and put tarps on them. I know you're not going to put a tarp on them in real riding but exposure and repetitiveness helps. They then learn if something scares them they have to calm down for it to go away. :))
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post #4 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 04:43 PM
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Rub not run
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post #5 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 04:56 PM Thread Starter
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That's the method I tried when "you can't get away from it" didn't work... yeah didn't work either.

Her issue, being a right brain introvert, isn't that she is outwardly tense and uptight. She seems very calm and relaxed and then out of "nowhere" just explodes. This is why it's traumatic on both sides. For her it's so scary she just can't hold it in, and for me, right when I think she's going to be ok this time I'm scrambling for minimum safe distance! Other far more experienced horse people have seen no warning signs at all either, she's just a very subtle horse until she can't cope any longer.

The bit is not a problem at all, it's the act of pulling something over her ears that scares her. She stands nicely to have a halter or bridle taken OFF over her ears but put on is another matter entirely.

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post #6 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 05:00 PM Thread Starter
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She is actually very quiet, very sweet... just seems to have a panic switch. The only description that really fits her is Parelli's "right brained introvert"... honestly I have never met a horse that can seem completely unworried one second and then be rearing up and striking out in utter terror the next, when nothing has happened other than that I've pushed her a little too far outside her comfort zone.

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post #7 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 05:05 PM
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Okay. I see. There are warning signs but they are subtle. Like horse language subtle lol. Okay so have you tried just messing with her ears? Just touching them? Have you checked her ears? Sometimes little mites will find their way in and bother them. My friends horse was doing weird things with her head and ears and it turns out it was a chiro problem. Another thing is just very basic. Trust and confidence. They're big things too.
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post #8 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 05:08 PM
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have you tried just working with the bit and the headstall separately ? As in practicing holding the bit in your hands and putting it in her mouth and taking it out. And also taking the headstall with out the bit on it and putting it over her ears and taking it off ?

I would try doing that. It seems like you need to back off somewhere.

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post #9 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 05:08 PM
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have you tried just working with the bit and the headstall separately ? As in practicing holding the bit in your hands and putting it in her mouth and taking it out. And also taking the headstall with out the bit on it and putting it over her ears and taking it off ?

I would try doing that. It seems like you need to back off somewhere.
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post #10 of 52 Old 12-01-2012, 05:09 PM
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I don't think I've ever seen a horse just do that with no warning signs. With my gelding if I'm on his back I can feel him hollow out and tense up. When she freaks out like that make her work work work. It may also be her way of getting out of work. Maybe bridle equals work. Maybe working her when she freaks will teach her freaking equals working. Lol. That's another thing Clinton Anderson teaches. On the trail if you have a horse that constantly invents monsters,make them work everytime they think they see one. Redirect the energy. Soon they won't want to spook anymore and they'll listen to you instead of worrying about monsters
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