So Ivy (2 year old) is driving me nuts. I warn you, this is long, but I have to vent a little and maybe get some affirmation or suggestions from those of you out there who have dealt with the reactive, fractious type colts show do NOT want to accept a bit...
She hates bits. All bits. D ring, O ring, french link, small diameter, wide diameter, happy mouth, mullen mouth - you name it, she hates it.
First time a bit (o ring snaffle) went in her mouth she threw herself over backwards several times after she couldn't get the headstall off. No reins, no pressure, bit adjusted correctly in her mouth (one soft wrinkle). Lunge line was hooked to rope halter underneath and nothing was pinching. Worked through it and got her moving, but she had her mouth gaped wide open with lips curled back and head between her knees for the first week.
I was really surprised that a few weeks of steady work didn't solve the gaping and head tossing. (I had her wisdom teeth pulled and teeth floated as soon as I got her - no physical reason for her aversion to bits that vet can see).
Ivy is somewhat pushy, but friendly enough on the ground, and is very responsive as long as she agrees with what you are doing. Can be over reactive and we continue lots of desensitization work. We are also doing a lot of showmanship training, walk/trot/pivot/stand and she is responding very well to that. Accepts saddle, can get a little humpy in the first few laps, but no real problems there. Ground drives with the rope halter no problem. I can get on her from both sides, hang on her sides, and sit on her no problems. Because she is still narrow and thin and growing, I don't ride her yet other than a few laps at a walk around the paddock every month or so. She moves off of seat and leg as well as can be expected for very limited ride time, and has never threatened to do anything stupid when I have been on her.
Whiskey's show season, daughter's wedding, and Whiskey's sarcoids got in the way of Ivy's training over the summer- and heck, she needed to mature anyway - so I just left her alone until about a month ago when I realized how much bigger she is getting, and decided to get her going.
Back to sqare 1. Took her to my trainer for evaluation. She says Ivy's past neglect just means Ivy has decided already what she likes and doesn't like, and needs a firm but understanding hand to convince her otherwise. She says to keep working her, pushing her forward (this is all ground work) on the drive lines or lunge lines, keep the trot a strong trot so she'll reach down and lengthen her back and accept that bit. She promises that given time Ivy will get used to the bit. I am to reward with praise and release of pressure when she quiets her mouth.
Mostly, she told me to give Ivy time to process that the bit is not going to kill her and she can't get rid of it. Refusal wasn't an option and simply results in more work.
So here I am, three weeks later of steady 4 to 5 times a week sessions.
Each lesson I put on a D ring snaffle with a rope cavesson underneath so she can open her mouth a little, but not gape - and we lunge or drive at the walk and trot with an occasional canter. I use a 50 foot line and walk with her so she is on a very large circle.
Progress is glacially slow
... but now it takes about 10 minutes of a walk/strong trot before she carries the bit calmly. She can make a couple circles and then regresses and goes back to curling her lip back, head shaking, pulling, opening her mouth - but after being pushed forwards then carries it calmly again. As soon as she carries it quietly we shift down to the lower gait - then when she starts fussing with it we move back up... it takes about 35 to 45 minutes per session and we can usually end on a good note now, with her head level, her moving out but relaxed, and her mouth quiet.
I have never, ever, ever (love Taylor) had a horse that had this much trouble accepting a bit. Ever.
So I get her out today, put on a bareback pad, cavesson, and the D ring snaffle she finds least offensive and go out to lunge her. Tied her reins loosely to the bareback pad's D rings and send her away. As she trotted off, I turned and snaked the line out to shoo Whiskey away (half the time I am too lazy to get Whiskey out of the pasture the unfenced arena is in) and Ivy leaps forwards, does a huge buck, comes down then back up and flips herself over
So we spent the next 10 minutes on desensitizing to the line, (again), then back to lunge some REALLY BIG circles at a strong trot then she quiets back down and does a really pretty soft stretchy trot with eyes soft and mouth quiet...
My neighbor was watching and yelled across the fence - "that one isn't going to GIVE you anything. You are going to have to earn it with her."
That got me thinking... she's teaching me alot. I have to remember to think about all my actions around her. Whiskey wouldn't flinch at me shooing another horse away - but for Ivy, that horse just shouldn't be there. I need to set her up for success - try not to get frustrated, try not to get mad at her bit issues, and just give her the time to get through it and get her to respect the bit and the person on the end of the line...
Good thing we have nothing but time. No rush. But dang, she is driving me nuts.
For those of you who got through the novel... Anyone ever gone through this - and what did you do to work through it?