Reactive two year old. Head gaping, tossing, lips curling at snaffle bit... - Page 2

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Reactive two year old. Head gaping, tossing, lips curling at snaffle bit...

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  • How big are 2 year old horses
  • Two year old horse learning the bit

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    10-31-2012, 10:59 AM
Originally Posted by PunksTank    
Ok I completely agree with Cherie - this horse HATES tongue pressure, get her a bit with a medium port or on that's well mullened. They make these in curbs AND snaffles, get whichever fits your riding style. Don't buy a rubber one, if she fusses with the bit that much she'll chew it up and the rubber makes sharp edges which hurt their tongue.

My next SERIOUS complaint is get the side reins off the 2 year old. She has a baby mouth, just learning what a bit is, side reins do NOT have enough give to have contact and release. She's a baby, she needs to learn the basics before you start messing with her headset and all that.
First off lunging two years old beyond a gentle walk and short trot is NO good for their joints, they're not nearly full grown yet and running on circles is stressful.
Next, she needs to learn how to give to gentle pressure before you apply something with as little give as side-reins. Personally, side reins make me furious, there are very few people who know how to use them right. I'm not trying to judge you're ability to use side reins - but THIS tells me it's not right:

"Once she has learned to seek relief one side at a time, I then put both side reins on, so she's straight and can turn her head in or out just a bit but for true relief she has to drop her nose vertical or a little in front of vertical. Since she wants to fight when you touch her mouth for ANY reason, I've tied her down pretty tight so that she is the one pulling on her face and she has to give herself the relief."

To teach a horse how to give to the bit here are the steps I follow:
Put a bit on and wait for them to be comfortable and settled. If they just can't settle in the bit find something with a different mouth piece style, of course give her time to get comfortable in it though before just switching it up. Remember adult horse's gums get used to the constant contact, but a 2 year has a soft baby mouth so constant contact hurts.
Once the horse is standing comfortably in their bit it's time to learn to give to pressure. I'm assuming you've taken the correct steps in teaching the horse to give to all sorts of pressure all over her body, yielding her hind and front end and backing up and putting her head down all with quiet cues? Next I'd start with a halter, flat not rope, and clip on reins to it. Hold on rein and rest your hand on the horse's wither, hold the rein so it's just taught, just a tiny amount of pressure and wait. Give her a minute, if she stands and does nothing, slowly apply more pressure (very slowly) if she starts fussing a little you have enough pressure, if she fusses big time you have way too much. So once she starts trying to figure out how to relieve the pressure, without freaking out that's the pressure just wait, when she finally turns in the correct direction relieve the pressure and tell her she's wonderful, even if she only moved a quarter of an inch in the correct direction. Gradually ask for more in each direction, this should take 3-4 15 minute sessions, maybe more or less depending on the quality of your timing. Eventually you will apply just gentle soft pressure on one rein and she'll bring her nose around to her side.
Now do the same thing with the bit she's comfortable with, remember that with the bit you'll need even less pressure.

What you're telling me in all your posts is that the horse is freaking out and she's bad - But honestly it just sounds like way too much pressure is being applied. Side reins are for adult horses who are learning how to work correctly, not babies who are just learning to give to pressure.

I'm not trying to be mean or be too pushy on you but I'm seeing a horse who's got way too much pressure applied and she's responding how most reactive horses would to that much pressure.
The other thing that concerns me is this quote "Ivy is somewhat pushy, but friendly enough on the ground, and is very responsive as long as she agrees with what you are doing."
She's 2 years old her attention span is still limited, keep your lessons short and sweet. But make them effective! If she's 2 years old and still pushy she's only going to get worse. You are her leader and her boss, she can't just do what you want when she wants to. Go back to groundwork basics. Yielding hind and front end, backing up and putting her head down. I mention putting her head down, despite it not being on most people's training schedules, but when a horse put's their nose down to the ground they shift their brain out of flight, reactive mode. Your horse is very reactive, all be it because there's something extreme to react to, but regardless teaching her to put her head down with a tiny ounce of poll pressure will really help you and her collect herself when she gets upset. We have a horribly flighty Arabian who we have taught this skill and now she does it for herself, when she starts to get worked up she throws her nose to the ground and dances in place for a minute until she's calm. She knows how to contain herself, we'll even see her do it alone in her field when something 'scary' happens. We've practically taught her a new version of 'flight', this is what relieves the pressure of whatever is frightening her, because when her head is down she's no longer frightened. Of course this is a band-aid to keep you both safe until she's properly desensitized and trusts you well enough to listen to you and not make her own decisions.

I'm sorry again for sounding so harsh. Please consider taking things slower with this horse and gentler, side reins don't have proper give or proper timing and they are too strong for a baby mouth. Please keep the bitted lessons short until her mouth is more comfortable with the bit, gradually start increasing the length of the lesson.
There is more than one right way to train a horse. I have been using this method for close to 40 years with very good success.
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    10-31-2012, 11:15 AM
Originally Posted by PunksTank    
f course give her time to get comfortable in it though before just switching it up. Remember adult horse's gums get used to the constant contact, but a 2 year has a soft baby mouth so constant contact hurts.
I am praying this is the fix - letting her toughen up her mouth and give her the time she needs to process this. Of course her constant head tossing, rooting and jumping around isn't helping any...

Ivy came to me in June of this year from a bad situation. Starved, slipper feet, unhandled. Had to corral her into a stall to touch her. So though she is two and a half she has only been "shown the ropes" for a few months. She is rewarded with release of pressure in her groundwork and pushiness is punished by pressure, backing and repeating the request - I am pleased with her progress in this regard as she can do a pattern with her head at my hip at the walk and jog, set up, pivot and back with minimal cues ...

Her pushiness is a result of the years of neglect and poor handling, and I don't expect it to disappear overnight, but we are consistently working at it.

She gives her head to lateral and vertical pressure in a rope halter. Picks up all feet. Yields hindquarters and shoulder. She will never be an easygoing kids horse, and I can deal with that. I just hope to see her in the ring - and since she'll go english first, we can't avoid the problem with bosals or bitless bridles... however, when I ride her I just use a rope halter as I want her calm when I am on her.

On a lunge with it clipped to her rope halter underneath she'll pack the bridle no problem, just adding the pressure of the line hooked to her snaffle and loose reins attached gets her going... and since that is where she is showing the resistance, that is where we are having the problem..

I have started many colts - including Whiskey (Mayanna Gun) spring of last year as a 3 year old. We got her in the APHA showring by the end of the year, and then I enlisted the help of local trainers to help me finish her - I took lessons on her and did all the riding myself with her living at home. I finished this season with multiple high point titles and the year end High Plains Paint Horse Club Open and Amt High Point winner, and as of now we are on the Top Ten APHA solid open paint bred for the year (5th place currently) and the Zone 3 Open Solid Paint Bred high point, with honor rolls (currently) in Showmanship and Open Trail. I just say this so you all know my experience level and not to brag - though I am quite excited at my sweet 4 year old Whiskey's accomplishments

I don't have immediate plans for Ivy - so if this is a two or three month process, that is OK - I don't want to push past this until I get get her calm and packing the bit at the w/t/c - just hope that we can eventually get there...

I also hate the lunging circles, but we do mostly walk/trot and I keep the circles big. I am going to start ponying her down the local trails fully tacked up - just waiting on Whiskey's sarcoid to close up... it's on her neck and I don't want the reins rubbing on it...
    10-31-2012, 11:18 AM
Well, I doubt anyone will like my answer, but I will throw it out there anyway. She might be physically mature to begin training, but she is clearly (from what you posted) no where near mentally ready for this process. If she we mine, I would let her be a horse for another year, let her grow up mentally for awhile.
EvilHorseOfDoom likes this.
    10-31-2012, 11:25 AM
Sahara - I would be afraid of letting her get more set in her ways given another year -

But I agree about the not ready mentally - and to get past that is to go really slow with baby steps - I am cool with that. So perhaps I should go back to a month of on the lunge packing the bit without the reins - with lunge hooked to rope halter underneath? And only moving on when she is consistently comfortable with w/t/c in that regard?

Maybe I am overloading her by focusing on what she is uncomfortable with instead of rewarding what she is comfortable with...
    10-31-2012, 11:40 AM
Super Moderator
Have you tried a sidepull with bit?
    10-31-2012, 11:45 AM
No... does it have a much different feel?
    10-31-2012, 11:57 AM
Super Moderator
It works with nose/cheek pressure and bit pressure. Usually you start with only the rope sidepull, then use the one with bit to get them to learn accepting the bit. Might be worth a try.
Standardbred folks bit their youngsters in the stall, let them learn to accept it, eat and drink with it first. Then they put them in paddock with surcingle, bit and sidereins, but not at all tight, to work it out by themselves. Under close supervision!
    10-31-2012, 12:11 PM
She accepts her snaffle, will eat and drink with it - but then when the pressure hits she has problems.. which is why it's so difficult.

I'll get a video today and see if you all can see something I am missing ...
    10-31-2012, 12:14 PM
Super Moderator
I'm in agreement with others who say that she isn't at all mentally ready for this amount of pressure - in fact I would say that physically all that lunge work might be too much on her joints as well.
I know different countries/different people have their own ideas but I don't see any rush to begin a horse until its 3 years old - by which time its already happy with everything else it needs to deal with, some I've shown on the lead line from yearlings.
There are lots of ways you can be educating her that don't involve a bit or long lunge sessions at her age.
If you really want to carry on with the lunge work then do it without a bit and consider the suggestions of a sidepull of some sort if you want to go a step further and back her. Forgetting about the bit now might break the cycle of rebellion to it and in a years time you can introduce it again and see how it goes and at that point I'd leave her somewhere safe with the bit in her mouth and no reins for a few days
Is it possible she's trying to get her tongue over the bit and panicing when she feels she might be choking? The pressure of the reins would make that feel worse to her
EvilHorseOfDoom likes this.
    11-01-2012, 01:54 PM
I appreciate all of your comments, and I went back to just the bit with lunge hooked to caveson - I used a thicker french link snaffle today - pic below.

Dreamcatcher, it was helpful to hear that some horses just are more sensitive than others, and our bit problems are not ours alone...

I like Jaydee's comment about breaking the cycle of rebellion and those that said take a step back, that maybe too much too soon for her.

Yesterday I attempted to videotape myself lunging her - pretty shaky video, so forgive it - and I put a song over the top so you didn't have to hear wind and me smooching and clucking...

I put bridle on over cavesson and hooked lunge to cavesson. She was relaxed and happy in the lunge, so we spent most of yesterday on the drive lines (hooked to cavesson) and going around the arena and then showmanship work...

I will do this for the next month or so and then reintroduce reins a bit later. Thanks for your insights guys...
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