Bareback and bridleless!
My horse and I have been together for 3 years now and we have a great bond. He is very in tune with my seat and always responsive.
I've been slowly working on riding w/o a bridle and it's going very well. We can walk and trot and halt and back-(working on being straight). We are working on canter- sometimes he gets nervous and gets hot so I back off. But we do get a few good goes here and there.
I just wanted to ask what I should do about this really annoying thing he's picked up..
Since he doesn't have reins to stop him from moving his head, sometimes he'll look around to my feet and try to nibble on them- even at the freaking trot or canter! It's so annoying because I don't know what to do!
Has anyone had this happen to them? What do I do to keep his head straight?! He only started it the last time I rode him, so maybe it was just a fluke, but I really want to continue riding without tack and if he keeps doing that, it's going to be hard and I don't want to get frustrated and make him not enjoy his freedom.
My horse once did that occasionally. I just gave her a good nudge in the nose with my foot every time. It worked well for me, so if you're not afraid you'll lose your seat or anything doing it than maybe you could try that? Good luck.
Haha as a matter of fact, that's exactly what I did... I gave his face the boot(mind you a steel toe mountain horse winter boot), but he thought it was a freaking game. He kept coming back to nibble my feet.
He's very nebby and annoying. I have been consistently correcting him, making him move his feet when he tries to be mouthy, but he is so stubborn. I could correct him 50,000 times and he would still push buttons.
Like getting him to ground tie is always a work in progress. After 2 years of doing it CONSISTENTLY making him stand or back up or whatever if he moved, and he still hasn't gotten it through his skull to just stand and relax.
Now I don't want to make him seem like a bad horse, because I'll be honest, he has a heart of gold and a very sharp, wise mind. He's only 7 but acts 25 sometimes. He's still a busy baby and tries to play any time he gets the chance.
Then don't make it a game. Pecking fifty thousand times will only perpetuate it. Ask, tell, demand.
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You said it yourself - he has an active mind and is curious of everything that happens around him. By riding bridleless, you are giving him a certain freedom of choice how to carry himself, so I think you shouldn't strive towards making a robot out of him - I know it is not what you consciously want to do, but by touching you he is communicating with you and I don't like suppressing such things. If you rode bareback when he first tried it, maybe you pinched his back somehow - it can be uncomfortable for some horses and bareback riding for prolonged periods of time (more than 15 minutes or sometimes less) should be done only on horses in collection. Maybe your legs looked different to him at trot and canter when bareback, maybe they swinged somehow to draw his attention. Horses really pay attention to such small details that are often indifferent to us. ;) I'd suggest not to view this behavior as bothersome, but try to understand the reasons of it and then communicate back to him so that he willingly carries his head straight, not just make him do it. If he does it as a game and as a way to push into your personal space, then more groundwork is required to help him understand the concepts that are important to you.
That's a good thought Saranda.
And though I see it the same way, having him twisting his body around to bite at my feet while trotting or cantering is dangerous and silly.
He stretches his whole head around. There's no way he could see what's in front of him. That's not really good.
I think in such case I'd first ride him with a bridle and look for the slightest signs of him wanting to do this game. Then I'd correct them lightly and enforce them with a cue that can be done from your seat or legs - touching his girth area, perhaps, or whatever goes for you. After a few tries, I'd use only the new cue and then reinforce it with reins, if neccessary. Then, during the same session, I'd take off the bridle and repeat it just with the new cue.
You can also do "freestyle" riding with a crop in each of your hands, held calmly by your sides. Whenever he tries to flex and bite, correct him first with a swing towards his neck, then with a tap, if needed. Trying to fight him off with your feet might really just encourage it, so your blocks must be swift, just and without any emotions at all - as if he just runs into a wall that show him the boundaries of your personal space. So, see what explains him what you want best - he sounds like a smart boy and should get it pretty soon.
Very helpful advice Saranda! Thank you! I should definitely try holding a whip.
You can't 'teach' a horse to ride bridleless by riding bridleless. You teach them by putting the reins down and not using them for as much of the time as possible. BUT, they are there so that you can correct unwanted behavior.
If you are having problems with him when you pull the bridle off, it means you and he are not really ready to go bridleless yet. When you can ride for several rides with a bridle there but not have to touch it to correct him, then you are getting close to having the control you need without a bridle there at all. This can take a pretty good while to get a horse really 'solid' on going without touching the reins.
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