Teaching horse to be bridled
Hey! So there's a horse I've been riding for the last month and may end up buying in the next couple weeks. He's a 6 year old TB that was trained to race but never had any starts because he didn't have the competitive drive. Since then he's had approximately 30 hours riding time, and that's being generous (that's what the current owners said). They got him as a yearling and he's been able to just grow and be a horse for the last 5 years. He's been doing well since I've been working him and riding him in a lesson once a week. The main problem I'm facing, however, is that he's not the greatest at being bridled. He was initially decent (not the greatest) but out of the blue yesterday he was horrible to bridle. I have his head next to my right shoulder with my right hand gently placed on his face. He clenches his teeth together and when I put my thumb in the corner of his mouth, he opens it but then either jerks his head up or to the side away from the bridle. I've trained a horse to be bridled before but that horse was a mellow draft cross and was super easy.
In addition to being sort of bad at being bridled, he gets anxious about being unbridled. I want to take the bit out slowly so it doesn't bang his teeth but the second I take his ears out of the bridle, he jerks back quickly to get the bit out. I'll hold it a certain way so it isn't totally ripped out of his mouth but it still clicks against his teeth harder than I want. I've taken it slowly. I'll unbuckle the throat latch. If he gets antsy, I stop and wait until he calms down before unbuckling the chin strap. If he gets antsy again, I will wait til he is calm before taking the bridle off... It seems like this isn't entirely working either since he still steps back and tries to pull his head quickly out of the bridle.
Any ideas or suggestions?
If this is sudden I would bet it is a teeth issue, get the vet/dentist to check him out and I bet his wolf teeth are still there and are giving him issues.
He's getting his coggins done today and the vet will also take a look at his teeth. He hasn't been floated in a while so it's a possibility. His wolf teeth have already been extracted though. I have his vet records
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Also check his ears.
For a horse that clenches during bridling, you can tickle the roof of the mouth with your thumb.
I'll put my index finger in the horses mouth to see how much tension is in the tongue. If it's clamped down I'll move my finger against it until he relaxes it and moves it around.
It's an interesting issue, never heard of a horse with that type of problem. What I've done with horses that are not used to being bridled, is to turn the experience into a pleasant one. You want him to learn that anything related to the bridle means it's going to involve something he enjoys, where it be a good groom, or feed, his favorite treats.
I would look at also going back to basics with this one. Start working with his face more, brushing, work with his ears. Play with other tack or halter items with removing and putting on. Involve feeding during that time as well.
Once the horse associates feed goodness with the issue you're having, you can slowly remove the feed.
Years ago I owned and worked with a colt who you could not halter because he would panic. By the time I was done with him, he was putting his head in the halter to come spend time with me. Same principles for bridling.
I'll try those things and see how he does :)
He isn't head shy. I'm able to pet and brush his face and ears. He will sometimes try to rub his face on me, too. He's good for that but when it comes to putting the halter or bridle on, his head shoots up. Then for unbridling he jerks away.
I've heard of some people holding a treat with the bit but I'm not sure how well that works?
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I work with a Thoroughbred who was very similar to yours. She had some racehorse training but never raced, didn't have much training afterwards, and was extremely hard to bridle.
She hadn't been worked with for over 8 years. She is 16hh and built like a tank. She would throw her head up the moment you brought the bridle close. It was a matter of just getting the bit into her mouth as quick as possible. It kinda backfired once. I got it in her mouth, she threw her head up, the bit which was a western curb bit fell out of her mouth and hit my nose (I have a bump still there from it).
Some things I did-
1) Teach the horse to lower their head. Apply poll pressure until they lower. I don't know how you bridle but I put my hand between their ears which puts poll pressure so they lower their head and I take my other hand and get things lined up.
2) I've heard horses like copper bits better? My western curb has a copper layer on the mouthpiece which she seems to enjoy more than a regular bit.
3) I've attempted to put like a sweet food on the bit, she out smarted it. And most of it ended up on me.
4) After she got her teeth floated the last time she was a ton better. Now she is the easiest horse we have to bridle.
Does the horse lower his head when you press on his poll? If not, that would be step 1 IMO. My guy was bad about bridling when I got him, but part of his issue, aside from a lack of training that he was expected to keep his head down, was that the bit he was used to being ridden in was uncomfortable for him and hit the roof of his mouth, so bit=pain for him. With lots of training to put his head down whenever I press on his poll and a different bit, he has relaxed a lot and never tosses his head or backs up any more.
I heard that during the initial stages of training, wrapping a fruit roll-up around the bit can help horses that clench their jaw want to open their mouth more. Never went with any bit-sweeteners or food rewards myself, but I can see how they might help if a horse really has an aversion to accepting the bit.
First check his teeth and gums. My horse sued to be VERY bad (he is still touchy) because he had a bad tooth. That was a few years ago though.
Brisco hates to be bridled, but helps my unbridle him.
What I do when I bridle him:
I put the bridle on, with the bit under his chin. He always moves his head up when I even do that. I wrap the bridle around his nose and rub his mouth and face all over. Then I put my fingers in his mouth and he opens them for me. I have my left arm (bridling from the left side) Rubbing him and helping holding the bridle, and my right arm is next to his right eye, keeping him from turning his head away.
When he gets OK for me to do that, then I take the bit in my left hand and I rub his mouth and face with it. I rub his mouth like I was giving him a treat, just all over and not putting my fingers in his mouth.
When he gets OK with that, then I try putting the bit in. He usually puts his head up anyways, but my hands go with his head.
I continue rubbing him all around and then I try again. A few times of this and he finally got it. But it takes some doing.
I hope this helps a little bit!
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