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womack29 01-04-2014 09:07 PM

I have a TWH and when I acquired her 5 yrs ago they she was being ridden in a twisted wire wonder bit. It was harsh. I transitioned her to a snaffle and she gas being using that for the past 4 1\ 2 yrs but at time I do not get the response I need. It happens when say she is startled and I am trying to get her back into her head. Any advice. I do trail riding

ZaneyZanne123 01-05-2014 02:31 AM

I teach the calm down cue by John Lyons. Works every time just takes time and consistancy when training.

Below is the jist of the technique and I did this using a full cheek snaffle bit. I dont use anything twisted in a horse's mouth.

Head Lowering or Calm-Down Cue


There is nothing more dangerous (or harder to handle) than an excited, out-of-control equine. Yet most riders' bag of training techniques doesn't inclue a fast, easy way to relax a hyped-up horse. Many trainers recommend circling, but it is not a universally successful method, and it leaves plenty of time to get hurt. There is only one calming method I know that works consistently-the cue for your horse to lower his head. When a horse is excited, his head and neck come up and his muscles get tense. But when his head is down by his knees, he can't jig or rear and his whole body relaxes; it's a physiological response. When you teach your horse to put his head down on cue, he learns that the world looks better from that vantage point. This makes such an impact that some horses actually learn to calm themselves by lowering their own heads when they feel excitied or nervous.

To teach the basic calm-down cue, you'll need a mild snaffle bit and a controlled environment (such as a round pen) in which to practice. Start on horseback, with your horse relaxed and standing still, and then follow these steps:


Take up one rein only, applying light pressure on the bit. Expect your horse to raise his head (a natural response), but maintain your light contact when he does. Seeking release from the pressure, he'll soon drop his head. When he does, even if it's just by a half-inch, reward him by releasing the rein pressure and patting him.


When you release the rein pressure, expect your horse to raise his head again. That's OK. At this stage, you just want him to drop his head in response to pressure. To teach him to do this consistently, repeat Step 1 until your horse responds immediately to your lifted rein by lowering his head that first half-inch.


Once your horse has mastered the initial drop, teach him to keep his head down. Start by asking him to lower his head. But this time, when he brings it up, immediately apply pressure on the rein, releasing it only when he lowers his head again. Repeat this step until he learns to leave his head in the dropped position, even after you release the pressure.


Now you can teach your horse to drop his head to progressively lower levels. Starting from his original dropped position, apply rein pressure, asking him to drop his head another half-inch or so. Repeat until he consistenly drops his head to the new, lower level. Then start again, asking him to lower his head another notch. Continue this step, working in approximately one-half inch increments until his nose is near the ground. (Note: The last six inches are the hardest.)


Practice at the halt until your horse drops his head to the ground as soon as you lift a rein. When you feel him actively pull his head down those last few inches, you'll know that you've changed his mind-set. He now thinks that he wants his head down, not up, when you put pressure on the bit.


Once your horse has learned the cue with one rein, start the process over again with the opposite rein, until he responds readily to your command, regardless of which rein you lift.

Once your horse is responsive to the calm-down cue from either rein, raise the distraction level. Teach him to respond to the cue at the walk, the jog, and, ultimately, the lope. Get him excited (which you can do by adding speed to any gait), and then calm him down, using this cue. By practicing at home, in a controlled environment, you can safely prepare for the raised adrenaline and distraction levels you and your horse will fact on the trail, in the showring, or in any other high-stress situation.


The calm-down cue has uses beyond its safety-valve function. For example, you can adjust your horse's headset by putting the process in reverse - teaching him to bring his head back up when you apply pressure. With his head lowered, just pick up your rein and hold it. Your horse will put his head down farther, looking for the release, but when there is no release, he'll bring his head up. That's when you give him his reward and release the pressure. Although it might sound confusing to us, it makes sense to the horse. He learns to go toward the release- and you can change the direction of that release in seconds. By controlling headset, you can better control your horse's balance and frame as well.

You can also improve your horse's ground manners by teaching him to respond to the calm-down cue from the ground, using either reins or a lead rope and following the steps above. The only difference is that you apply downward pressure to the reins or leadline while you're standing. This is a very important technique for training your horse not to rear, or teaching him how to stand tied. It's also helpful in teaching your horse to put his head down for bridling, clipping or bathing.

womack29 01-05-2014 09:10 AM

Thanks I will work on this sounds like a great place to start
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4everhorsey 01-05-2014 09:23 AM

Maybe change your bit to one a little bit stronger? I ride in a 3 ring gag on the third ring on my 4 year old gelding. He is very strong and I don't pull on his mouth but if he bolts or tries I pull him back and he knows he cannot just run away(:

I hope this helps! And I don't know if you ever heard of the one rein stop but I wouldn't advise it. If you look at some cowboy movies where horses fall to their side it looks like they are using the one rein stop there! (pull the horses head around until it stops)

But they can lose their balance and fall and hurt themselves or the rider.

womack29 01-05-2014 01:09 PM

One rein stop I am good with but still think she needs more bit 4everhotsey can you post a pic of the bit
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Trinity Ridge 01-05-2014 01:27 PM

im in the minority, but IMO a walking horse needs to be in a curb bit, and i like a curb strap or chain. better to have and not ever use than to need it and not have it.

i dont care for a snaffle. esp. not for a gaited horse.

lilruffian 01-05-2014 01:33 PM

It's a training issue. You need to go back to the basics and teach her to respond softly to pressure, even if this means ont he ground in a halter. Ideally, you want your horse to respond to you, not the harshness of your bit.
Throwing a bigger bit in their mouths is the easy way out and only masks the real issue.
Also, if we are going to get technical, any shanked bit is designed for neck reining; in other words for horses that have been properly trained to respond to the slightest pressure on their bodies, not the reins.
A snaffle is meant for direct reining as it applies pressure properly to the side of the face without twisting against the jaw.
One rein stops are very handy and can be quite useful in teaching horses to maintain gait or slow down (horses dont like doing circles) and i have never seen a horse go over on its rider with a one rein stop. If the horse is that panicked then there are deeper issues than the bit that you need to look into.

Trinity Ridge 01-05-2014 01:42 PM

im of the opinion a walker horse needs to ride into the bit somewhat, a snaffle is not a bit for this type of horse. direct or indirect, matters not.

Idrivetrotters 01-05-2014 01:53 PM

I'm currently reschooling a TWH mare I rescued (walking skeleton, standing a stall for at least a month with minimal food and water and obviously nobody cleaned her stall, she came with worms, 4 badly infected feet, rain rot, and terrified of people).

I'm starting her back (also rode in a long shanked twisted wire bit) in a plain eggbut mullen mouth bit. I found that bit works really well with Walkers who were on those long shanked and/or wire bits. The mullen gives them a quiet bit that isn't too "noisy" or have a nutcracker effect. I've tried French Links but for a lot of horses that is a bit with a lot of movement and I just found that the quieter a bit sits in their mouths, the easier the horse is to communicate with.

Snaffles are not the be all bit for every horse nor for every discipline. Each horse is an individual and especially when reschooling a horse, a snaffle is not always the best choice. Find the softest bit that fits the horse's entire mouth ie palette, tongue, bars, and lips and then work quietly and consistently with that bit.

palogal 01-05-2014 01:58 PM

Two piece snaffle or three? I have found that gaited horses do better in a three piece snaffle.

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