How can I keep the ride enjoyable for my daughter?
Hi. My name is Nikki, I'm new to the Forum. We own our first horse, Matty - a 12 yr old 14'2 standard bred, who is ridden by my nine year old daughter in a cross under (DR Cook style) bridle and treeless saddle. Mikayla has been riding since she was four, 2.5 of those years at a formal school. She now rides almost daily and has a lesson once a week with the local Pony Club. She can walk/trot/canter and jump small rails when riding a quiet school pony but is too nervous on the bigger Matty.
We bought Matty before Christmas and decided to keep him bitless and treeless as that was what he has been schooled in, and a good place to start for buying new gear. Philosophically, I agree with the more natural style and my daughter is dead set on it and doesn't want to change. I bought a bit last week.
Matty is a real sweetheart, but he is headstrong, stubborn and appears lazy (but I know what he is capable of!). He just will not listen to Mikayla and today simply walked through the low arena railing and headed toward the car (signaling he was finished for the day). Of course, she wouldn't allow it, and we continued working him, but she is getting nervous as she has very little control. The French link snaffle doesn't seem to have much effect, either, but I don't want a harsher bit as he is already shaking his head with that one.
We can keep working him, I can have him on the lunge, I can get extra lessons, but it comes down to the fact that rides are not fun. I am trying not to stress. He is a new horse and they both need some time to work out the chain of command, but I keep second guessing my choices and I find I get really wound up at Pony Club nights. What can I do to keep this light hearted and fun for her, while teaching her how to get his respect?
First off, welcome to the forum! :)
My first thought when you mentioned about his head shaking, is that I wonder if he's had his teeth done recently? Getting the teeth done yearly (some horses need it done more often, others less) is something that is often overlooked by horse owners but it's imperative for the horse to be comfortable with a bit in his/her mouth.
If he's had his teeth done recently/had them checked by a vet, then I wonder if your daughter is giving him the signals he's used to. I know my mare (who I use for lessons for kids ages 6-14) will just ignore her rider (and sometimes starts shaking her head all over) until they get the cue right. She's just confused about what they're asking and she's trying her hardest to tell them to fix something! Then, once they figure out the correct cues (with my help) suddenly she's very willing.
Another thing is that a cross-under style bitless bridle uses VERY different pressure points than a bit. So, if his previous owner only rode him in a cross-under, he may be confused and frustrated about what the bit means since he may have never/only briefly experienced a bit before.
Does he do the same thing bitless? If not, he may just be more comfortable bitless (some horses are) so it might be in your best interest to keep him in the bitless bridle until you two know him better.
Have you had his mouth checked by a vet for deformities/issues that may be exacerbated by a bit?
My mare is gray and therefore has melanomas. Some of her melanomas are inside her mouth and cause her to be completely unable to carry a bit comfortably. I had no idea (there are no external indicators of these melanomas, you have to know what to look for) until one day I just decided to ride her bitless and it was like a magical fix, suddenly her behavior issues were mostly gone... So it could be a similar thing with your guy...
I'm just throwing a bunch of ideas out there, hopefully one will apply and be helpful in your situation! :)
Thanks Wallaby :)
I did wonder about his teeth and will be getting them checked. He was only with his previous owners for about a year and has been bitted before. He accepts it with no issues, but chews a lot.
He was trained using a rope halter and sidepull style bridle, but my daughter had no joy there, so the cross under was far more successful. I think, though, that there has been too much conflicting advice from other riders using bits, and her reins have been too tight, and so not giving the right signal. He does need a strong leader (and by that I mean in personality, not force) to help him as he gets confused easily.
I can see that a major part of the problem is me - I get too uptight, and frustrated, and then we all get wound up and the pressure literally builds!
does he do the head shaking any other time apart from being ridden? just thinking maybe he has mites in his ear something with his ears or teeth as said above.
Netty - no, it's a response to the bit in his mouth as that's the only time he does it. He does these silly things where he huffs and puffs about doing something and we have to have a little argument, then he gives in and does what's been asked of him, however reluctantly. I figured shaking his head is just another tantrum, but I will get his teeth checked to be sure there's no discomfort.
The rest of the time, he simply ploughs on regardless of what he is being asked to do, which direction she is trying to go.
I've been up since 5am trying to think of things I can do with the two of them.
Has your daughter had any lessons using Matty? I know you said she's had lessons on school ponies. Some lessons with him could help your daughter learn how to work with him and sort out what bit to use. You don't necessarily need a "harsher" bit, he may prefer a different type of snaffle. I have one horse in a french link eggbutt and another in a D ring happy mouth snaffle, my trainer tried snaffles until we found which one each preferred.
Changing to a new horse can be scary, my 7yr old moved to a new pony and although she could walk/trot/canter and was going over ground poles with the last one, she's had several lunge lessons on the new one and just cantered him this week for the first time. New pony, bigger pony and a much more forward, energetic pony, so in some ways it's like learning to ride all over again for her.
I had a few lunge line lessons when I bought my current horse. Sometimes just having someone on the ground to tell you that *yes, you CAN do this* makes a world of difference and sometimes that needs to be someone that isn't "Mom". My kiddo and I have a great relationship but having someone that isn't "Mom" tell her something goes over way better sometimes.
I would suggest getting her and Matty embarked on a course of ground work, and/or clicker training to bring back fun and small, measureble successes.
She would learn how to back him, move him one step right, one step left, teach him to bow, I dunno. If she is overwhelmed in the saddle, working on the ground with him may give her more sense of fun and or control. Especially if he's fundamentally a nice, lazy guy.
She could put together a 'show" for you, with some tricks.
Put them in a really small paddock or round pen for their riding and get her on the lunge line, bareback and go really slow.
Let her desing and create a horse and human costume for the "show".
Stuff like that to bring in some sillyness. She's only nine! Heck, she's a baby practically.
Delfina - She has has a few group lessons with the Pony Club, but nothing I would consider worth while. What she really does need, and I'm trying to organise for her, is a few individual lessons with someone who understands bitless riding. Pony Club advice has encouraged tighter reins and the result has not worked, but now we're all confused!
It will take time and in the mean time, I need to make sure she doesn't loose her love for the sport. I feel we made a bad choice in the pony, but we love him to bits and don't want to get rid of him, so we kind of need to make it work and find solutions. It's tough on her though.
Thanks for all the advice. Some good things to think about and we'll continue with the lunging, and start some more fun ground work stuff. I need to chill! :lol:
like your finding tighter reins, bigger bits, probably not the answer. Keep him bitles if thats what hes used to.
i give lessons to kids, and am the local Ponyclub head instructor. Make it more fun and get the horse under control by teaching them both games to get the horse listening.
setting up simple cones for weaving, poles on the ground that she need to walk throu, key holes to practice stopping and turning.
always start the ride by getting your daughter to go a step or to then ask the horse to stop. reinforce the stop if you need to. Then get her to count 3-4 steps then stop. then a few more. Get the horse paying attention to her from the very start of the ride, if you make it a counting game for her it makes it less work like. Alway ensure the horse gets a reward every time he responds to rein pressure, by giving him a slight release of rein before asking him to go again.
then carry on to weaving etc to help develop steering
hope this helps
If he has not had his teeth done then I would start there. I know I would shake my head if I had sharps like horses can get.
The reason there are lots of different bits in the world is that one bit does not always work for every horse. Not every horse has the same shape mouth, etc. Maybe he simply does not like a french link snaffle. Maybe he does not like whatever material the bit you bought is made out of. Maybe your bit does not fit properly.
You said the horse did not listen to your daughter with the bit, does the horse listen with the bitless bridle in the same situation?
I agree, lessons with a trainer on this horse might help your daughter. Or maybe this horse is simply not the right horse for your daughter.
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