horse is extremely nervous/ scared by bit - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 09-11-2014, 02:10 AM Thread Starter
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horse is extremely nervous/ scared by bit

So i am new to this horse owner thing, and need some advice. I bought a quarter horse/ POA, 11 year old mare. She is so gentle and calme! You can walk right up to her, jump on her, play with her mane and tail, even come up from behind her and she does just fine! She is extramely nice and very calm. The problem i been having with her lately is that when i go to put the bit in her mouth she acts really terrifed and with throw her head. It takes a good 15-20 minutes of fighting with her ( not physically) till she finally will take it for me. When we went and look at her to buy, we looked at her 4 different times, the lady/ guy could walk up tp her and she immediately opened her mouth for them. I thought she just gets scared when i try cause she knows i am new to it but then I also have a bunch of expert horse people ( who have worked with horses/ train them their whole life) working with me/my horse since i am new to it and she does the same for them as well. We are curious as to if the previous owners beat her till she took the bit so maybe thats why she took the bit for them? As there was a hoof trim with her that she had clear signs of being beat during previous hoof trims with her previous owners. The headstall/bridle she is fine with those but the muinute she sees the bit or smells it she freaks out, she doesnt buck or rear just acts super scared. I can ride her bareback with just a halter and lead rope and she will neck rein for me and stop when she hears the cues as well. She doesnt have a problem riding or neck reining or stopping as i can do that with her without a bit. Once i she takes the bit she is fine will all of that too. The main thing is the bit in general that scares her. So i am wonder if i should try a hackamore on her instead of a bit? The people i have been working with would like to try it just to see if she will respond different. I am just looking for extra advice and weighing my options. I will probably go back and forth between the bit and hackamore as she needs to get use to the bit and trust i wont hurt her or the bit itself wont. If i use a hackamore would a little s be a better option or something harsher? The trainers i work with think the Little S would be best since she does neck reins just by the touch of lead rope on her neck with cues and stops as soon as i put more pressure on my butt and say whoa. What are your guys thoughts to her not taking the bit and me switching to a hackamore. For now i a, going to continue working with the bit till we figure out a hackamore for a odd shaped head. Thanks
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post #2 of 18 Old 09-11-2014, 02:40 AM
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Firstly, please get your horse's teeth checked.
Then get her ears checked, and also her poll
These are normal reactions that can occur if a horse is experiencing pain in these areas.

Once you have ruled out pain, you need to work with a decent trainer. it sounds like she is trying to fool you, and has your number. If she was fine with the previous owner, I would suggest some ground work lessons in respect.
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post #3 of 18 Old 09-11-2014, 08:14 AM
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The previous owners may have used punishment to force the horse to accept the bit. I once saw a man kick a horse in the canon bone when the horse tried to resist his efforts. However, there are better methods.

The fact that a horse opens its mouth for a bit with one person and not with another is often the result of technique. Many people try to shove a bit into the horse's mouth. Think of how you would react if someone tried to force something into your mouth. A horse may also become resistant to taking the bit if someone pulls on the bridle to get the bit in the mouth and hits the gums or teeth.

I seldom have trouble bridling a horse unless others have first worked it up so much that the horse has become really scarred. Here is how I generally do it.

I stand on the right side of the horse near its head. I rest the top of the bridle on the back of my hand and my forearm between the horse's ears. Holding the bit in my left palm, I calmly lift it towards the horse's mouth. If the horse displays any signs of resistance, I talk calmly to the horse to help it relax. If the horse raises its head, I will let it relax before encouraging it to lower its head again. Persistence has a much greater effect in the long run than does force.

Most horses who know me will take the bit with their lips and lift it into their mouth. If a horse does not open its mouth as I bring the bit near with my left hand, I stick my left thumb into the horse's mouth. When the horse says, "Yuck," I guide the bit into the mouth with my left hand trying to be careful not to hit the teeth. This method usually works well, but sometimes, it may take a while. Working with one mare, I thought my thumb might dissolve before she opened her mouth. Once she did, I never again had trouble bridling her.

Effortless bridling comes from calm and consistent practice. Taking extra time to do it right in the beginning saves much time later on. Trying to rush or force the horse to take the bit often creates a habit of resistance. Be sure, of course, that the bit is the correct size and is adjusted properly. Also, use the bit with discretion.
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post #4 of 18 Old 09-11-2014, 11:24 AM
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To go along with what TX said, don't forget to gently unbridle as well.
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post #5 of 18 Old 09-12-2014, 04:50 AM
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I had a horse come to me for sorting out his problems. He was a wreck and one of the most difficult things to do was to get his bridle on.

When his new owner got him he was evidently not difficult, it had happened over a few months. I knew this woman and was absolutely positive she would never have beaten this horse.

I had just the running head from a double bridle with a bit attached hanging on his door and every time I had a minute and was passing I would put this pon him and then remove it. To start I just put the bit against his lips and the head piece up towards his ears, when he was relaxed with this it progressed and in a very short time he was keeping his head down, opening his mouth to receive the bit without me asking and stayed the same for others that I asked to do the same.

When his owner came over the horse immediately became tense. When it came to her bridling him he remained good but, she didn't give him time to open his mouth and clunked the bit against his teeth.
When it came to taking the bridle off she hauled it over his ears and snatched the bit from his mouth again clunking his teeth.

He was a tall horse and she short, if he raised his head a bit she couldn't reach. So, it was a problem she had made.

It was the same with mounting him. She would haul up onto him so he began to object to this which is why he came to me as he was nigh impossible to mount.
The first time I tried I had a line of straw bales, two high, along the short side of the arena with a gap between the bales and wall so he couldn't swing away. I led his through time and time again. Then I would walk along the one bale high which had him quite tense for a while, then ditto with two bales high.
The day I went to mount him he stood as good as gold when I put my weight in the stirrup he tensed and it was as if someone had thrown a bucket of water over him he sweated so much. Several practises at this and when he relaxed - the same morning, I put him away. That afternoon he remained relaxed so I got on. I asked him to walk on, he got out of the alley of wall and bales and gave such a big sigh and proceeded to work like a good one.

Horse and owner would never get along. He was not particularly complex but he was a worrier if something went wrong. I swapped him for another horse that was shorter and far more suitable to the owner. I sold him to one of my pupils and they got on like a house on fire.
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post #6 of 18 Old 09-12-2014, 06:04 AM
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I read about someone on the forum putting a bit of fruit roll-up on the bit (wrap it around) and the horse now opens his mouth for the bit even if the roll-up is not on it. That's the shortcut way to try if you want to give it a go.
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post #7 of 18 Old 09-12-2014, 07:57 AM
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My first horse came to me difficult to bridle, would throw up his head and pull back quite violently. I used a method I found online ( and I just took it real slow, real patient, but persistent. I made progress immediately, the first session I stopped when I could hold the bridle against his face without head tossing. Session two I stopped when I could hold the bit against his lips with him remaining calm. Session three I was taking the bridle on and off. I feel this is an EXCELLENT method for if the horse has actual misgivings and thinks it's going to hurt him/her.

I just had his teeth done to rule that out, and today when I went to put on his bridle, he had regressed, being much more evasive than he has been (and I don't blame him, as the last thing he had put in his mouth was the gag for the dentist) and I went back to the method I used last time, but it didn't seem to be working, and I was pretty sure he was just seeing what he could get away with, so every time he "won" with his little evasive tactics, I sent him off (we were in a roundyard) and made him work for a bit. After the third time that I sent him off and then when he was listening to me asked him to "whoa". He did an excellent stop straight away which is another victory for us yay! So I went over and gave him a rub, walked back over to the bridle, he followed me, and a put it on without any argument. In this instance, I knew that he was seeing what he could get away with and that's why I used more pressure and it worked.

But definitely rule out pain/teeth issues first and be sensitive to begin with, especially if you think she's responding that way because of previous bad experiences, you want her to be able to trust you, not frighten her further. Good luck :)
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post #8 of 18 Old 09-12-2014, 08:48 AM
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Originally Posted by JCnGrace View Post
To go along with what TX said, don't forget to gently unbridle as well.
you maybe banging her teeth if you are not skilled at it. Escpecially if others are successful
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post #9 of 18 Old 09-12-2014, 10:08 AM
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It is unfortunate that newbies assume previous abuse because a horse has figured them out. The bridling and hoof issues are common issues until the rider figures out that the way they are doing things isn't working. Perhaps you are petting and speaking in soothing tones which the horse considers a reward for it's unwanted behaviour. Often, what your horse is doing, escalates to tail switching, moving into you and/or threatening to kick when you try to mount, going from bad to worse. Since she is fairly responsive when being ridden why not try the English hackamore with the sheepskin noseband? The hard rope on the little S can skin up the horse's nose.

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post #10 of 18 Old 09-12-2014, 10:21 AM
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I hear this all the time, yet I cant even remember the last time it took me longer than 5 minutes to calmly bridle a horse. I'm 5'4" and regularly ride horses 16-18hh.

Really, really, really look at yourself. Do you politely ask the horse to lower its head, open its mouth and gently put the bridle on, nicely guiding the ears under the headstall? or do you go up, try to quickly put the bit in the horses mouth, pull the headstall on and pull the ears under? I would say maybe 25% of bridling issues are dental or pain related, and the other 75% are the horse resisting someone who is not asking the right way.

as far as abuse, forget it, for these reasons:
1)horses can act in a way that leads people to believe it was abused. My bo has a mare she bred and owned from birth. You would swear she was beaten multiple times from how she acts, but 100% she never was.
2)it doesn't matter. If the horse is afraid for no reason, or afraid for a reason, it makes no difference, they still have to be worked through it. abused horses are pitied, non abused ones are not. Horses don't understand pity and feeling sorry for your horse will just hinder your progress.
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