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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Long story short.
4 y/o unraced tb. Spoiled by previous owners. We're having to reteach him literally everything, and most of his training is going pretty well.
Ground manners still aren't the best, but that's not today's issue.
My trainer can bridle him, and I'm supposed to practice doing it when it's not a lesson day. Getting it on is also kind of necessary, because we're doing lots of in-hand stuff and lunge work.

I cannot bridle him at all. I can approach him properly, hold his head properly, but the moment I bring the bridle near his face, he throws his head up, right over me, and books it to the corner of his stall, dragging me along with him. I'm not physically strong enough to hold him down when he decides he wants to leave.

Right now it takes a lot of physical strength to hold his head down and get the bridle on. I have to put it on over his halter, and physically pin him down. Either that, or chase him around for ages and try to grab his head. I'm finding this method very stressful for both of us.

Could someone give me some advice on how to slowly get to the point where I can go over to him to put his bridle on, and he'll just hold his head steady and not give me any crap? He's very unwilling, and it'd be great if he'd cooperate.

It's driving me nuts, and I get really frustrated.
He has some gaps in his training, so I don't know how far I'll have to break this down.

My trainer is a lot stronger than me, so he can hold him still enough to put it on, but I'd like to do it without resistance.
Once the bit's in his mouth, he's fine. As fine as he gets, anyways. He'll calmly let me do up the straps and lead him out, etc.
 

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Catch him in a halter first. Get him nice and calm and rub his face. Rub and pat his face all over and just make sure he's fine with you doing that.
Then undo the halter, put the throatlatch around his neck, and do it up so you have some control on him and then grab the bridle.

A method I use to bridle Ricky who is my young horse is to hold both the cheek pieces together in my right hand, go under his face, put your right hand on his face and and use your left hand to put the bit in. Don't worry about holding the browband, its easier to just hold the cheek pieces and use your left hand to insert the bit. The good thing about this is that your left hand is free to put the bit in or grab the lead rope attached to the halter around his neck.

Be confident in your approach and don't take any crap from him. As a young horse, its important that you establish good foundations with him.
 

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Right now it takes a lot of physical strength to hold his head down and get the bridle on. I have to put it on over his halter, and physically pin him down. Either that, or chase him around for ages and try to grab his head. I'm finding this method very stressful for both of us.
You're right, this is not going to work at all. I have an OTTB who is much older but had big time bridling issues when I first got him. There is no way a human can manhandle a big horse into doing what we want!

You will get some great advice from others, no doubt but my two cents is to work on ground manners and trust with this guy. He is young and as you mention, has lots of holes in his training. For this problem specifically, I would start with getting him to drop his head to pressure at the poll. How I fixed this with my guy (a treat *****) was to put my head on top of his head (or pull straight and steadily down with a lead if he was particularly snarky) and completely release all tension the second he dropped his head a bit. Then he'd get a treat if he kept his head lowered, even if slightly.

We practiced this all the time throughout our ground work sessions. Within a few weeks we had moved up to bridling, slowly introducing the bridle, releasing pressure for him just not even throwing his head when I came near with it. It was a lot of baby steps for sure but within 5 months I could hold the bridle out in front of him and have him willingly put his head in and take the bit. Good luck to you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
He's fine with my touching and holding his face, until the bridle comes into play.
My biggest issue is that he's highly intelligent, and so if there's a way around it, he'll find it. I do pretty much what you're describing, but he jerks his head up really high, and physically keeps me from doing it in general.

Even with a halter on, and somebody holding him down, I still have trouble putting his bridle on. That's why I'm wondering if there's a way to make him more willing :)

This isn't a horse I can win any sort of physical battle with I guess.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
tealamutt:
He doesn't give to pressure at his poll at all. Is this something that will help with the bridling then? I've been trying to work on that, but he doesn't exactly cooperate there either.
 

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Giving to pressure at the poll definitely helped me. I mean, my horse is still quite stubborn opening her mouth for the bit, and you have to jab a finger in her gums, but whenever she tries to throw her head up now, I make her put it down again, and she does.
 

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I agree with others. If he's been slammed in the mouth or just figured out if he chucks his head around he doesn't have to work then you need to treat him like a baby ;)

I would step way back and not worry about the bridle at all for a bit. Tealamutt gave a really good course of action but before you even bring in the bridle I would get him to drop his head into a halter. It's a good step in between just putting his head down for you and the bridle. You can also hold the halter up with one hand and hold a treat right threw where his muzzle goes and let him feel something being slid up his face while he enjoys a treat.
 

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I know a lot of folks don't believe in giving cookies, and I really don't either but this is one of those times I think it helps.
I hold a cookie in the bit hand and hold it down at the level I want her mouth then slip the bit in then the cookie. While she is munching, I slip the headstall over her ears.
I made a video a long time ago, I'll find it and post.

Here it is, I should have buckled the throat latch before the reins. I just noticed that :lol:
 

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Quote : "It is really driving me nuts and I get really frustrated."
and just maybe you get a little angry and irritable - that is a No No.

The use of the head collar should help you get him to accept the leather.
A bridle is merely a head collar with a bit.

A thin rope head collar will work on the poll - and if he doesn't respond then you are not applying enough pressure. But you have to be very careful in the use of a device working on the poll because if you subject him to pain then he has good reason to avoid any head collar or bridle set

The metal bit may bang his teeth - so use a bridle set with a soft vulcanite bit as a practice tool.

Some horses don't automatically respect a human even if you are the owner and the more intelligent creature. Respect has to be gained with some horses.

As for the previous owners being soft - well the damage has been done. You can't take away all of those memories especially if the horse is intelligent and a little willful. Why do you think they sold him on?

When catching a horse in the paddock I find a head collar with a clip which runs under the throat helps. And I always take a horse biscuit to give the horse when she has accepted the head collar.

But the most important thing is quiet, gentle, firm, persistence. No anger, no shouting, no irritability.

If you can't fit the bridle to a submissive horse then the pair of you are lost.

Go back and try again.


PS A horse dentist is the best teacher for overcoming bridle fitting problems.
When did you last have the horse's teeth done?
 

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There is a lot of good advice here, I like all the different suggestions and plan on keeping this thread in my favorites for when Cinny finally arrives....he's very green and I anticipate a lot of problems. But anyway...

My experience with OT horses are that they have had a lot of bits SLAMMED into their mouths etc etc...which hurts. Your horse may be identifying the bridle with pain. He sees bridle, he is GOING to be in pain...this is what goes on in their heads because this is how OT horses grew up.

Be sure that his mouth is healthy and if he hasn't recently had a dental check I would do that. I have seen a lot of horses have a lot of hidden dental problems such as sharp or broken wolf teeth (which are the first to get the slam of a bit) or other problems that cause pain with the bit and even eating.

I think I would work with this guy for a good half hour or more each day on taking the bridle on and off BUT I suggest if you possibly can get a nice flavored rubber or nylon snaffle for this work. THIS IS NOT TO RIDE IN, as most horses are out of control with them. But, if there is an accidental slam or any other issue it will not clank against and hurt the teeth as much. The goal here is to have him stop associating the bridle with pain so we want to make it hurt as little as possible on our working sessions. I think this in combination with any of the above methods and a LOT of repetition will help.

It will most likely take you months or maybe even a year to get him over this.....be patient
 

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Giving to poll pressure is absolutely essential to easy bridling. I'm not going to get real detailed with this, but you'll get the idea. Take the lead rope and put it over the poll right behind the ears…put slight pressure on the rope from below by holding the rope closed with your hand. When he lowers his head, release the pressure and praise him. If he tosses or resists, you keep the pressure on until he relaxes and gives. It won't take long for him to get the idea. Once you can lower his head with the rope, add your hand between his ears…cue first with hand pressure and then the rope…pretty soon he'll lower his head when you press with your hand. Next time you will use your hand only to get him to lower his head… when he does, praise him and rub his forehead with the hand you have between his ears. Next move your hand forward so that your forearm is between his ears. When you can do this, end the lesson. Repeat…hand…forearm and rub his forehead, eyes and so forth. Once he accept that, you're ready to add the bridle into the mix. Close the reins an put them over his face behind the poll, where the rope would have been. Gently put pressure just as you did with the rope. Basically you are going to use the reins the same way you did the rope. Once he accepts pressure from your hand on his poll and your forearm between his ears you can add the bridle to the mix.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks so much guys! I'll take note of all this stuff and give it a shot today with him.

He had his teeth done a couple months ago. They weren't horrible, but they needed to be done.
I don't know if he's had the bit slammed against his teeth before, but the previous owners weren't geniuses, so...

I'll post again once I've been to the barn today :)
 

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I agree with those who have said to get the horse to release to the pressure on the poll. You say you can get his head into the correct position, but are you holding it there or is he willingly leaving it there for you?

You need to work on the horse releasing to the pressure of the halter until he is consistent at the stand still. Then you need to raise the emotion. Ask him to lower his head and then do something that will cause him to raise it. Let him bump into the pressure, don't pull him. So you ask him to lower it, take out the slack and then move or do something slight that will cause him to raise it. Hold your hand steady letting him hit the pressure and wait for him to come off it. When he will hit it and come off immediately, ask the horse to walk and keep his head down, if he pulls up or back drive him forward (go forward cue) so he comes off the pressure down and forward.

When you are ready to bridle ask him to move off your hand pressure and have him put his head in the correct position (neck bent to the side and poll below your shoulder level. If he takes his head from that position, use counter pressure with your hands to bring it back. He must willingly leave it there for you. When he will then start playing with his face and counter move him if he takes it away.

You can then mimic the bit/bridle by using the lead rope. Put it to him like the bridle and counter move him until he allows you to place the lead in his mouth. When he is consistent with that, you can add the bridle.

Never start with a goal or you will start with a wreck. Start where the horse will say yes and ask as many questions as you can about what your horse can do from that point. Make as many lessons as you can between your goal and where you can start. The smaller and more specific the steps the faster and easier your horse will learn. It is a game to see how many steps you can put between where you are and your goal. The most steps wins.
 

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^^^^
Never start with a goal or you will start with a wreck. Start where the horse will say yes and ask as many questions as you can about what your horse can do from that point. Make as many lessons as you can between your goal and where you can start. The smaller and more specific the steps the faster and easier your horse will learn. It is a game to see how many steps you can put between where you are and your goal. The most steps wins.
__________________



I love that!
 

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Take the lead rope and put it over the poll right behind the ears…put slight pressure on the rope from below by holding the rope closed with your hand. When he lowers his head, release the pressure and praise him. If he tosses or resists, you keep the pressure on until he relaxes and gives. It won't take long for him to get the idea.

Yes, this post is exactly how I would have described how you go about doing this. If he throws his head, keep the pressure (I like Barry's suggestion of a halter which applies poll pressure-not PAIN! as it can't slip like a lead around the ears could) he must absolutely understand that no amount of fit throwing is going to free him. If he backs, back with him, keeping slow steady pressure.

At all times remain completely calm. The less talking the better. The instant he gives the slightest bit, you let up. Do not practice this for too long either. Maybe the first day you just get him to give once. Then leave it. **at no point should you be forcing his head down and holding it while bridling** this will only solidify the fear and mistrust he already has.

The SECOND you get irritated, give up for the day. You must remain calm and cool the whole time or it is worthless. I cannot stress enough that you cannot force him or be cross because everytime you do, you are moving backward with him. Trust me, I had many many tears and fights with my boy. He bridles like a dream now and follows right at my side without a lead, but several months ago he repeatedly knocked me down and dragged me around. You can do this, you have great advice on here! Keep us posted on your progress, good luck to you!!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Thanks Tealmutt + ReiningTrainer.
That's some really good advice. He's actually picking up the pressure thing pretty quickly, taking it slowly seems to help keep me from getting frustrated.
 

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awesome, keep up the great work. Horses naturally seek release from pressure so once you get the hang of using that reward, it is easier and easier to teach them things. Most TBs are pretty smart and will learn very quickly, especially when they can relax about it. Glad to hear you're keeping calmer, I used to get SO frustrated with my TB and he would totally feed off of it. Good to hear you two are moving forward.
 

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You need to first teach this baby to drop his head for you first...

1) cradle his head right arm over his head/neck, left hand over bridge of his nose.

2) Lightly press with your fingers to his poll...don't dig in, just lightly press...

3) as soon as he relaxes his head downwards even a half a centimeter release both hands and praise him with petting and a treat if you'd like

4) repeat steps 1-3 several times each session; DO NOT release pressure til he "gives" to it.

Another thing, if he is so scared of your hands near his face, you may want to spend some time getting him used to you rubbing on his neck, head, and face, before attempting to teach him to lower his head...it does no good to try to teach him how to lower his head if he is terrified of your arms being there in the first place; get him used to you being all over him, THEN start teaching him to respect such wishes as giving to pressure.
 

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I know a lot of folks don't believe in giving cookies, and I really don't either but this is one of those times I think it helps.
I hold a cookie in the bit hand and hold it down at the level I want her mouth then slip the bit in then the cookie. While she is munching, I slip the headstall over her ears.
I made a video a long time ago, I'll find it and post.
I would never put a bit in a horses mouth like that. You can actually hear the bit hitting the teeth and if the horse is sensivite you make a head shy horse.
I control the bit with the left hand at all times. I gentlely use the fingers of my left hand reaching around under the chin and using those fingers tickle the lips and actually slide bit and fingers into the mouth making sure not to touch the teeth and at the same time I can control the head by the fingers in the corner of the mouth.
The video also shows a tight curb chain?? I always have the curb chain undone, hanging loose while the bit goes in or comes out.

that video shows an older steady horse, not a young one learning.
Same with removing the bit, you have to control it and make sure the teeth are not banged or again you have a horse that makes a fuss when unbridling.
You don't bribe behavor out of a horse
 
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