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I was talking to my trainer today and she mentioned that when starting a horse in the bridle some people begin on the ground with the bit attached to long reins and the surcingle, some start with the bit while sitting in the the saddle, and some start in the saddle with a side pull. So I was wondering what would you do or have done?
 

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In the past, I've started using the bit during groundwork. First wearing it only (no reins) with the halter for control then moving up to putting the reins on and while walking beside the horse introducing the action of the bit for making turns and stops. Once they understand that then I'll move onto riding. I'm not a great lover of lunging a horse from the bit or using side reins while longing. Also, not that I have any need to start a horse now (or in the foreseeable future), I wouldn't be adverse to starting one in a rope halter if the circumstances were right.
 

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I would not start a horse in a bit on a lunge or long reins, because the added leverage & 'drag' from long ropes puts a lot more pressure on a sensitive mouth. I want my horses to be comfortable & desensitised to *wearing* a bit before asking them to respond to it's pressure & I want them to respond to slight pressure & not be desensitised to that.

I make sure the horse is going very well in a halter/bitless first, then I get the horse used to wearing a bitted bridle - put the halter over the top, use that still, then once the horse is comfortable with it, I start teaching them to respond to it's different feel, first on the ground before riding. I will keep the halter on for the first few rides, so I can use that, rather than the bit, if something happens that I need to use firm pressure.

...Feel like a bad mum at the mo, introducing my kid's pony to a bit ~ he's only had little & bad experiences with one years ago. They've been riding him for years now but want to do ponyclub & rules state kids must use a bit.
 

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My course of action depends on the colt itself - I've taken first rides in sidepulls, snaffles, halters, or completely bare headed. Some horses were taught to ground drive first (either surcingle or saddle,) some I've tied around to learn to give to pressure, some I just hopped on in the round pen and held a coiled lariat on either side of the neck to encourage the turn. There is no one right way for me, because I tailor my training to the individual horse.

I have been ground driving my current 2yr old with a surcingle and either halter or sidepull. I've put a snaffle on him a few times just to get used to wearing it, and will progress to ground driving in the snaffle in the near future, but when we are ready for our first ride I will probably use my sidepull. This particular horse is extremely sensitive and I want to take extra insurance that I don't accidentally bump him in the mouth if he spooks or trips on our first ride or two.
 

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I'll be interested to know what you go with! The only horse I ever started (I was 16) was under the supervision of an old-school cowboy type, who insisted on slapping a bit in and using one side rein at a time and let them walk in circles in the arena. I don't agree with it and I would never do it again now that I'm older and wiser, but I will say that little filly was very responsive to that bit. Good luck!
 

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I'll be interested to know what you go with! The only horse I ever started (I was 16) was under the supervision of an old-school cowboy type, who insisted on slapping a bit in and using one side rein at a time and let them walk in circles in the arena. I don't agree with it and I would never do it again now that I'm older and wiser, but I will say that little filly was very responsive to that bit. Good luck!
That's not necessarily a bad way of doing things; horses do have to learn to 'follow their nose' and 'give to pressure' BUT the rider needs to be skilled enough to release pressure at the appropriate time. It's also very common to keep a horse in circles the first few rides to help minimize the chance of a run off & keep their attention on you, especially if you don't have a small enclosed area like a round pen.
 

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That's not necessarily a bad way of doing things; horses do have to learn to 'follow their nose' and 'give to pressure' BUT the rider needs to be skilled enough to release pressure at the appropriate time. It's also very common to keep a horse in circles the first few rides to help minimize the chance of a run off & keep their attention on you, especially if you don't have a small enclosed area like a round pen.

See that's the thing, I wasn't on her. He would just have me tighten up the side rein and turn her out in the arena to walk in her own circles for 15-20 minutes or so, so the only pressure release there was was when she released the pressure per se.
 

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Ahh, "tying around" is very common and can be very useful! When done correctly, it can be an great way to teach a horse that giving to bit pressure gives them a release. When done for too long or when tied around too tightly, it'll just make their neck muscles sore.
 

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Ahh, "tying around" is very common and can be very useful! When done correctly, it can be an great way to teach a horse that giving to bit pressure gives them a release. When done for too long or when tied around too tightly, it'll just make their neck muscles sore.

So maybe that old cowboy wasn't as mean as I thought :wink: She really did give to the bit BEAUTIFULLY. She just had a nasty habit of like to buck when you started to canter on trails!! I sure do miss that girl.
 
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