View Full Version : How to create a soft mouth...

Sep. 12, 2009, 12:33 PM
I was kind of hoping this thread could be more a discussion thread similar to the "round canter" thread we had awhile ago. My horse is only 5 but his mouth is already pretty hard. Old trainers always had me pull on alternating reins until they gave in, but it seems like he just pulls harder.

Any advice?

Sep. 12, 2009, 12:52 PM
This sounds too harsh, but I think you (and really, your trainer) need a crash course in dressage philosophy and equine biomechanics 101.

A soft mouth comes primarily from a horse who is strong enough behind to push- rather than pull-himself along. He can't be soft in front if he's using his front end primarily for propulsion and not for balance.

It also comes from a horse who has been systematically taught to soften his jaw in response to rein pressure.

Finally (but taught at the same time with the above), a horse can only soften his jaw if he is also taught and then physically conditioned to raise his shoulders and back when the rider rides the horse from leg to a containing hand.

In other words (and the reason for my regrettable snippines above), if you and your trainer are debating the merits of doing something like "seesawing" on the bit as a solution to the problem, you are really missing a great deal.

Sep. 12, 2009, 12:59 PM
WHat has helped learn how to create the ride I want is by several , thoughts and ideas from riders who actually make a horse do better. Preferably gadget free and the horse seems so much happier after the ride.

What has taken me YEARS to feel has now allowed me to partially explain it, the rest well is a feel thing.

WHen I get on the very first thing I do in a walk is leg yield with nose into the rail and move them off my leg into the out side rein. like this \ and I go like this \ down the long side.

I tells me several things , 1 how good off the leg , 2 how flexible they are . 3 it allows me to loosen their back. It also tells me if he over sensitive or can learn easy. Some feel anxious , but if you guide it through they get it. I will do this for several steps --- then trot on big.

I then work in to bending the body really focusing on nose into me withers out , stepping up to outside shoulder.

I could explain so much more but to keep in a nutshell you have to ride the body and think about loosen them for balance and self carriage.

If you show your horse this he will get lighter.
If you address the reins first it will be a quick fix that will make them duller and duller.

Ride the body , base of their neck & move the haunches and shoulders all over ,, lots of counter bending at the walk loosening the neck and then trot huge long reins.

98% of the horses I ride by the middle or end of my ride stretch like a perfect rainbow .

I prefer a double jointed mouth piece to loosen , like JPC bit or Herm sprenger KK

Sep. 12, 2009, 09:37 PM
All the above is great and good, all the "ride from the back" and "get him to lift his back and withers", etc.

But you have to start way way back at the beginning at this point - teaching the horse to give to pressure.

He's so far been taught to lean into pressure, not give to it. Therefore he can't be ridden back to front. (re) teach him that when he softens, you stop asking. Horses learn to be "hard" in the mouth when they either never get the chance to soften, they are just yanked around, or they are never given the release of the pressure when they do soften. So, they learn to ignore the bit. That's the "hard" mouth.

You say "old trainers" had you see-sawing. Do you have a trainer now? If you do, what is s/he telling you to do? This is a really basic issue - if a current trainer can't help you on this, nothing else is going to be all that good.

Sep. 12, 2009, 10:03 PM
In my experience a soft bit = soft mouth.

All of the other advice given on this thread is completely true. Its in teaching the horse to push from behind, listen to your aids, and give to pressure. The one extra I'd like to add is this:

I have found horses that are pegged as "hard mouthed" are far more willing to cooperate and work with you if you really take the time to find a comfortable bit for them. I love the happymouth bits, and they are my go to when I start working with these situations. It might seem like working backwards, but if you're not asking your horse correctly to use their back end and give to mouth pressure, using a strong bit just further punishes them and makes them less willing to listen to anything you have to say. Its a lot easier for them to grasp the concept when they have something gentle to work with.

This does not mean that the only good bit out there is soft rubber...not at all. Its just where I like to start when getting a horse started on this path. 90% of the horses I've started thenmoved to a plain d-ring snaffle, or a rubber pelham if needed for a little extra control.

When I start with the rubber bits, I do walk trot work only. The sole purpose is to teach them the right way to use their body in response to your aids.

Sep. 13, 2009, 12:33 AM
Soft mouths come from soft hands and correct riding. Things that will help. Bending making sure to hold your outside rein and push your horse forward with your inside leg and give and take softly on your inside rein. Riding forward into halt, keeping the leg on and then not softening the hand (but not pulling back) and closing your leg until your horse finds the release by dropping his haunch, raising his back and stepping back. Half turns with a reverse bend.

Sep. 13, 2009, 09:33 AM
While I agree with much of what has been said here, I have to add my two cents and say: ENGAGED HOCKS = SOFT MOUTH.

The more you concentrate on lateral work and good upward and downward transitions, the softer your horse's mouth will get as he learns to step further under his body, shift some weight rearwards, and figure out that your hands are NOT his fifth leg! The problem is that this means more effort on his behalf and he may not be so excited about that. :lol:

Sep. 13, 2009, 09:52 AM
Well there's a spooky coincidence.

I did a long diatribe on this subject earlier today.

Also coincidental I titled my thread "old fashioned"


Trust me what you describe isn't old fashioned training at all. It's bad training.

Pulling on reins!!! :eek::no:

See sawing on reins !!!! :eek::no:

Simple rules. It takes 2 to pull. You pull the horse then you'll just make it uncomfortable and likely to pull back. YOU WILL NEVER WIN A PULLING COMPETITION WITH A HORSE! Not even if it's just a shetland pony!!!

Why on earth anyone would want to pull on a horse's mouth is beyond me! TOTALLY!!!

Try this at home: Taking your thumb and forefinger of your right hand pinch the soft skin on the back of your hand between your thumb and forefinger on your left hand. Nip it hard - it hurts, you feel it immediately.

Now do it again but start just pinching it gently and then over time squeeze hard and harder and harder. After a while you don't feel it at all.

Now think horse's mouth. If you've got constant pressure (pulling) on it, then over time the horse becomes used to that pressure and discomfort and pain and if you're lucky it will just switch off and become unresponsive. If it's anything of a horse then it will express it's opinions and start to do the likes of evading. It may open it's mouth to release the pressure and discomfort. It might go behind the bit. It might stick it's tongue under the bit if it can. It might take hold of the bit and bolt or piss off. It might go up. It might buck.


Think light hands and COMFORT in front and think power and strength from behind.

You want a horse with a soft and gentle and responsive mouth, then STOP PULLING

Sep. 14, 2009, 06:11 AM
I was kind of hoping this thread could be more a discussion thread similar to the "round canter" thread we had awhile ago. My horse is only 5 but his mouth is already pretty hard. Old trainers always had me pull on alternating reins until they gave in, but it seems like he just pulls harder.

Any advice?

yeah listen to the above posters-- and change your trianer

for any decent trainer they are all listed on clubs associations and societies in connection with the fei ---- they all have listed accredited trainers

you horse is a baby it doesnt understand what your asking as your not asking him correctly - so listen to your horse - go find someone that can teach you to ride your horse well

Lazy Palomino Hunter
Sep. 14, 2009, 11:08 AM
My college had a schoolie I absolutely adored (http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc1/hs008.snc1/4442_511474289761_50000090_30590791_4791645_n.jpg)- he spends most of the year teaching the up-downers (http://photos-a.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-sf2p/v29/1/42/50000519/n50000519_30054928_6307.jpg), but he's young, sound, and a BLAST to ride. My entire college career I periodically plucked him out of the beginner stuff to show him (here we are in the 3' hunters my senior year (http://photos-h.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-sf2p/v135/86/28/50000090/n50000090_30294951_5553.jpg)- please excuse my tragically horrible ducking :lol: ).

As a product of the steady stream of beginners, he has a rock hard mouth and is often ungodly persistent about being pokey unless he is REALLY sure you meant business.

When I hop on him and need to soften him up, it happens in a couple steps. First is to immediately establish "forward"- I get on (with a big ol pair of spurs) and immediately send him forward. I make him march-march-march around the ring, leg yielding and bending on a loopy rein.

I also do lots of walk/halt transitions (with voice commands- I really think this helps reinforce things). I put pressure on the reins, but the SECOND he halts completely, I drop rein contact and pat him. Same for backing up- I ask him to back, and the second he shifts his weight and takes a step back, I drop rein pressure and pat him. The idea is to reward him for being responsive to the reins. Remember, it's ridiculous to try and teach a horse to have a soft mouth by pulling on him! You teach "soft" by rewarding them when they give to pressure!!

As I warm up, I slowly introduce steadier contact while simultaneously asking him to bend, give, and move FORWARD.

He's usually MUCH better within a few minutes. Personally I prefer to ride him in a slow twist snaffle because it's something different than what the beginners pull on him with.

Of course, when I took him home one summer, I just went without the bit entirely for 5 weeks or so. I rode him in a rope halter (http://photos-b.ak.fbcdn.net/photos-ak-sf2p/v50/67/99/50000333/n50000333_30116097_8782.jpg)and worked on voice commands, my weight, and leg aids as means of stopping and going. When I finally put the bit back in he was wonderfully responsive to it. Extreme, but worked beautifully! :)