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HMF
May. 21, 2010, 11:53 PM
I have a 5 year old gelding who has developed a very hard mouth over the last few months. I really can't say that he has been ridden with a heavy hand, I think it is just him... He has a shorter neck on the thick side, and he is a strong boy, basically he just takes the bit and leans into it though he isn't heavy on the forehand. I have a full cheek snaffle in his mouth, obviously not working.

I am looking for some input on bits or aids to try and soften this guy up. I have been hesitant to upgrade the bit, but I am not sure I have much option at this point.

I would love to hear what you guys have to suggest.

Thanks

RyuEquestrian
May. 22, 2010, 12:15 AM
I've had good experiences with using a waterford mouth (http://s7d5.scene7.com/is/image/PetsUnited/TSLT900219_104808) that will collapse and keep him from getting a grip on the bit? Other mouthpieces to try are copper rollers or a cherry roller (http://www.thesaddleryshop.co.uk/Admin/Images/225c4b77-fd32-48b3-bf32-792896658450.jpg) without necessarily upping the severity of the bit.

FlyingSwap
May. 22, 2010, 12:19 AM
All about the Waterford! It changed my OTTB's life. Seriously. He was a bad, bad, BAD puller (raced until age 7) and not being able to lean against the Waterford made a new man out of him. Had never used that bit before him and I am a believer now! :yes:

wanderlust
May. 22, 2010, 12:32 AM
I would have a vet check his teeth if you haven't already... at 5, he's probably just lost the last of his baby teeth, and he could have a retained cap or piece of a cap making things very uncomfortable for him. My 4yo grows a mouth of iron when he has mouth/teeth issues, which is unfortunately frequent at this point.

jewll27
May. 22, 2010, 08:15 AM
waterford or a rubber pelham. But I do agree with wanderlust about getting his teeth checked.

Treasmare2
May. 22, 2010, 08:42 AM
Sometimes horse such as yours need to "earn" their way back into a snaffle. I had to put my young horse in a rubber tom thumb pelham for a few weeks in order for him to learn he had to listen to my hand. He then went back to his KK loose ring and he stills goes great in that a year later. Perhaps he will need anothr reminder down the road and perhaps not but my opinion is not to allow this battle to go on....use the neccessary bit to establish who the pilot is and who is co pilot. Another thought is are you using a think snaffle? These can ruin the mouth of many a horse as they are often too fat to be comfortable in many a horse's mouth and they can easily be leaned on. Constant or frequent leaning on a bit can make them go dead in the mouth which is certainly not a nice thing so I would say address te issue pronto.
One more thing...a sugar cube or peppermin just before starting work helps create moisture in the mouth and that helps to keep a mouth responsive.

howardh
May. 22, 2010, 08:43 AM
Hello,

getting heavy is a sign of resisting the bit. Many horses hate snaffles, they are not a gentle bit.

A french link or one of the peanut type bits is softer as the joint spreads pressure out over a bigger area v.s. one point on the tongue. This is a good option if your horse is still green, as you need to be able to work the tongue if you need some control.

If you feel your horse is pretty broke, go to a different shaped mouthpiece, a mullen or a port, which frees the tongue up even more.

My horse was heavy and I put him into a port and he got light as a feather.

If you ride in a single joint, get out of it and do a different shape.

If you insist in riding in a snaffle, a loose ring puts the least amount of downward pressure on the tongue as you cannot set the mouthpiece due to the loose sides.

Even if your hands are good, there are some horses who simply will not tolerate a snaffle, and getting heavy and dead is just another way of protesting. Come to the dark side and try a port. Contrary to popular beliefs, a port is more gentle as it frees up the tongue. When you pick up, a port does not (unless it is a spade) go to the roof of the mouth, it rotates down off the sides of the tongue in varying degrees depending on the width or shape of the port.

Try it! A bit is just a piece of metal that is comfortable to a horse or not. Simple as that. All horses are individuals, so what works for one may still not be comfortable to others. That is why we work, to make money to buy bits! Good luck.

Treasmare2
May. 22, 2010, 08:47 AM
Good point on the single break mouth piece....it is why I go to the KK. Single break snaffles are not nice bits.

JB
May. 22, 2010, 10:06 AM
Many horses hate snaffles, they are not a gentle bit.

A french link or one of the peanut type bits is softer as the joint spreads pressure out over a bigger area v.s. one point on the tongue.
You're still describing snaffles ;) I think perhaps your "hate" comment was directed at the traditional single-jointed snaffle :)

A snaffle is, regardless of what's in the mouth, a direct-contact bit, no leverage. It doesn't matter what the cheekpieces are either - D, loose ring, Full Cheek, etc - still all snaffles as long as there is no leverage (ie a D ring with reins attached to hooks starts losing its snaffle-ness.

I agree that the teeth need to be checked first.

Then start playing around with different bits. A Waterford can be great for horses who lean, but it's not a guarantee. A French Link or "bean in the middle" is generally kinder than the single-jointed snaffle, but not all horses like that much wiggle in their mouth. Myler Comfort Snaffles are really nice, sort of a cross between a mullen and a double-jointed, as the middle barrel allows each side of the bit to swivel, and the slight port in the middle offers tongue relief.

JP bits, which come in French Link and "bean in the middle" types, are really very nice quality bits for far less than KK bits. I have one of each of those and really, really like them.

Another thought is that thicker is not always kinder. If he's got a big fat tongue and/or a low palate, a thick "kind" bit is like stuffing an apple in there. So, thinner may be a lot more comfortable for him.

There is also taking a few steps back and seeing where holes are. If he is growing again, he may be unbalanced and leaning due to that. Even go so far as to teach him lightness in a rope halter and see how that works.

Above all make sure you are not giving him anything to lean on. "drop and boot" is an option if you want to see his reaction to that. Heaviness in front is related to heaviness behind, so if he's not getting off your leg, you'll only start creating a false headset if you start forcing just the head issue - horse coming off contact but still on his forehand.

EqTrainer
May. 22, 2010, 10:14 AM
It's not a bitting issue, it's a training issue. It takes two to pull. Let go and he will be forced to, also.

howardh
May. 22, 2010, 11:53 AM
Yes, I was talking about the single joint:)

And I do not agree on a bit being merely a training issue. Of course, it is to some extent and a ton depends on the rider, but to say that every horse is comfortable in one single type of bit is impossible for me to agree with. That would be the same as saying one saddle type and shape will fit all horses, when we all know that isn't true.

HMF
May. 22, 2010, 04:30 PM
Lots of great suggestions here, thanks everyone. To respond to a few, I have had his teeth done by a very good dentist and unfortunetly didn't see much change. I do have him schedule for a visit with the chiropractor in another week, it will be interesting to see if that changes anything. He definitely has a harder time bending to the right than the left.

His current bit is a single joint, I did have him in a loose ring with a copper bean. He liked that bit intially but that was when he started getting a hard mouth so I switched to the snaffle.

I do not consider myself a heavy hand, but I feel like I have to with this horse. There is just no lightness or give in his mouth. This is very hard for me to verbalize sorry :)

I was actually thinking about the "earning the right to a snaffle" theory myself, but I wasn't sure where to go next. I was brought up with snaffle is the best mentality so I wasn't sure what the best option would be.

Thanks for the input, I am going to try a few didn't things.

EqTrainer
May. 22, 2010, 04:50 PM
Yes mouth issues can be bitting issues. But horses don't actually develop a "hard" mouth, they develop evasions, one of which is leaning on the bit. It is much more productive, in the long run, to ride in such a way that this does not develop, then to fix it. What has happened is that the horse has learned to evade the action of the hand by leaning on the bit which stops it from moving. You will have to reeducate his mouth or plan to buy a lot of bits over his lifetime as he learns to render each one useless.

cuatx55
May. 22, 2010, 04:52 PM
Horses sometimes lean before they get light, its a stage of training. Now if the horse is absolutely ripping your arm off then I would momentarely give the reins (but not throw them away) and PUSH the horse into the rein. This usually stops leaning in 99% of the horses as it takes away the oppritunity to pull. Also, I would try some transitions to lighten up his shoudlers. The front end is only a symptom of the rest of the horse.

The bean snaffle has worked great for me, I agree some horses find single jointed snaffles very hard as they may "jacknife" in the mouth.

Twiliath
May. 22, 2010, 07:06 PM
I'll bet that he just doesn't know another way to go. He has learned to lean on you and you hold him up.

Horses do not generally know about yielding to pressure. You push on them, they push back. People are the same way.

Now, put in your regular bit and stand on the ground with the reins around his withers. Standing on his left side, put both hands lightly on the rein. You're going to slide your left hand down toward the bit while simultaneously lifting with the right hand so that you take out all of the slack in the rein.

When you've taken out all the the slack, but no more, hold the rein with the left hand lightly, but firmly and wait.

When he gives to the pressure even a tiny bit (1/8 inch) release the rein fully with both hands.

Now repeat about 1,000 times. Or at least spend 15 minutes a day total practicing on both sides (7.5 minutes per side).

Go slowly so that you have enough time to notice when he responds earlier than you expected. He may get to the point of giving to the pressure before you pick up the rein. Be prepared for that and stop asking.

Now add in walking in hand and ask for a give. Practice that until you get it every time.

Go back to the halt and ask for a give, then ask for a backward shift of weight. Ask for a back. Ask for a give. Ask for a forward shift of weight. Work both sides.

Go back out on a circle and try all those buttons - baby give, back, forward.

Now ask for a baby give, forward shift of weight, and walk "into" his shoulder to see if he moves out of your space. Voila'. Lateral work.

Break it down into tiny pieces so that there's no mistake about what he knows and what you only THINK he knows.

If you want him to be lighter, you have to be lighter, too.

When you take it back to riding, you'll have to back up to sliding down the rein to take the slack out and rebuild from there.

He's probably leaning on you because he doesn't know how to use the rest of his body without doing that. They're born knowing how to be horses but they're not born knowing how to be riding horses. You have to teach each tiny piece.

Have fun!

sptraining
May. 22, 2010, 10:54 PM
Did the dentist do a powerfloat or handfloat? Handfloat can't get to the back teeth that sometimes cause problems.

His pole might also be out of alignment. Have the chiro work on him.

If you're in a pulling match, use more leg and less hand. Sit up. It might seem counterintuitive but it works. Lifting your body and adding leg will help him come off his forehand.

When all else fails, I'd say a thinner 3-piece snaffle (Dr. Bristol or French Link). But try the other things first.

meupatdoes
May. 23, 2010, 09:59 AM
I do not consider myself a heavy hand, but I feel like I have to with this horse. There is just no lightness or give in his mouth. This is very hard for me to verbalize sorry :)

He can only be as soft in his mouth and neck as you are in your arm.

Getting in a pulling war is not the answer- it creates more pulling and you will lose.

One way to address it is to do a walk transition and back up two steps the SECOND he starts to pull. This should be a quick, prompt transition, not one that drags out for multiple steps. By the time you can count "one onethousand, two onethousand" he should have backed two steps and already be going forward again ON A LIGHT REIN. After you have popped him off your hand with this transition you have the opportunity to be light in your hand for at least a few strides; if he gets heavy again use the transition again to create another opportunity for you to be light in your hand.

This exercise will fix it regardless of what bit is in his mouth.
It is a riding issue not a bitting issue. Getting heavy in your hand will not make him light in his mouth. You have to find a way to be light with your hand (regardless of bit) if you want him to be light in your hand.

Thomas_1
May. 23, 2010, 10:05 AM
Read the following and particularly the section on "hard mouths" in the opening posting of the thread:

http://www.chronofhorse.com/forum/showthread.php?t=223453

JB
May. 23, 2010, 10:17 AM
He can only be as soft in his mouth and neck as you are in your arm.

Getting in a pulling war is not the answer- it creates more pulling and you will lose.
:yes::yes:


One way to address it is to do a walk transition and back up two steps the SECOND he starts to pull. This should be a quick, prompt transition, not one that drags out for multiple steps.
Unfortunately, in this case, this will result in the rider pulling, both to stop the horse and to get him into the reinback.

The reinback immediately following a halt can be great for teaching lightness in the halt, but you have to be able to get the halt without trouble first.

meupatdoes
May. 23, 2010, 10:41 AM
:yes::yes:


Unfortunately, in this case, this will result in the rider pulling, both to stop the horse and to get him into the reinback.

The reinback immediately following a halt can be great for teaching lightness in the halt, but you have to be able to get the halt without trouble first.

That is why I put a very strict time limit on the exercise.

There is a difference between a halt that draaaags on for multiple steps until the horse eveeeentually halts and one where the rider HALTS, END STOP as if a cliff just opened up directly in front of them and she doesn't want to go over.

In one of the halts the horse is allowed to argue with the request for a few strides. In the other his back legs draw a little "eleven" in the dirt and he says "YES MA'AM."

The whole training moment should be over and done with in two seconds -inclusive of back up and starting again. It is very quick: even just saying the words CANTER* WHOA BACK GO while watching the second hand tick twice will show you how quick I mean.

(* This represents a canter stride in which he gets heavy, not a canter depart.)

Very often the difference between a counter-productive exercise and a productive one is timing.

If a rider gets that exercise done THAT EFFECTIVELY, she will make a pretty good point to the horse about where pulling gets him. If the rider allows the horse to drag it out for four seconds or even six or seven (look at your watch and count it out, that is an EON), she will train him to get even heavier.

Two seconds is an effective correction.
Five is a pulling war.

The difference is timing.

jetsmom
May. 23, 2010, 11:43 AM
I haven't seen any mention of leg...add leg, do transitions, circles, serpentines to get him lighter in your hand. I'd probably go to a bit that isn't a single jointed snaffle (kk ultra w/bean or french link), but you have to add leg, half halts and transitions. Cavaletti will also help.

JB
May. 23, 2010, 02:13 PM
I haven't seen any mention of leg...add leg,


Heaviness in front is related to heaviness behind, so if he's not getting off your leg, you'll only start creating a false headset if you start forcing just the head issue - horse coming off contact but still on his forehand.

:)

Bogie
May. 23, 2010, 02:37 PM
It sounds to me like you've fallen into a bit of a trap with your horse. He's built in a way that makes it easy for him to lean on you; you hold him up. Most horses don't have a hard mouth; rather, they are ignoring you or creating a situation where you are participating in their game. The best thing to do is working on his basic training so that he starts to respond to a more subtle aid.

It may be the bit (I agree that different horses like different mouthpieces) but I'd try to get him off of his forehand without using so much hand.

As others have suggested, leg is essential. I'd do a gazillion transitions with a horse like this. Walk/halt, walk/trot, slow trot/faster trot/slow trot, so that you've got him working from back to front and using his hind end to push.

Once you have that, then you need to learn to let go. You can't keep holding up the horse because you're also restricting the energy flow.

As he becomes more balanced, i think you'll find that his neck appears to get longer and he will stop pulling so much but this will take time as he needs to learn to carry himself and he needs to build the muscle. Make sure to give him lots of breaks where he walks on a long rein.

Now, there are times when bitting up can be essential. I've always ridden my TB in a snaffle but going into his third season of hunting I found that it wasn't enough and that he was becoming too exuberant. I recently upgraded him to a Kimberwicke (ported) and he was a perfect gentleman. I will continue to ride him at home in a snaffle because I think that working in too harsh a bit makes it too easy to ride from your hands. It's always better to ride from your leg.

Do you have a trainer, or someone with eyes on the ground who can help you?

EqTrainer
May. 23, 2010, 03:49 PM
Ah yes but a horse who does this has usually been taught that the leg means run forward, not the leg means engage your rear end.

So adding more leg with adding an education won't necessarily help at all.

This is one of those things that sounds so elementary and easy until you start to really think about the answers given. Horses are not born knowing what leg means, and to further complicate it, you first teach them just to go from it and then you teach them to engage from it. Unfortunately multitudes of riding instructors yell MORE LEG and multitudes of horses, in spite of their owners best intentions, never get off their forehands and lighten their front ends.

Bogie, IMO you said the key word - balance. The horse needs to get in balance. Yes it will take your leg but mostly it will take not holding him up any longer, because as long as you do the horse will never consider a different way to be, he is just a horse and didn't read any books. It will require rider refusing to hold him up for him to think of changing (or he can fall down which most horses do not want to do). Once he is in a rudimentarily decent balance ( not pushing more than he can carry and vice versa) then you can begin the process of teaching him to engage. You have to start from a neutral balance point.

Plumcreek
May. 23, 2010, 04:43 PM
Eq Trainer and others here are totally giving the correct answers, IMHO.

Educate the horse to rebalance INTO your leg, educate his mouth and brain to respond to the various rein aids, take a good look at the conformation and assess what his build and current growth stage allows him to do.

No one has mentioned a Tom Thumb pelham or Argentine snaffle. It is my go-to bit to rebalance or handle a horse that can be strong when they want to mentally blow me off. You can have the softest of snaffle reins when you want, and a quick leverage of the curb chain when you need it.

This is where cross training could be beneficial. Take a look at many of the good reining horses. Although smaller, they are short necked and thick as a brick, but light as a feather in your hands.

whbar158
May. 23, 2010, 06:17 PM
Is he leaning in a way that makes him hard to stop? My horse is a pro at getting people to hold him up. He can be hard to SLOW down but he is never hard to stop. It does take 2 to pull, generally my horse does not lean on me, but he does for other people (he was half leased for awhile) and would forget I don't hold him up. Halting and backing works for him because he is easy to stop you just have to pull hard then let go.

If he is hard to stop as well as slow down then sometimes I do bit up for a few rides, but when you bit up you must not let them lean or you will run out of bits. Just a bit strong enough that when you say stop he stops. A few rides of that then back to the softer bit and ride the same way, but if you ride consistently in the stronger bit and let them lean you will never fix the problem.

HMF
May. 23, 2010, 08:29 PM
UPDATE!!

Plumcreek, it's funny you should mention reining, I actually board at a reining facility. Unfortunetly I think I am the only rider in an English saddle for about 70 miles! I just moved out here from New England so the first time ever I am somewhat on my own. I agree the reining horses are very light in the hand and are not all that different from hunters in the way they go.

I use a stubben double jointed pelham with a copper peanut on my TB so I thought I would give that a try before investing in new bits. He was wonderful!! I started the ride by doing a lot of halt and back. That was a lesson in itself, as many of you suggested he didn't want to give at all. Once he realized what I wanted he was very willing. At the trot if he was the slightest bit heavy I halted and backed, I was able to do this without any drama and he seemed to get the idea. I had a wonderful canter with him as well. Really a different horse!

It is amazing how you overlook something as simple as backing when you are riding the horse everyday.

Thanks for all the input!