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Niennor
May. 5, 2012, 06:52 AM
So I've been working on getting my silly 8 year old to work on the bit for some time now and it's not proving to be an easy task. In fact, I'm running out of ideas. He'll be relaxed when I put the bridle on and on a loose rein but once he's asked for some contact he clamps his jaw tight and will absolutely refuse to lower that stubborn head. Now, don't get me wrong, I don't care if his head looks pretty or not, what I want is to keep him from hollowing his back before he ends up with back issues. He's been going on a regular snaffle with no flash. My trainer let me borrow his old bridle with a double jointed copper bit until my new one arrives (it's a crank bridle with a flash, but i left them both faily loose) and still I couldn't get that horse to relax a bit more. I make sure to keep that hind end well engaged, but he will sooner rush the trot than round his back and relax into a slightly more collected pace.

So, any of you ever encountered a similar situation? Do you have any tips or advice you can offer?

fairtheewell
May. 5, 2012, 08:42 AM
Flexions in hand. The most effective one is to stand by the shoulder..with both reins on your side of the horse. Raise the inside rein straight up (in line with the profile of the head..and close to the head, applying very light steady pressure. At the same time apply very light steady pressure with the "outside" rein ahead of the withers. When the horse opens its mouth and sticks out its tongue quickly...release immediately. Sticking out the tongue is the release of the jaw. If you release before, the release is not complete. Wash, rinse, repeat. After practicing this in hand, you can apply the inside rein quickly and lightly straight up with just a small movement of your hand (while retaining contact with outside rein) and get the jaw release and a chew (without opening its mouth and sticking out the tongue), when you need it. You still need the contact and connection from the seat and to ride the horse from behind..this is just releasing the jaw, because some horses hold there and block all the way through the back.

Bluey
May. 5, 2012, 10:40 AM
There is a fine line between asking a horse for something and teaching a horse to do what you want.
A professional can do both and know what is doing and make that look easy.
How many times have you seen a clinician get on a horse the owner can't get thru into it's hand and in five minutes that horse work thru it's back like butter?
That is from years of learning with good instructors guiding you and practicing on many different horses.
It is easy once you get the hang of it, very difficult to get there, it seems, so don't despair.

Simple help we were taught many years ago was to give a horse treats, sugar cubes is what we had, before we started any contact work.
Then the horse's mouth was a bit more moist and it's jaws limbering a bit and that seemed to help it not brace.
That is easy to try, with most any treat.
I use cowcake cubes, or any kind of bigger pelleted horse feed.
Do learn how to use treats, so they are not bribes or a horse becomes pushy about them or frantic for them.

Remember we need to teach the horse with all our aids, not just ask, an important concept we at times tend to forget when training.

inspired
May. 5, 2012, 10:51 AM
Don't forget to thoroughly check for dental problems as well as poll and neck, if you haven't already. Quite frequently a horse's lack of ability to soften to the bridle is because it hurts when any pressure is applied to the rein.

NOMIOMI1
May. 5, 2012, 12:43 PM
Elastic connection should create it though the horse relaxing and trusting the hand.

Spartacus
May. 5, 2012, 02:01 PM
I would second Inspired with the checking of dental---my old (now retired) horse couldn't flex his jaw or even bend at the poll when I got him because his very back molars had points that hooked together, locking his teeth where they were. Once they were filed down, no problem. These particular hooks were hard to find, as they were really far back.

Another thought is to try working him in a hackamore a little bit to get him to relax his mind, then go back to the bit. I'm new to dressage, so I don't know if this is legal, but my horse (just switching from jumpers/eq) goes in a hinged snaffle-type bit----it is smooth and straight, but instead of having a joint in the middle, it has a single smooth hinge, which prevents it from hitting the roof of his mouth. Copper rollers are also helpful in loosening up a horse's mouth, but you may want to be careful, as you don't want to create an overly busy mouth, either. I hope I was helpful. :)

Spartacus
May. 5, 2012, 02:04 PM
Another thought is to just switch to the hunters, where they like that no-contact thing :) Seriously, the clamping down and hollowing your horse does sounds like fear that the bit is going to hurt (even if the one he's currently in doesn't hurt), so I would check the teeth and go to the hackamore for now. Again, though, I'm a dressage neophyte.

re-runs
May. 5, 2012, 02:34 PM
When a horse clamps his jaw like you describe we have to ask what he is afraid of;..... that would cause such a brace. In all honesty, we have to look at how we have been/handling/leading and riding them to have put them in such a defensive place. (It starts on the ground)

The horse is acting out of self preservation. This is a very common problem.

Congratulations for leaving the crank nose band loose, tightening is probably the last thing your horse needs. The high head is how the horse is trying to avoid the rider from taking hold. You cannot reach the hindquarters if the head is ABOVE the circle of energy.

The horse is not being bad, he is just doing what he feels he needs to and he has found that it works.

Now the solution,..........learn how to do proper groundwork so that the horse gains trust and softens it`s defenses. Flexions from the ground is similar to flexions in motion but is more effective and mind changing; the old masters knew this. Proper groundwork will help you meet the horse politely at the end of the rein.

It is not about his mouth, it is about his whole body and every brace starts in the mind.

Niennor
May. 6, 2012, 03:42 PM
Thanks, everyone, I'll keep all your suggestions in mind. He hasn't had his teeth checked this year, but if there's an issue with the teeth, we'll take of it.

I'm aware that there several gaps in his training and i'm not the most competent rider, but I'm trying to do my best, even though I only got him a few months ago. From what i know of his history, he was pretty much green broke when he was 5 and was given to bolting and rearing at the slightest thing that made him nervous: spurs, whips, even reins were not slightly loose. Don't know anything about the breeder or bloodlines, nor does he even have a brand, I do know the first owner he got when he came to my barn was a friend of the BM's and would pretty much let him "run wild." At some point, he changed owners again, but sometime last year they stopped paying for board and disappeared and that's how I ended half leasing. The only consistent handling/training he's had so far was done my one of the barn trainers, as he has been used in the lesson program (not by beginner riders riders, obviously) and he's calmed down quite a bit. He's done rearing but still has a few trying to run off with the rider moments. He's been using german reins (not sure what you call them in the U.S. but it's the kind that hook under the girth, go under the legs and through the bit and then connect again on the sides) to help him improve his balance and stay focused on his job. I started working with him without the german reins a couple months ago and started working on getting him to accept the bit with the help of my trainer.

Bluey, I'll try the sugar cubes, but as he is extremely food oriented, might end up being a distraction. Well, can't hurt to try.

Everyone who suggested focusing on ground work, I'l get on that as well.

re-runs, you might be right about him acting out of self preservation, or at least trying to avoid something he finds unpleasant. He feels like he's stepping on hot oals whenever he has to walk over a small water puddle, so he can be a bit of a dram queen even if there's no actual pain involved:D

merrygoround
May. 6, 2012, 04:21 PM
True relaxation of the jaw comes from engaging behind. You say your horse would rather run forward and hallow, I assume, than adopt the engagement necessary.

Engagement is work for the horse, and for the rider. The rider must be able to send the horse forward, and hold the desired rhythm and tempo from his body. Other engaging exercises are lateral work, done correctly. Should in and haunches in are very useful.

When the horse is ready to soften, relax, and engage the rider must have the necessary feel to encourage it.

All iof the this can be learned over time with appropriate help.

re-runs
May. 6, 2012, 04:45 PM
"He's been using german reins (not sure what you call them in the U.S. but it's the kind that hook under the girth, go under the legs and through the bit and then connect again on the sides) to help him improve his balance and stay focused on his job."

This kind of contraption works on leverage and it is difficult, if not impossible, to give an immediate release when the horse is doing something desirable, hense, hightening his anxiety.

Niennor
May. 6, 2012, 05:03 PM
I agree it does nothing to help him relax and there is no way to reward proper behavior, but I never saw him get anxious over having it on. And even in the last hole, the reins are never tight enough to have going behind the vertical. Of course it's not what's going to teach him to carry himself properly, but they are necessary for now, when he is being used by less advanced riders in the lesson program.

merrygoround
May. 6, 2012, 07:22 PM
Some one is focusing on the head rather than the horse. The horse needs help from someone else!!!!!!!

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 7, 2012, 08:11 AM
Some one is focusing on the head rather than the horse. The horse needs help from someone else!!!!!!!

This^^ You may need to find another trainer.

Some video would really help us know what's going on.

not again
May. 7, 2012, 08:48 AM
Relaxation is not created from tension.......why do you call your horse silly for not trusting your hand?

WILLOW&CAL
May. 7, 2012, 09:36 AM
I would look at his teeth immediately. There may be sharp edges that are causing ulceration in the mouth, impacted molars or a wolf tooth...I would also get an equine body-worker like a physio or a chiropractor to look at him from top to hoof to see if there are any other pain related issues. Also I would try a plain Nathe or something with no joints or links and see if he is willing to come to your hand. The rest is up to you and your trainer. good luck

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 7, 2012, 09:51 AM
I would look at his teeth immediately. There may be sharp edges that are causing ulceration in the mouth, impacted molars or a wolf tooth...I would also get an equine body-worker like a physio or a chiropractor to look at him from top to hoof to see if there are any other pain related issues. Also I would try a plain Nathe or something with no joints or links and see if he is willing to come to your hand. The rest is up to you and your trainer. good luck

Again... all things a good trainer would look at first.

WILLOW&CAL
May. 7, 2012, 09:54 AM
Yes but its up to the owner to make sure the horse is capable of doing the work the trainer reccommends. The trainer can sugesst a bitting solution or a training programme but the owner should tick the appropriate boxes where they relate to the horse's well-being.

ptownevt
May. 7, 2012, 10:10 AM
Another vote for dental. When we took ownership of my daughter's horse it was the first thing I did. The horse's jaw needs to be able to slide a bit. The teeth can sort of lock or keep the jaw from being able to slide. That was the issue with our guy.

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 7, 2012, 10:21 AM
Oh I completely agree... but it seems from reading the OP it sounds like all the focus is on riding the head and not correct riding.

fairtheewell
May. 7, 2012, 10:55 AM
Sometimes there is a tension or block in the jaw/poll area that no amount of riding from behind can resolve until you unblock it.

KO
May. 7, 2012, 10:56 AM
Once dental issues are ruled out you need to push him into the contact. I just went thru this with my 7 yo. Push/kick him up into the bridle. He will be not happy but then you will feel the release in the neck and back.

Then the contact will get fluid and strong. Too many people think light contact is the goal but the horse wants solid, steady contact to get thru. Flex left/right but keep the horse moving to the bit and VERY forward even if it feels scary. Keep your outside hand very low by the withers to control the head/neck, and the inside rein short but giving in the elbow. DO NOT release the outside rein. Horse has to step into outside rein. 10 meter circles with outside rein held steady will help.

Niennor
May. 7, 2012, 12:09 PM
Once dental issues are ruled out you need to push him into the contact. I just went thru this with my 7 yo. Push/kick him up into the bridle. He will be not happy but then you will feel the release in the neck and back.

Then the contact will get fluid and strong. Too many people think light contact is the goal but the horse wants solid, steady contact to get thru. Flex left/right but keep the horse moving to the bit and VERY forward even if it feels scary. Keep your outside hand very low by the withers to control the head/neck, and the inside rein short but giving in the elbow. DO NOT release the outside rein. Horse has to step into outside rein. 10 meter circles with outside rein held steady will help.

This is what I've been doing with my trainer, I just couldn't explain as well as you did. So far he's still showing resistance, but this is a horse that, not so long ago, would nearly flip out when someone used a little contact on the reins.
Teeth check is definitely a good idea, I did not know that teeth could lock the bit in place (newbie owner).

Those who seem to have gotten the idea that my focus is on riding the head and not the hole horse, I'd like to know how you came to that conclusion. I'm pretty damn tired with a lot that has been going on lately (non horse releated stress) and maybe I didn't make myself clear, but I could have sworn I said I don't care if my horse is in a frame or not. Also, how do you reach the hindquarters if the head is travelling above the bit?

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 7, 2012, 12:53 PM
what I want is to keep him from hollowing his back before he ends up with back issues. He's been going on a regular snaffle with no flash. My trainer let me borrow his old bridle with a double jointed copper bit until my new one arrives (it's a crank bridle with a flash, but i left them both faily loose) and still I couldn't get that horse to relax a bit more. I make sure to keep that hind end well engaged, but he will sooner rush the trot than round his back and relax into a slightly more collected pace.


It was this that made me think all the focus is on the head ;) Only trying to help you figure this out.

The back doesn't come up because the head comes down. The head comes down because the back is up ;) And it's obvious you haven't reached the hindquarters if the horses is traveling above the bit (for whatever reason). Bringing the head down is going to do nothing for reaching the hindquarters.

Have all other things been checked? Saddle? Lameness?

Maybe he doesn't want to lift his back because the saddle is pinching him.

TMJ is something you might want to consider if his teeth check out okay.

edited to add: I would never ever ride a horse or give a lesson on a horse fitted with vienna reins (german reins)! IMO that's dangerous for both the rider and the horse (unless it's a short lunge lesson).

Niennor
May. 7, 2012, 02:55 PM
OK, sorry if I came off a little B*tchy but, for both personal and professional reason, I've been a little on edge lately. And yes, I see that the way said things might have sounded as if I'm going about it backwards. That was definitely not my intention.

There is definitely no lameness issue. The saddle I bought seems to fit him just fine, the one that is used for lessons seems to have a bit of a narrow tree, but there's not much I can do, unless I offer my saddle to be used for lessons.

Why do you think german reins are dangerous?

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 7, 2012, 03:23 PM
They are only meant to replace the riders hands, so should be used for lungeing only for short periods. What if they needed to be removed quickly? It's different with someone on the ground at the end of a lunge line that can reel him in take them off but with a rider on his back, I feel, is dangerous.

Some video would really be helpful

Niennor
May. 7, 2012, 05:17 PM
They definitely can't be removed quickly, it takes forever just to get the d@mn things on & off, but I don't see how they can be dangerous with a rider on. They actually seem kinder than regular side reins to me, as they allow much more freedom of movement in the horse's head and neck.
Don't have pictures of any of the barn horses with the vienna reins on, but this is how they are adjusted:
http://www.thecitybarn.com/product_images/s/626/Vienna_Reins__32887_zoom.jpg


For the past month the weather has been absolutely awful so no chance of getting a camera out, let alone convince someone to come along and video my lessons.

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 8, 2012, 06:17 AM
You shouldn't ride in sidereins either unless the rider is being lunged. I also prefer the vienna reins over sidereins as they allow the horse to move his head from side to side and encourage the horse to stretch over his back.

Bluey
May. 8, 2012, 08:33 AM
You shouldn't ride in sidereins either unless the rider is being lunged. I also prefer the vienna reins over sidereins as they allow the horse to move his head from side to side and encourage the horse to stretch over his back.

The idea of side reins is that the outside horse's shoulder is a bit more confined, so you don't want them to be able to move their head around as those reins do.

Horses being longed tend to either drop the inside shoulder or let the outside one slip out and side reins can help a bit there, not by preventing, they don't, but by being there as a reminder to stay somewhat straight up while on a circle.

I definitely agree that riding with any kind of somewhat fixed gadget is A VERY BAD IDEA in principle.
Standing martingales, side reins, most any other such people put on their horses, they get by 99.9% of the time, when nothing happens, but when it does, the wrecks are spectacular.:(

Anything can get hung up and cause a wreck.
I even had a running martingale, when a keeper fell off and a ring hung on the rein buckle as we were cantering and the OTTB shook it's head, then found himself tied down and flipped over in a split second.
No one was hurt, but it was a close call.
No way I would ride with something that may hung up ever again, I tell you.

Better learn to ride better or if you need to use some gadget, use it for only a few rides and ditch it as soon as you get what you want.

Don't get complacent with gadgets that tie a horse in any way.

PSA over now.;)

Niennor
May. 8, 2012, 02:50 PM
Well, any piece of riding equipment can cause a wreck. Obviously fixed gadgets are an added risk, but sometimes they're necessary. I think my trainers know what they're doing when they set up certain rider/horse combos with fixed training aids.

I'm not a fan of those kind of gadgets but at this point I don't really need to use them, what I was trying to explain was that my lease horse is used in the lesson program and the trainers have him going in Vienna reins for other riders. I ditched them after the first few rides, as soon as my trainer said it was time to start riding him without artificial aids.

My major issue right now, that I somehow managed to make a mess of explaining, is that i can't get him to relax and trust the contact. He keeps his jaw shut tight and his head his just high enough that he doesn't have to take up the contact.
Here's a (crappy) shot to show you how he carries himself (and i know, EGADS! my hands!:eek:)
http://a6.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-snc7/385700_1958295174011_1741710796_949033_959529013_n .jpg

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 8, 2012, 03:01 PM
From the way you described him I thought his head would be in the air... He doesn't look like a whole lot is bothering him there.

What do you see wrong with that picture?

Niennor
May. 8, 2012, 04:27 PM
Um, besides the fact that I forgot how to bend my elbows? *facepam*

I want to encourage him to stretch his neck an search for contact, instead of me pushing him into it and I want to encourage him to use his hind end and lift his back more.

NOMIOMI1
May. 8, 2012, 05:04 PM
What my trainer would tell me from my many many pics like this is to lower my center of gravity belly out knees down. Rolle onto yur ahem parts and then use posture to get off of them.

The elbows can come back a little but dont focus on that as much as letting the horse go down the rein but keep him round while you have the lower center ... The use of your aids in a better position should help the back while the the long rein will require more leg but also mor half halt and as he carries then you will HAVE to shorten rein as his neck comes back to you.

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 9, 2012, 06:18 AM
Agree with this^^

I think a lot of what you feel is going on with the horse will improve once you improve. Good luck with him he's a handsome boy!

howardh
May. 9, 2012, 07:44 AM
If I sound like a broken record slap me but here goes:

we spend so much time blaming teeth, hands, saddle trainer...

why is it so hard for people to realize that horses are individuals and that jointed bits or bits that work totally of tongue pressure are restrictive and in many cases painful to horses?

A bit is a piece of metal that is comfortable or not period. All it can do is make the horse relax or resist. The OP is right. How can she possibly teach the horse to come up from behind and engage if it is resistant in the face and fighting the bit?

Change the shape of the mouthpiece. If I were the OP I would put a Myler combination bit on this horse. It spreads pressure to the poll and nose and the mouthpiece doesn't engage until you really pick up. I have seen it help so many horses relax and then you can transition to a bit later in training.

Try a ported bit. They relieve tongue pressure. they were also made LEGAL this year in USDF. I see the OP is in Lisbon but STILL you spend 99 percent of your time schooling. How can you possibly expect the horse to learn anything if it's mouth hurts?

You can slip a legal bit in just for a test and the horse will go from its last ride.

If the saddle didn't fit and made your horse crow hop and hollow out, would you do flexions and lunge in to make the horse accept the ill fitting saddle??? a bit isn't magic it is a piece of shaped metal. Are we all comfortable in the same pair of tall boots or breeches??? I don't think so as there are endless threads on fit on this forum. Why would we possibly think horses are any different......

OP has every right to be frustrated. I feel the horse community is really duped into riding in a set of bits that really are constrictive to many horses.

Off coffe induced soap box. OP if you want to PM me I can tell you what has worked for me in the past and m any others!!

fairtheewell
May. 9, 2012, 08:02 AM
After seeing the pic, it doesn't look bad at all...just on the edge of through. I was expecting giraffe and skygazing...lol Carry on.

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 9, 2012, 08:16 AM
If he's anything like my horse... very sensitive to any tension in your back, seat, arms, he's not going to want to lift his back and relax. I tense up, he tightens up his back, comes above the bit and locks his jaw.

Your whole seat needs to open up (your whole body for that matter). NOMIOMI1 hit it right on the head.

Tif_Ann
May. 9, 2012, 08:38 AM
It was this that made me think all the focus is on the head ;) Only trying to help you figure this out.

The back doesn't come up because the head comes down. The head comes down because the back is up ;)

This. And it can be taught on the lunge in a halter or lunging caveson. That's how I start all my horses - I get relaxation and engagement of the hind on the lunge even BEFORE they are in the bridle - thought it's easier if lunging in the bridle, because you can use light "half halts" on the lunge line to encourage coming into the bit. Of course, your horse has to lunge properly without pulling on the lunge line to make this effective.

If the horse is engaging his hind and relaxed, his head will naturally lower as his back comes up. I actually just started getting this with my coming 3 year old last night - we had a nice marching walk on the lunge, with an overstride, and with a little more pressure on the hind end to encourage engagement his head started coming down. Nice to see in my upright Morgan! :)

When starting a horse and teaching this, I don't worry about his head at ALL at first. It's all about forward motion and engaging the hind. Once the horse is moving forward and responding to my seat and legs and engaged, then and only then can you really worry about contact and coming onto the bit.

Some "tricks" I've used on true green beans - I will spread my hands wider, and kind of make a triangle of the hands to bit line, and then just stay steady. No pulling, just stay steady, and the bit will kind of tickle the edge of their mouth. At the same time ask for a forward, engaged walk (or trot if you get it at the walk) with your legs/seat. When the horse drops his head/lifts his back, bring the hands together and follow his mouth so you maintain the steady contact without pulling or dropping the reins. Once the horse trusts that your contact is going to remain steady and not painful or irregular, it becomes easier to get. This is really a green bean training "trick" though - I don't use it on the horses that should know better.

merrygoround
May. 9, 2012, 11:36 AM
Um, besides the fact that I forgot how to bend my elbows? *facepam*

I want to encourage him to stretch his neck an search for contact, instead of me pushing him into it and I want to encourage him to use his hind end and lift his back more.

Bending your elbows is important, but more important is the role elbows play in the following hand.

It sounds contradictory that your hands must "give", but if they do not follow his mouth, they become rigid, and he will not unlock his jaw.

Niennor
May. 9, 2012, 06:06 PM
Well, lots of input to chew on.

NOMIOMI1 and BoyleHeightsKid, i think you made an excellent point. I still have some issues with my center of gravity. When i drop my knees, I tend to lean forward all the way as in, as in i start hunching over. I may be making my lower body tense by attempting to keep my shoulders straight (my lame ass brain can't seem to stay in tune with my body) :sigh:

howardh I think there's a big difference between something not being comfortable and being down right painful. It's not comfortable for a horse to have a rider on its back, but it may or may not be painful. My guess here is that my horse is fighting the bit because, in his mind, accepting it means more work and submitting to the rider completely. I could be wrong but i think if he was really in pain he'd be shaking his head and throwing it in the air. If it turns out I'm wrong, then I'll certainly consider a different bit.
Also, I spend 99% of the time schooling because:
a)I have much to learn and
b)I don't have the time/money/talent to be competing

merrygoround you're right, there can't b any give if the arms are rigid. Funny thing is, it started as an attempt to get rid of the "chicken wings" and now trainers favorite line is "Don't forget to bend your elbows!" D'OH!

BoyleHeightsKid
May. 10, 2012, 07:31 AM
I would make sure the saddle fits you as well as the horse. It's hard enough learning to keep your position without tension, but even harder if you're fighting the saddle. ;)

Riding without irons will help you open up your body and stretching exercises to get your hip flexors stretched out will help a lot! Stretching before a ride is always a good idea. 101 Dressage Exercises for Horse and Rider has some great exercises for you. This book is also available if you have an iPhone at the app store.

Niennor
May. 10, 2012, 06:17 PM
I got really lucky with my saddle, I got a used Passier GT on ebay that not only is a great fit for my horse but is also super confy. I'm not very fussy with saddles, since I'm used to riding old school saddles, and some of them are almost hard as board.
My tension stems mostly from, well, being me. I stress easiyl and that carries in my position in the saddle, as I end up locking some part of my body even without meaning to. I used to tense for fear of loosing my balance but I finally learned to breathe an actually RELAX in the saddle. Sometimes when I'm trying to focus on a new or more difficult exercise I just tense up without realizing it so my trainer has to say "your arms are too stiff, remember to bend your elbows" or "stop locking your knees and relax your legs".

Usually I do quite a bit of no stirrup trot during my rides, but only for the last few months I have started doing it properly without bracing (hooray for me). I must say it's been great for my seat and to help me get a better core. And I bet the horsey is far happier not to have a silly human flapping all over his back.