I always proceeded bridling in the beginning as I expected it to go forever. I slip the bridle on w/o cavesson, slip my thumb in the corer of the mouth, slide the bit in, gave a good rub, and scratch, and then slide the bit out. Another rub and scratch and I'm done. But, between dewormers and mouth checks for teeth etc., they are so used to being handled there, it's ho hum.
Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.
This is IMMHO wrong. The bit should never touch the teeth. Ever. Try rubbing/putting pressure on your teeth with a piece of metal (that is probably why Clayfield's horse prefer the Happymouth made of plastic).
If you want your horse to happily open its mouth, use your thumb on the corner of the mouth or to touch/rub the palate or the bar softly. Learning to drop the poll is also a good skill that may be used at other time in the training program. I teach it in conjunction with the cue "head down". My braider loves it.
Sorry, Alibi- I wasn't clear. "Pressure" was clearly a poor word choice on my part, especially relative to metal bits. I've never pressed metal bits against teeth-too many ways that could go wrong. I've used my fingers in the mouth (on the bar) since I was 10 and it still works, so you're correct in that regard-that's SOP. I held the plastic bit at her teeth, with my finger in her mouth, while she consistently refused to open, but would head toss and fuss- the plastic bit decreased my worry about the bit hitting her teeth at this point-I would not have done this with a metal bit. Then, as she began taking the bit, she was holding it in her teeth (she wouldn't open enough to slide it into her mouth), another reason that I was glad for the plastic bit. She could test it out and fool with it as much as she wanted without me worrying about damage to her teeth. With youngsters the process is always smoother/quicker-they drop their head, you apply pressure in the mouth, they open and you slide/guide in the bit and slip the bridle over the ears-it never becomes an issue because they're young and you don't let it become an issue. Not so with this mare.
Also, I find the happy mouth is fab (on this mare) because, regardless of how careful I've been when asking her to drop her head and release the bit, she was dropping the bit so fast I feared damage or more resistance. Now that she's beginning to release the bit more slowly and thoughtfully, we'll go back to a regulation bit (especially as she's beginning to carry the bit well when working). Every horse is different, and mine is a headstrong, dominant mare who lacked confidence and for whom everything was an issue (except for saddling-never been an problem). So, building her confidence as we move forward has been key-and at this point, the Happy Mouth is helping the bit issue become a non-issue so that we can move on to other things.
Thanks for giving me a chance to clarify myself.
Treats are your best friend when teaching a horse to bridle. Your horse will not likely get mouthy if the treats are associated with the bit. It is so important that this is always a pleasant experience for the horse, you are beginning it's career with bits right now and a comfortable foundation is a must.
The treats can be fed in a bowl, but it does work best if the trainer knows how to shape (use successive approximations) to teach the horse to actively take the bit.
My horse is tall with a high neck set, so he either has to cooperate or I'm not going to be able to get the bridle on him (or mount him). The easiest way I've found so far to get that kind of cooperation is with clicker training, although it can certainly be done with pressure and release.
I felt I had to point it out because sadly, this is a 'technique' I have witness even from (so-called) competent rider/trainer.
A friend of mine does that and despite my numerous advices/reminders, she forgets about it and puts the bit on her horse's teeth... My friend was taught this way and it's hard to break bad habits.
Her horse is a Saint and don't seem to mind. Makes me cringe!
I second the fruit roll up thing. I do it with all of our youngsters and my resales. After a few days, they are easy to bridle. After a few weeks, all I have to do is hold the bridle up, and they reach down and take the bit themselves. After a few months of doing it, the hardest to bridle horse (pony actually) I ever had, if you aren't watching, will grab the bit while it is hanging on the wall and suck it into her mouth. She will stand there with the bit in her mouth and the bridle hanging down. (Of course, I try to always watch and keep the bridle out of reach until we are ready, but she's done it on two occasions before I got super vigilant.)
Does she like peppermints? When I got my (older) gelding, he wasn't helpful about putting the bridle on. I started having a peppermint in one hand and giving it to him the moment the bit was in his mouth, in a head down position. Within a few days, he was reaching for the bridle and will stand there sucking on his peppermint while I get all the straps adjusted.
I had problems bridling my mare when I first started riding her. She was headshy and didn't like her ears touched and would crane her neck so I couldn't get to her (she is also very high necked and I am short). At first I resorted to standing on a stepstool. Then I discovered by accident that a good face scratch when the reins were over her neck but before the bridle went on did the trick (and eventually cured her headshyness, too). Now she gets the scratch before bridling and after debridling. And I don't let people who are rough bridle her--there are a few at my barn.
She really made me appreciate my gelding, who grabs the bit and shoves his head into the bridle himself. The only problem I have is co-ordinating our movements--sometimes he does it before I get the bridle straightened out and properly arranged and it really becomes a tangled mess, sending me into a fit of giggles.
Recently, she reverted briefly to her old habits after someone else pulled her mane, which I guess hurt the area around her ears. She is a sensitive redhead. A few days of patience and face rubs and she is back to her old self.