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Horse in Bosal/Dressage Rider = Clueless (Help!)

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  • Horse in Bosal/Dressage Rider = Clueless (Help!)

    Strange post, not quite sure where to put it so bear with me...

    Trying to help a client finish up a 7YO mare. She's green broke under saddle, excellent ground manners, very sane, very responsive. Due to previous training she will not accept a bit. She fights the concept and abhors any contact, to the point of rearing on one occasion. She is ridden with a bosal.

    Went out to test her today. Can pace her with my seat alone, she doesn't really neck rein but does fine direct reining (as much as one can do in a bosal), very responsive to the legs and seat. She does your basic greenie stuff: unbalanced, rushes her corners, doesn't bend, drops her shoulder, etc.

    So I believe I have two completely different 'issues' here. The first of which is to find a proper bit for her, get her comfortable with the idea and then introduce her to contact. The second will be dealing with all of the above mentioned/usual green issues. I feel that once we have the bit in her mouth, the only 'schooling' that should be done is simply in accepting the bit --not necessarily 'using' it to correct any other issues for the time being. I don't want to overwhelm her in using the reins as an aid when she's not completely comfortable with its physical presence.

    I also know that I will be making a few rides before we are even able to tackle the bit issue, so I would like to start working on the other things, but I honestly feel like half a rider without being able to use my hand and have contact. (I readily admit I have no training/real experience with the bosal!!) I'm not a heavy handed rider and am quite confident dropping the reins on my horses, but not only am I lacking any kind of connection there, I can't even have any kind of contact with the bosal.

    For example, the dropping of the inside shoulder:
    I tried to engage the outside hind, but not being able to push it towards a bit, I tried to lift it up into my seat while holding her steady with my legs and giving her a straight body (mine) to mirror but no deal. Very, very *minor* improvement when there was any at all. What can I do to help her?

    I'd love to switch her to a bitless bridle of sorts for the time being, but as I said, contact in and of itself is an issue. She understands the concept of pressure on the ground, will give to the reins momentarily, etc --someone just laid down on her mouth (thank you Western performance trainer) and she is hella terrified of contact.

    Okay, please ask any questions necessary, I'm just racking my brain here and wanted to bounce some ideas off of other horse people...


  • #2
    Step 1: Ditch the bosal, get a sidepull!
    Step 2: Ride completely in sidepull until horse learns basic commands in it.
    Step 3: Put headstall w/ bit under sidepull, NO REINS. Let horse simply carry bit while riding in sidepull.
    Step 4: Add a pair of reins to bit. So now one set of reins for sidepull, one set of reins for bit. You're a dressage rider, you can handle double reins right?
    Step 5: Ride completely off sidepull, no contact at all on bit. Simply hold reins.
    Step 6: SLOWLY introduce contact on bit. SLOWLY wean contact off sidepull.

    ( And not all western trainers are like that [although perhaps that's not what you were implying]. My trainer is primarily western and is much kinder to his horses than the Dressage trainer at my previous barn. At least he doesn't HAUL the horse's head side-to-side and call it suppling. )
    Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


    • Original Poster

      Originally posted by sublimequine View Post
      ( And not all western trainers are like that [although perhaps that's not what you were implying]. My trainer is primarily western and is much kinder to his horses than the Dressage trainer at my previous barn. At least he doesn't HAUL the horse's head side-to-side and call it suppling. )
      No, no, not implying that at all. I think I've met many more scary Dressage 'trainers' than Western performance trainers

      I shall humbly suggest a side pull and see how that goes. I'm just fearful that no tack stores in the area will carry one --oh well, perhaps I can convince her to express order one.


      • #4
        well i'll ditto goign into a side pull- (and i'm not one who will say that). and work to find a bit she'll like- introduce contact on the lunge line-w ith side reins (elastic not donut if it was me- and starting with just ONE side rein when you introduce them so she can start to gain trust in the bit/contact.

        it can be done- it can take years- just to get the horse comfortable with the bit- if there is a major mouth issue to fix (of course checking dental etc first!) the big question is this mare worth the time/effort to get her in a bit if it doesn't come around shortly???
        Qualified Saddle Fitter with the S.M.S.


        • Original Poster

          She's worth it to me as long as the owner wants to invest the time/money into her and she is making progress

          Still wondering though about my shoulder question... even with the sidepull, I won't be able to take the contact that I would usually have to help straighten her out. Any suggestions until contact is made? I suppose I'll at least be able to lift that rein with the sidepull but I'm wondering if that will be enough.


          • #6
            Originally posted by DailyNhtly View Post
            No, no, not implying that at all. I think I've met many more scary Dressage 'trainers' than Western performance trainers

            I shall humbly suggest a side pull and see how that goes. I'm just fearful that no tack stores in the area will carry one --oh well, perhaps I can convince her to express order one.
            Is it a primarily english area? If so, yeah, finding a sidepull can be hard. But most western stores will have one.

            If you want to find one online, you can get them quite cheap:

            horse.com: http://www.horse.com/products/gift-0__sku-WQA10.html
            Smith Brothers: http://www.smithbrothers.com/product...cd2=1200201049

            Or if you want a leather one..

            Rods: http://www.rods.com/p/423,129_Single...Side-Pull.html
            Jeffers: http://www.jeffersequine.com/ssc/pro...&pf_id=0026553

            If the owners are concerned, I'd let them know a sidepull is as gentle (if not gentler) than a bosal.
            Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!


            • #7
              Try putting a snaffle on with a headstall while she eats. Put it on for maybe 1/2 hour at a time with a little grain in her bucket in a stall. Or put molasses or honey on the bit before you put the bit in her mouth. Short, sweet intervals with an eggbutt french snaffle maybe three times a day. Add very long side reins to a surcingle and do the same thing after a few days.

              The side reins and lounging until you know she's not going to panic and rear. Always good to let the horse figure that one out on their own first.

              Bosal (a narrow bosal) with its headstall is designed to carry a headstall over it or under it (I don't remember, but you get the idea) when you introduce a spanish spade bit (not recommended - joke), but that being the case you should be able to introduce a snaffle and headstall (as in single strap) into the whole get up and begin playing with the reins a little while you are on her and go back and forth between the bosal and the bit/reins.

              Bosal is a pretty good piece of equipment if its used right. A lot like a snaffle in some ways. Horses can flex with it and feel pretty comfortable being pulled around and shown where you want their front end to be going while you try to get their rear end under them. Halting, precise forward transitions, same stuff really.

              Never as good as snaffle with a correct contact, but a start because that is where you are stuck starting.


              • #8
                In case you want to continue using the bosal for a bit of time, it does work in a similar fashion to using a snaffle. There are four, basic areas of pressure with the bosal...the poll, the bridge of the nose, and either side of the nose. You do not want to keep a constant pressure on any of these points, and especially across the bridge of the nose as a constant pressure there will dull the horse to the effect of the bosal to the point she might run through it. When you are using the bosal, you want the horse to move away from its pressure. For instance, working on pressure created by taking the inside rein means that the pressure is being applied to the outside of the horse's head. You would be working from inside leg to outside "pressure point." When you "take" the outside rein of the mecate, you are creating a "pressure point" on the inside of the horse's head, which means you are working from outside leg to inside "pressure point." This is also how you use the snaffle, i.e. utilizing the effect on a particular diagonal pair, held between pressure point and your diagonal seatbone. The "stopping" effect of the bosal works a little differently than the snaffle in that the pressure across the bridge of the nose usually drops the nose a bit faster while at the same time creating the pressure in the poll. You are trying to teach the horse that poll pressure means for it to flex its head, and you should be riding the horse forward from your seat when you use this action of the mecate. Hope this helps you a bit get the idea. In the meantime, you need to get this mare's mouth checked by someone really competitent. Mare's can get hidden wolf teeth, too.


                • #9
                  Are there no Western training forums? Or does everyone just think that if their horses don't like having their mouths being pulled on, that dressage riders sure would know how to make them accept it?!
                  "You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed." - The Little Prince


                  • #10
                    for a horse that doesn't like contact or a bit. i don't feel the answer is avoiding using a bit, rather, just giving the horse a chance to get used to the bit, but I'd also get the horse's teeth checked to be sure there's nothing wrong there.

                    alot of old timers would put a bit on the horse and just leave it on her 24/7. let them eat, drink, and be ridden in it. it's important to put the bit on so it's in a fairly steady position and not hanging out too much where it can catch on something or wobble around, many horses are far more bothered by a loose bit or one that's too low in the mouth. a thin bradoon carrier strap does a good job of holding the bit safely. an english style snaffle with small rings will usually fit well with a bosal.

                    occasionally, use it to turn or position her head a little bit when you're leading her or moving her around in her stall (no reins on the bit yet), then give her a piece of sugar and pet her. that's basically what the old style western trainers used to do, just let the horse get used to the bit. it was more for horses that hadn't been handled much but works with a horse that doesn't seem to like a bit.

                    horses have a lot of reasons for giving people the impression they 'don't like the bit'. they're just green and it's normal to champ or fuss a bit, they're fresh from too little work, or the rider's hand is unsteady...some horses get very fussy if ridden on a loose rein (the rider's rein signals 'bump' their mouth now and then, and come as a surprise to the horse), or if they are not moving forward enough.

                    and i think some people just are uncomfortable with putting a bit on a horse so if anything goes wrong, they want to use something else.


                    • #11
                      First thing, if you haven't already, get a really good vet/dentist out to thoroughly check out the mouth,gums,teeth. For such an extreme reaction, it's certainly a possibility. Does she have wolf teeth?

                      Annual floating won't necessarily find a problem.

                      It's an old saw but true, rule out the physical problem first, if you haven't already done so.


                      • #12
                        DEFINITELY get a GREAT dentist to check that horse's mouth. I have been around mares with hidden wolf teeth. VERY painful situation for them.

                        And as for a bosal. I have trained MANY nice horses starting with a bosal. Part of the learning process is to add a snaffle under the bosal (if it is a good fitting and well designed bosal -- not one of the $10 kind you find at the local tack store).

                        Once you have made sure pain is not an issue, let the horse just carry the snaffle as you work in the bosal. Remember the bosal works with just a touch and let go. You use your legs to help them to learn to carry themselves. Again, touch and let go. No steady constant nagging. Some of the best horses I have had the joy of riding were started on the bosal.

                        After the horse is happy with just carrying the snaffle, add a rein and use it in conjunction with the bosal until the horse is happy with the touch on the mouth. You can do some ground work with this combination as well. Gradually add contact like you would with a baby horse startingn out.


                        • #13
                          make sure your bosal is adjusted correctly,, you can have LOTS and LOTS of influence with it.. it just takes practice!! PM me if you would like.. we used to ride all our ranch horses in bosal only,, my Grandfather's theory was "if you had to work your a## off all day, would you want the bosal or carry a bit?" he was a minimalist,, and I bless him every day for that.. he taught me more than he will ever know!!
                          "Energy efficient vehicle. Runs on grass and oats. CAUTION: Avoid exhaust!"
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