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How to encourage a horse to relax his jaw

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  • How to encourage a horse to relax his jaw

    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?
    Last edited by Niennor; May. 5, 2012, 07:16 AM.
    Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that to be a problem.

    Originally posted by DottieHQ
    You're just jealous because you lack my extensive koalafications.

  • #2
    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.

    Comment


    • #3
      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.

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      • #4
        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.

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        • #5
          Elastic connection should create it though the horse relaxing and trusting the hand.
          ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~
          http://www.off-breed-dressage.blogspot.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            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.

            Comment


            • #7
              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.

              Comment


              • #8
                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.

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  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
                  Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that to be a problem.

                  Originally posted by DottieHQ
                  You're just jealous because you lack my extensive koalafications.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    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.
                    Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                    Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      "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.

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        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.
                        Yes, I smell like a horse. No, I don't consider that to be a problem.

                        Originally posted by DottieHQ
                        You're just jealous because you lack my extensive koalafications.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Some one is focusing on the head rather than the horse. The horse needs help from someone else!!!!!!!
                          Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                          Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by merrygoround View Post
                            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.
                            Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                            Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                            "Once you go off track, you never go back!"

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Relaxation is not created from tension.......why do you call your horse silly for not trusting your hand?
                              Anne
                              -------
                              "Where knowledge ends violence begins." B. Ljundquist

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                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
                                You see a mouse-trap. I see free cheeze and a challenge

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by WILLOW&CAL View Post
                                  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.
                                  Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                                  Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                                  "Once you go off track, you never go back!"

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    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.
                                    You see a mouse-trap. I see free cheeze and a challenge

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      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.
                                      "The captive bolt is not a proper tool for slaughter of equids they regain consciousness 30 seconds after being struck fully aware they are being vivisected." Dr Friedlander DVM & frmr Chief USDA Insp

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        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.
                                        Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                                        Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                                        "Once you go off track, you never go back!"

                                        Comment

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