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Apparently my horse's mouth is dead *Another Update for the Curious*

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  • #21
    If he's that sensitive to your leg, if he runs off if you boot him and drop the reins, if he has no whoa, then why the heck are you going beyond a walk?

    You don't fix the little things by working on everything. You can't possibly fix his mouth if you can't get your leg on him and can't stop him.

    I second the suggestion of Andrew McClean. His book The Truth About Horses is really, really good and will give you huge insight into fixing your 2 major issues - mouth insensitivity and side (your leg) sensitivity.

    Start WAY over with this horse. He doesn't understand anything you're asking of him. Your trainer doesn't sound like she's got any idea how to do this. So yes, finding someone else to send him to for the Winter, or maybe even just a month or two, sounds like a great idea.
    The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


    • #22
      Originally posted by Bogie View Post
      I think you need to take him back to basics. You MUST install a stop before you start to working at speed! One of the first things I teach an OTTB is a one rein stop. I then do a lot of walking and walk/halt transitions both on the lunge and under saddle. I want to reinforce the verbal commands while i'm on the ground so they carry through when I'm riding. I'm restarting a horse right now and I haven't even trotted him under saddle yet and won't until we have steering and brakes (I ride in a field, not a ring so am very conservative).

      Personally, I wouldn't put a crank noseband on a horse that's this green and confused. I think you need to get him to relax under saddle before you do anything more. I like to take it slowly and use LOTS of praise to help them understand that they have a new job. I find it helpful to stroke their necks as they walk and often stay completely out of their faces. I like to ride with a neckstrap at first too -- you can pull back on that and help steady them without getting in their mouths.

      Does your trainer have experience restarting OTTBs? Although they are not green like an unstarted horse, they do need to understand that their job is different and they will be worried about it until they understand the parameters.

      Good luck!

      My OTTB was tough. I spent a whole YEAR walking and trotting (with an occasional canter to see what we had). I've had him 2 years now and he is amazing. He was a lot like you describe and the first thing I concentrated on was brakes... and teaching him that he gets a reward when he softens....it was a long process but so rewarding. He is the most fun horse I have ever owned.


      • #23
        Take a look at this DVD http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en8Mg_Lhwa0 and there may be a book too. I have known Tom and ridden with him in clinics over several years and he is first rate.


        • #24
          Originally posted by JustABay View Post
          He is SO fancy and such a nice mover that it really frustrates me. I'm toying with just sending him for training as I am not really equipped to fix this kind of thing and I am nowhere near consistent either

          Send him to a trainer...who is good with OTTBs. If you can not get consistent with him...that is your biggest issue. Some OTTBs are super light, some are not. But from what you described, I'd want to make sure he doesn't have something physically wrong with his hind end---when they are really one sided or that stiff, it makes me question physical issues. If no physical issues, then carry on. The issues are obviously not his "mouth". The issue is his balance and education. He is green and unbalanced. You need to go back to the basics consistently. And if he is a big mover...it is probably even tougher for him. He will get better with time and consistent work.....but it sounds like you are just in over your head at the moment with everything else. Give both of you the best chance to succeed by getting him in a consistent program. Slow down your expectations.... and start from the begining again. If you take your time now....you will not have to fill in the holes later.
          Last edited by bornfreenowexpensive; Dec. 5, 2012, 03:03 PM.
          ** Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell in such a way that they look forward to the trip. ~Winston Churchill? **


          • #25
            Oh, please, some of you. A dead mouth is simply an expression that many trainers still use. While there can be nerve damage and scars, this is not usually what is means by a dead mouth. It is synonymous with being unresponsive to the bit. Just like being dead to the leg does not mean there is damage to the horse. They just haven't been trained to be responsive to the aids yet. There is nothing negative about using an expression to convey a concept.


            • #26
              Fine Oceans! But after 4 mo. the rider should be getting more useful help in a situation where she has to sometimes run the horse into the wall to stop!!!
              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.


              • #27
                Oceans, I don't think anyone was actually insinuating that the horse had nerve damage. I think everyone who posted advice knew where the OP was coming from.


                • #28
                  Originally posted by OceansAway View Post
                  Oh, please, some of you. A dead mouth is simply an expression that many trainers still use. While there can be nerve damage and scars, this is not usually what is means by a dead mouth. It is synonymous with being unresponsive to the bit. Just like being dead to the leg does not mean there is damage to the horse. They just haven't been trained to be responsive to the aids yet. There is nothing negative about using an expression to convey a concept.
                  My concern was not the term but how the issue was being addressed. When a horse is confused about its job, adding hardware (like a crank) doesn't generally help.
                  Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                  EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                  • #29
                    There is no such thing as a " hard mouth or dead mouth". You teach them from the first day of wearing a bit how to respond to your aids. It is a long, slow process that develops gradually. I am guessing that your horse being an ottb never learned any aids at all that you may use.

                    You may need to start from square one with him and teach him what you want from him. I am surprised that a "so called trainer" wouldn't know that already.


                    • #30
                      Is it possible to lay him up for the winter? He has 'race muscles' and knows only one way to GO. I think some down time to rest his mind and loose some of those muscles would benefit you both. Then in the spring, bring him back slowly remembering that he is totally green to what you want to do.
                      Ride like you mean it.


                      • #31
                        My OTTB got 6 months off at my cousin's ranch to "let down" after her racing career, so ezduzit's idea is a good one.

                        My Hannoverian gelding (lots of TB in him) did not have brakes when I got him. We walked and trotted into lots of walls, corners and fences before he figured out how to stop or slow down more from seat. Pull on his mouth? Meh. Meant nothing to him.

                        I agree you need a more creative and sensitive trainer to help you with this horse. OTTB's can be such wonderful horses -- and most are pretty well started, to boot. (My OTTB loved working cattle and you could open and close gates from the saddle with her -- she came that way!)
                        Last edited by ThreeFigs; Dec. 5, 2012, 04:50 PM. Reason: Can't type!


                        • #32
                          Just remember, time off for this horse isn't going to undo his mind or his training, it's only going to let all his muscles stop working like they work when ridden. But, if he's got upside down muscles from being raced, then if he's carrying himself around the pasture using those muscles for the next 3 months, he's not helping himself any.

                          He just needs to be started over, starting with basic groundwork and learning to give to pressure. That alone will start to change his body as well as his mind
                          The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                          • #33
                            Simply training the horse will not help if the rider is not also simultaneously educated.

                            I have seen many educated horses totally frustrated with the rider. Sadly the horse is the one that usually suffers.
                            Taking it day by day!


                            • #34
                              Micheal Schaeffer's book(s) are really easy to follow/understand and his techniques would likely be useful in helping this horse understand what you are after.

                              Come to think of it, TTouch stuff may also be good for a horse with those issues. Teach him to be more responsive to touch, and more aware.
                              Freeing worms from cans everywhere!


                              • #35
                                Agree - Right From The Start is a really nice book
                                The CoTH CYA - please consult w/your veterinarian under any and all circumstances. - ET


                                • #36
                                  The Retired Racehorse Training Project is an awesome resource. Check out the videos that show training techniques that were used for their 100 day challenge.

                                  Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                                  EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                                  • #37
                                    Oh good gawd. The more I hear, the more I feel this trainer isn't suited to this horse, and you are approaching everything the wrong way.

                                    REALLY? A crank and a flash?!? Long story short.. NO. There is absolutely no need to use those tools to ride your horse. It sounds like you are skipping the basics and going on to the "fun" things. What happened to establishing a whoa at the walk on a loose rein? What happened to turning on a loose rein at the walk? What happened to walk/halt transitions using your SEAT, not the reins?

                                    He's confused, getting pissed, and things are getting more dramatic instead of less dramatic. You don't trust him to stop, he doesn't trust you to give clear signals. Everything is all twisted up. You HAVE to go back to basics on a snaffle without a noseband or (my suggestion) a bitless, both on a loose rein.

                                    You have to reduce the anxiety before moving on to the trot and canter. If your horse doesn't know how to stop from the walk without using the reins, he sure ain't gonna stop at the canter without yanking on his face!!

                                    Removing the nosebands gets rid of that tension on his face. Taking away the reins doesn't let him lean on anything, and here is the hardest part. For you. Trusting yourself and your horse. As you go into the trot without reins, you need to BELIEVE, in your HEART, MIND, and SOUL, that this is just a steady gelding. If you show even an OUNCE of timidity, he's going to pick up on it and speed off. He is going to immediately start flailing, but when he only gets reassurance and no negative contact on the reins, he'll start asking, "What?". That's your sign.

                                    Once the lesson above is learned, everything will be thousands times easier. Keep things simple. Work on trot walk transitions with your SEAT, not your reins. ALL the problems you have stem from your contact. You and your trainer must rely on the reins rather than your seat. (Hey, don't fret, most people do! Your horse just can't handle it. ) Keep contact out of the equation, nothing negative makes him withdraw into himself.


                                    • #38
                                      Arab_Mare-Your thoughts are good, but your signature gives you away. You don't do "disciplines". However riding is a discipline!!! You may one of the rare goddesses who ride understanding it all naturally. The rest of us poor fools must learn it, and if we learn it well enough, and are also foolish and dedicated, we try to teach it.

                                      Not everyone can hop on, ride in their mind, and have their body translate appropriately to the situation at hand.
                                      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.


                                      • #39
                                        Oh Op! It just takes time. Probably a bit locked up in the poll and then to top it off the horse is avoiding balance and ignoring half halts. Thats kind how they all start and its just more obvious with one that was already trained one way.

                                        For you to kinda adapt your 'feel'. maybe have someone show you how to do some standing flexions so you see the mouth soften and then you can take some breaks riding searching for this feeling in walk, and then trot, and eventually the stretch all of the time to the bit!

                                        You just have to re-show him what bit pressure means or should mean without too much reaction to him ignoring you and more release when he does it right!
                                        ~~Member of the TB's Rule Clique ~~


                                        • #40
                                          Lots of good advice here

                                          I agree w/BNFE and others who have said your trainer and this horse might not be the best match right now. Sending your horse to someone who re-starts a lot of TBs would be worth while.

                                          Your horse needs to be taught that leg doesn't mean faster, but bigger step. He needs to be taught how not to drag himself around by his shoulders.

                                          Also, he needs to make the correct muscles to do those things.

                                          This is one of the big differences between purpose bred wb and TBs. TBs are built to gallop, and therefore tend to be forehand/shoulder dominant, thus it takes longer for them to make dressage muscles.

                                          For example, I restarted my TB in March. I ride him 6/7 days a week, and it has only been in the last month that he has had the muscles so that his hind legs jump underneath himself at the canter and carry his front end (thus making him light in the mouth). It takes time
                                          Unrepentant carb eater