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Improving a horse that is difficult to bridle

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  • Improving a horse that is difficult to bridle

    I am leasing my favorite school horse again, so I am hoping that over the next month I will be able to improve this situation. I have been riding him over a year, and my biggest issue with him is how long it take me to get a bit in his mouth.

    First of all, he is not dangerous about any of this. He doesn't fly backwards, he doesn't violenty throw his head, and he does not become pushy often. On occasion he will use his head to nudge me back, but I do not find it threatening at all, just rude.

    When I take his halter off, and have the reins over his head, he takes this opportunity to stretch his neck all the way around to either side (you know, saying hi to horses in stalls if he is in the aisle, or checking out the grooming supplies in the wash stall). I can get the bit to his mouth, but then he tends to lock his jaw and raise his head. I always make sure the bit is clean, and not too cold. I don't clunk it against his teeth. I try using my fingers in the corners of his mouth to get him to open up, but that certainly doesn't seem to have any affect. At this point, he usually has me holding the headstall over his face, bit against his teeth, and then turns his head away from me, effectivly escaping the evil bridle. If someone is in the barn, I sometimes ask them to stand on the other side of him which seems to speed up the process (which still is not as simple as it should be).

    Once the bit is in his mouth, he is totally fine. He doesn't make any ugly faces, chomp on the bit, open his mouth, he just stands there.

    He seems to be difficult to bridle for virtually everyone, but I would like to work on this while I will be his primary rider. Any helpful hints?
    The best sports bras for riders are Anita 5527 and Panache! Size UP in Anita, down in Panache (UK sizing)

  • #2
    I used treats. Give a treat to get the horse focused on you and turn his head where you can reach it, then stick a treat in the hand with the bit so he decides to take the bit. THen treat after bridle is over the ears. Gradually wean off.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have a horse that was difficult to bridle- still not perfect but definitely improved. I worked with her using patience and peppermints. Your horse's evasion is different than my horse's was. I did have the dangerous fly back throw the head up horse- at first it was a 2 person job in the stall with the halter around the neck so person 2 could keep the horse from flailing around the stall. My horse's problem was fear of having her ears touched. In your case, I bet being a school horse he has learned this evasion to take advantage of people too inexperienced to fix it. I think you'll have him doing it correctly in no time.

      When you are holding the headstall, do you hold it by the crown or in the middle holding the cheek pieces together so you can control the bridge of the nose? I am thinking if you can keep control of the middle of the head, he won't be able to turn his head away from you so you can focus on getting the bit into his mouth. Once you have it the bit in and bridle up over the ears, then give a small treat, like a peppermint or sugar lump. At first, you may want to teach him to turn toward you with some cue, like your hand on the other side of his face, then treat so he'll focus on you. I did something similar at first with my horse, but the cue was pressure on her poll to teach her to put her head down.

      Once he knows 1) you have his number and 2) he has the treat to look forward to, I think he'll come around.

      Comment


      • #4
        I slathered a dollop of spun honey on the bit and boy, did my guy love that. Completely changed his tune. Gradually weaned him off of it, and after that he forgot that he hated being bridled.

        Comment

        • Original Poster

          #5
          Originally posted by M. Owen View Post
          I have a horse that was difficult to bridle- still not perfect but definitely improved. I worked with her using patience and peppermints. Your horse's evasion is different than my horse's was. I did have the dangerous fly back throw the head up horse- at first it was a 2 person job in the stall with the halter around the neck so person 2 could keep the horse from flailing around the stall. My horse's problem was fear of having her ears touched. In your case, I bet being a school horse he has learned this evasion to take advantage of people too inexperienced to fix it. I think you'll have him doing it correctly in no time.

          When you are holding the headstall, do you hold it by the crown or in the middle holding the cheek pieces together so you can control the bridge of the nose? I am thinking if you can keep control of the middle of the head, he won't be able to turn his head away from you so you can focus on getting the bit into his mouth. Once you have it the bit in and bridle up over the ears, then give a small treat, like a peppermint or sugar lump. At first, you may want to teach him to turn toward you with some cue, like your hand on the other side of his face, then treat so he'll focus on you. I did something similar at first with my horse, but the cue was pressure on her poll to teach her to put her head down.

          Once he knows 1) you have his number and 2) he has the treat to look forward to, I think he'll come around.
          I do hold the bridle my the crown, which gives the 16.2 hand WB the upper hand in leverage. You are right, I should move my hand down, and I would have better control of his face. It seems like such an obvious solution I have overlooked, which is why I love this place

          Originally posted by saddleup View Post
          I slathered a dollop of spun honey on the bit and boy, did my guy love that. Completely changed his tune. Gradually weaned him off of it, and after that he forgot that he hated being bridled.
          I was contemplating this, as he is already a cookie monster, and believes that I am a walking cookie jar. It just sounds a bit messy, especially with the amount of time that my hand is in contact with the bit. Did you have issues getting sticky?
          The best sports bras for riders are Anita 5527 and Panache! Size UP in Anita, down in Panache (UK sizing)

          Comment


          • #6
            Few questions:

            How is he for others to bridle?

            How handy are you at bridling other horses?

            Are you short?

            I'm short, and have developed a few ways to cope.

            1. Have a ladder or a stool nearby so that a big horse can't toy with me by raising his head.

            2. Make sure the ends of the noseband is on the outside of the cheekpeieces--one of my peeves is having a bridle put away with the noseband wrapped multiple times around the cheekpieces, because it winds up in the horse's mouth. Alternatively, you can hold the noseband up in your right hand, along with the crown, dropping it as the horse takes the bit.

            3. I favor holding the crown--you can't finish putting the bridle on any other way. The fewer times you need to switch hand positions the better.

            4. As I begin to bridle the horse, reins over the neck, I reach between the horse's ears with my right hand to take the bridle from my left hand--this tends to keep the horse's head down, if he is looking for the bit and being cooperative....if at this stage the horse puts his head up, then up onto the stool I go, right along with him.

            5. Having something nice and sticky and flavorful on the bit will normally after a few times result in the horse looking for it nicely--otherwise, a small treat (even grass) held on the fingers that are pressing the bit onto the teeth while my thumb is prying open the mouth will do the same thing.

            6. I always point the OFF SIDE ear forward and slip that side onto the poll FIRST, with the result that if the horse moves to avoid this, he normally will pull the rest of the bridle ON to his head in moving away...(at that stage, he's foiled!). If you do the near side first, he can step away from you, and get the bridle off again.

            Another thing you might do is to slip the halter off his nose, but leave it around his neck, with the near side crosstie still attached...if he tries to move his head away, the crosstie will keep him put.

            Needless to say, when the horse is being handled by people who can quickly succeed in getting the bridle on, that's the expectation he develops. When he "sees you coming" he is well aware of whether you can or can't.

            Act definitely and with authority and get the job done. If you fail, don't spend time on regrets, but immediately move to correct the situation so the horse isn't rewarded for his lack of attention to you by enjoying a break with his friends.

            If you can't do this dependably, you are better off repeatedly bridling a cooperative horse, so you develop an expectation yourself about how the procedure should be going. After a few times, you'll be surprised at how well this expectation will act on the difficult horse. Good luck.
            Inner Bay Equestrian
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            KERx

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            • Original Poster

              #7
              Some great points M. OConnor.

              He is a butthead to virtually everyone who bridles him, and generally speaking I am "his person". People around the barn comment that it is quite obvious he likes me more than just about anyone. I believe this has to do with cookies, and how many I feed him.

              I'm 5'4, and he is 16.2 or so. I have never had an issue bridling another horse in my 22 years. I LOVE the idea of the halter around his neck on the cross ties!
              The best sports bras for riders are Anita 5527 and Panache! Size UP in Anita, down in Panache (UK sizing)

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by AliCat View Post
                I do hold the bridle my the crown, which gives the 16.2 hand WB the upper hand in leverage. You are right, I should move my hand down, and I would have better control of his face. It seems like such an obvious solution I have overlooked, which is why I love this place
                I can't remember the last time I held the crown while bridling, maybe last time I rode a pony? With me at 5'1'' any horse that doesn't stand with its head down and open its mouth is going to need one hand one the cheekpieces and another under the bit.

                A jumper I used to lease was 17h and head-shy. Bridling was not fun! I looped the reins over her neck but put them on her poll just behind her ears instead of around her neck. That way when her head went up I had some way to ask her to bring it down again.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Try wrapping the bit with a fruit roll-up.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    I had this problem with one of my guys and I actually just left the halter on with him in crossties. I put the bridle over the whole darn thing and then unbuckled the halter and took it off. It was a real pain but after doing it like this for a while he just forgot he was an A$$ about it. Jelly on the bit helped.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      First I would have a grooming halter on so it could be removed after the fact if the horse is too difficult. But otherwise, but hold the bridle in the right hand and have the right hand over the nose, then he CANNOT turn away. Then lift the bit into the mouth, and/or be able to put the fingers onto the tongue. Also having honey or fruit roll ups on the bit can help.
                      I.D.E.A. yoda

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I do it almost exactly the way M OConner states. The first time I tried to bridle my OTTB it took me over 5 minutes to get the bridle on. Now she (and my newish 4 yr. old, 17.1 hand OTTB) drops her head to my knee level and I'd better have everything but the bit out of the way because she opens her mouth and looks to grab it. I did spend some time teaching her to drop her head with no bridle around. Just a gentle but firm pressure over the poll with my fingers. (You can keep the halter on - but undo the crossties - so he doesn't move his head away from you.) and the instant she dropped even a little from the pressure, I released. Once you have that working, you can bridge to holding the crown piece with your right hand over the poll. And a treat never hurt anything.
                        Last edited by Brooke; Mar. 18, 2012, 11:39 PM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I have found treats - little carrot pieces - works really well to get the horse's focus on you, and less messy than honey, though that always works like charm.

                          I started with him in a halter on cross ties, and just offered the treat lying beside the bit in my left hand, holding the bridle in my right - no reins. Did not put the bridle over his ears.

                          When I could get the bit easily into his mouth several times in a row, and he was lowering his head looking for the treat/bit, I then put the halter round his neck, but still in the cross ties, and did the same thing, but put the bridle all the way onto his head.

                          Then I just progressed until it all went smoothly, then I started to cut back on the carrot treat - gave it every other time I bridled - then every third time etc. I now give him a carrot treat about once a month when bridling, and he has totally forgotten he used to be difficult!

                          Good luck!

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Just to clarify, do you guys take the bridle on and off multiple times to practice without actually going for a ride? I would think it is a good idea.
                            The best sports bras for riders are Anita 5527 and Panache! Size UP in Anita, down in Panache (UK sizing)

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by AliCat View Post
                              Just to clarify, do you guys take the bridle on and off multiple times to practice without actually going for a ride? I would think it is a good idea.
                              Yes, I did that. The idea was to get bridling be something that was fun and rewarding.

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by AliCat View Post
                                Just to clarify, do you guys take the bridle on and off multiple times to practice without actually going for a ride? I would think it is a good idea.
                                I did not, as I found that agitated my horse more. She did get a lot better and I could bridle her with no fuss after a few weeks, but a lot of messing around with the bridle made her worse (for example, I had to fit a bridle to her and the next day she was a little wary of letting me near her head.)

                                But again, my horse was head shy I'm assuming from someone at one point being too rough with her face. She was never malicious or ornery, just genuinely worried.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Flavored bit wipes (I'm pretty sure Dover's and probably plenty of others sell them). It give the bit a pleasant taste and isn't messy or awkward while you're bridling.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    I second the fruit roll ups

                                    I second the use of fruit roll ups as a bit wrap. The box of 18 mini sized ones is usually $2 or under. They aren't messy to use like honey or molasses. I can attest that, in my opinion, these are the absolute best way to teach a horse to LIKE to be bridled. I have a now 23 year old large pony mare--was a rated show pony in her day, then a lesson horse at a large stable, then a neglected only horse, then I got her. She wasn't bad to bridle compared to some horses, but was grumpy about it and I like happy horses. I heard the fruit roll up idea somewhere and tried it. By the end of the week, she was grabbing for the bit as soon as the bridle was picked up. I started cutting the roll ups into strips and using them on all my horses--youngsters getting started, sales/project horses, training horses, and my personal horses. I haven't found a single horse that doesn't like them. And every single one of my horses actively participates in bridling themselves! A lot of times, they are holding the bit in their mouth before I've actually gotten all the straps lined up in my hand. It's seriously funny to see sometimes.

                                    Sheila

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                                    • #19
                                      I give all mine a treat as the bit goes in. They love the bridle...I can take their halters off and they stand there eagerly waiting for the bit. I don't think it needs to be ON the bit or wrapped around...I have just as much success with a regular horse treat alongside the bit.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Oh, this sounds familiar - had the problem w/ my mare for a while; started after a dose of bute paste Put the reins around the neck and that neck promptly turned into a giraffe, WAY high in the air, w/ muzzle pointing UP, just to be extra sure I could not reach...

                                        I tried the fruit rollups per someone's suggestion, and fortunately I gave her a taste before wrapping bit - she hated the stuff - spit it right out. I spent a lot of time w/ peppermints, crushed, in my hand and after a while, problem was resolved.

                                        Next time, I'll get honey in a squeeze bottle; yes, it will be a little messy, so where the peppermints by the time I got done. Get bridle on, dunk hand in water bucket; wipe w/ nearby rag. Its a lot faster than the battle....
                                        We don't get less brave; we get a bigger sense of self-preservation........

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