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Help needed... Young horse seems to be scared of bridle/caveson noise?

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  • Help needed... Young horse seems to be scared of bridle/caveson noise?

    Okay. I have a bit of a strange problem. I am starting to work with my young rescue on accepting tack. She is fine with the saddle - had a few little hops but nothing serious. She's had a few different weight saddles on, a surcingle on, etc., - she's fine with things on her back and with girths. Even fine with stirrups hanging and moving around as she is lunged. This was all free lunging, or lunging with a rope halter or nylon halter. I tried putting a caveson on her and she freaked out. Not at my putting it on, or at the walk - the second the buckles started making any noise, she took off bucking and kept bolting randomly while lunging, and full mule-kick bucking. I took it off and she was fine, tried the halter, she was fine. Same thing happened first time I tried the bridle - she was fine with it when standing around, but as soon as there was any sound from it she freaked out.

    How do I go about desensitizing this? Do I just leave the caveson or bridle on until she calms down and gets used to it? Like I said, she's fine standing around and walking in it, it's just when it starts moving more or she shakes her head and it rattles or clinks (metal on metal).

    Any suggestions would be great!

  • #2
    Maybe try just having it hang over your shoulder while you work with her--get her used to the sound before you put it on her face. Baby steps. I'll be doing that with mine after the first of the year.


    • #3
      Can you post a pic of the caveson and bridle? Because I'm not familiar with a bridle making any noises once on a horse (unless they get the bit in their teeth, then it does make some noise) and am having a hard time picturing what is clanking? But offhand, I'd suggest using a basic flat English bridle with a soft rubber bit (or a metal bit covered SealTex).
      ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


      • #4
        Or try removing as much as possible then gradually adding it back: take off reins, noseband etc. I use a nylon web strap with velcro at each end holding the bit that I made for bitting - no browband, no throatlash. Just one strap. Velcro noise might set her of so just slip it over her ears.

        Also if she touches the bridle, she gets a treat. Pretty soon she'll be like my guy: grabs the bit right away if you hold the bridle out, and very pleased with himself!


        • #5
          Originally posted by 4LeafCloverFarm View Post
          Can you post a pic of the caveson and bridle? Because I'm not familiar with a bridle making any noises once on a horse (unless they get the bit in their teeth, then it does make some noise) and am having a hard time picturing what is clanking? But offhand, I'd suggest using a basic flat English bridle with a soft rubber bit (or a metal bit covered SealTex).
          That was my thought. Figure out what is making the noise, and stop it from making noise for now.

          I'm having a hard time imagining what part of a bridle makes noise.


          • #6
            Add me to the list of people who cannot picture what, on a bridle, could "clank".

            If you can, bridle with the caveson removed.
            Then once she accepts the rest of the bridle, reintroduce.
            FWIW, I ride w/o a caveson, English bridle with eggbutt snaffle.
            *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
            Steppin' Out 1988-2004
            Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
            Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


            • #7
              Have you had a good equine vet/dentist check and float this horse's mouth? It may not be the noise but the movement of the bit once it starts moving on the teeth.
              Yes to the latex bit wrap. Or a rubber or leather bit. they make no noise.
              "There is no fundamental difference between man and animals in their ability to feel pleasure and pain, happiness, and misery." - Charles Darwin


              • #8
                I would second the thought that a vet or equine dentist should check the mouth and teeth, just to make sure that there's no pain associated either with a bit (which you actually didn't mention in your post) or with the pressure that might be exerted by a tightened noseband.

                If the problem really is one of the horse not accepting the bridle (and the bit?), then just take it slowly. Clicker training is really great for helping a horse get past these kinds of problems, and it's also great for training the trainer to break down the training into small steps that can then be rewarded when accomplished.

                There's lots of info about clicker training on the web; Karen Pryor's website has some great resources on how to introduce it.

                "The formula 'Two and two make five' is not without its attractions." --Dostoevsky


                • #9
                  I did have a thought this morning. Does the bit on your bridle have a curb chain? Because a loose or improperly twisted curb chain will clank or tinkle and could spook a horse. If this is the case - remove the curb chain (and lip strap) entirely. If the bit has a port, take the whole bit off and use something else entirely (that isn't ported).
                  ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


                  • #10
                    Horse is also reacting badly to noise from lunging cavesson- I assume without bit? This would not be a dental or pain issue.


                    • #11
                      If it's from the bridle itself, can you put vetwrap over the parts that are clanking or moving?

                      If it's one of those bridles with snaps to the bit, throw it in a trash can (IMO). Nothing drives me more nuts than seeing metal-on-metal contact to a bit. That has to feel so crappy to the horse.


                      • Original Poster

                        Thank you for the comments! I will post pictures with the bridle and caveson tomorrow. It's an older, used bridle and it's the side buckles rubbing against each other that is making the noise along with the bit. I am investing in a new bridle for her soon but right now I am stuck with an older one. I had a friend donate a western bridle to me that is very simple and definitely won't make noise so I'll try that. With the caveson, the metal rings by the poll are hitting against the buckles on the side so that's where that noise is coming from. She is fine with sounds around her head (including metal on metal sounds), which is why I'm not sure how to go about it. I will try putting some tape on the caveson to make the sounds a little quieter. I don't use the bridle and caveson together - I lunge with the caveson and then take that off and put the bridle on to work with her on accepting the bit. Definitely no dental issues. She had her teeth done and her mouth and everything thoroughly checked three weeks ago.


                        • Original Poster

                          This is what the caveson looks like. It is the rings by the poll that make the noise. I will try taping them.


                          • #14
                            OK, so for the lungeing caveson, either A) remove the throatlatch or B) wrap the buckles in vet wrap. Also, make sure the lungeing caveson isn't too loosy goosey on her. Some aren't real adjustable (or not adjustable enough) and others don't stay where you want them to be.
                            ~~ How do you catch a loose horse? Make a noise like a carrot! - British Cavalry joke ~~


                            • #15
                              let her wear the caveson someplace enclosed and safe (small round pen, stall ) without human intervention until she gets over it. Might be some dramatics, might take a couple sessions.


                              • #16
                                When I transitioned my mare from a bosal to a bit, I used a rubber mouth snaffle on an English headstall without reins. Put headstall w/bit on, and turned her out in a small, grassy paddock. No hysterics--all she wanted to do was figure out how to graze with that thing in her mouth. I would,as mentioned above, tape rings down for now; when your horse accepts this new head gear, then un-tape the rings and let them steps!


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thank you all for your suggestions. Will work on letting her adjust to the noises slowly. For now, I taped the rings on the caveson (that worked - she has been a lot better), and am letting her slowly get used to the bridle while I hand graze her (attached to a halter underneath). She's so food motivated she's figuring out pretty quickly that bridle=grass=good things.