I hope you have had success with the method I laid out in the last lesson. I realized that I forgot to mention why a horse might be doing this, and how to get over that main problem, instead of just dealing with the symptoms.
If you use a curb bit (one with leverage – it does not matter if it is jointed. If it has shanks on the side it is a curb bit and it is severe) there is a greater chance that your horse will have issues, unless you are a very good rider. A curb bit is designed to be used to refine complicated movements on horseback, and it is certainly not meant to be used by beginners simply because they need more control over their horse. If you need more control, your horse, or you, needs more training! Any well trained horse should be able to do whatever you ask of it calmly and willingly in a plain jointed snaffle bit. So, please avoid a curb bit if at all possible. One slip-up and your horse may have his mouth permanently damaged, leaving him ill disposed to take the bit nicely the next time you want to ride him. I mean, if someone stuffed a lump of metal in your mouth and it hurt, you would do everything in your power to keep that same metal out of your mouth the next day! Remember that a horse is a living creature with nerves, just like us. In fact, in many cases, horses are way more sensitive than we are. Treat him as such and be as gentle as possible. A horse with a ‘hard’ mouth has simply been desensitized to the action of the bit, and this takes a long time to fix. It is not impossible, however! Virtually any problem a horse has can be remedied with time and proper training techniques.
Bridling a horse is also what a lot of people struggle with. Their horse shoots his head up to the sky so they can’t reach it or they jerk it just as the bit goes in to make it slip right out again. And, once again, there is a simple solution to this problem.
If you haven’t yet, please read my last post about relaxing your horse. Practice that lots, because you will need it in this lesson.
So, start there. Get your horse relaxed with is head down. If he is head shy and you cannot get his head down, start rubbing him in a place he is comfortable with, such as his neck, and slowly rub up to his head. If he protests, keep rubbing there until he relaxes. Continue until you can touch his face wherever you want to.
Now you can get your bridle. Hold the headstall in your rigt hand and drape it over his poll. If his head goes up, ask him to drop it again before continuing. Cradle the bit in your left hand and bring it to his mouth calmly. Slide your thumb into his mouth, resettin his head whenever it goes where you dont want it to be. Wiggle your humb until he opens up, and insert the bit. Unbridle him right away and praise him. Bridle as many times as you an, but try to end the lesson on a good note.
You all know, I am sure, those nervous, jumpy horses who simply cannot concentrate on you when there are other things going on. In fact, sometimes you are even scared that your horse really has no clue you are standing right beside him and might just run right over you! Vienna is one of those higher strung horses, and there is a very simple solution.
First, however, we must explore the cause of this rampant problem. Basically, by worrying about what is going on over the fence or in the next stall rather than calmly looking to you, your horse is saying, ‘I don’t trust you to take care of me, I have to take care of myself.’ To begin with, you should analyze why your horse is thinking like this. Have you ever let him be hurt by anything? Have you ever done something around, near, or to him that really shook his trust in you? Trust takes a long time to rebuild, and I suggest you start working on that. You must prove yourself again to your horse, which will be a hard task, because horses have a very, very long memory of wrongs done to them. It is far easier to always treat your horse with respect and caring and look after him well than to try to patch up broken trust.
Now, on to the ‘practical’ solution. When a horse lowers his head below his withers an endorphin is released which gives him a pleasant sensation. Putting his head down to eat, resting it on the ground when he is lying down, all these things feel very good to the horse. When he eats or lies down, he is relaxed because of the endorphin. So, to get your horse less uptight, you simply must lower his head. You will always lose at tug-of-war with your horse; he is much stronger than you are, so don’t pull down on your lead rope! So start by putting your hand over his poll, right between his ears. With your thumb and middle finger (or pinkie, if your hand is small) you should feel two indentations in the horse’s skull at the base of his ears. Apply a small amount of pressure with your fingers here with your right hand, while applying soft pressure downward with your lead rope. It there is no response, wiggle your fingers, gradually increasing pressure until the horse drops his head away from the pressure. Immediately release all pressure and praise him! Even if he moves a millimetre, release, praise, and keep practicing this until next time!