Draft Animal Power – Draft animals and sustainable land stewardship › Forums › Draft Animal Power › Training Working Animals › Accepting the bit
- July 26, 2012 at 2:08 pm #43958njfarmerParticipant
I have a question for you folks on here. My draft mare does not like to take the bit. She does not seem to mind at all once its in but it is trying on us both to get the bit in. She will hold her mouth shut. Then I will end up sticking my thumb in the corner of her mouth to get her to open up. She then pulls her head away. I even tried putting a little molasses on the bit. No change. I guess Im looking for any ideas to make this process more enjoyable for both of us. I dont want to sour her on the bit by forcing it but I want her to learn we cant do this 20 process every time the bridle goes on. Should I get it on and leave it on for awhile. Currently when we are done with our lessons it comes off so she.can go back in the pasture. Any thoughts?July 26, 2012 at 7:06 pm #74546Does’ LeapParticipant
I would put her in a round pen. If you don’t have one and your horses respect electric wire, you could make one 30-50′ in diameter. I would stand in the center with the bridle and send her on a couple of laps (or more) at a good steady trot. I would then bring her into the center and see if she will accept the bit. If she resists (which she likely will), don’t force the bit in her mouth or cajole her, just send her on a few more laps. I would repeat this until you see her resisting less. Once you see some progress, praise her and maybe stop for the day and try again tomorrow. I envision 10-15 minutes session tops. The idea is your mare has a choice: she can accept the bit willingly or she can trot around in circles.
GeorgeJuly 27, 2012 at 12:41 am #74547Donn HewesKeymaster
This kind of question can be tricky to answer. The basic “moves” to putting a bit in a horses mouth are pretty simple. But how we expect a horse to behave and respond to us before that is so important. Once a horse is ready for me to put a bit in it’s mouth, it is standing loose in the center of and area, (round pen or not), paying attention to me. If I have a rope halter on I will slide it off and put it around the horses neck. They will put heir head down but might not keep it down very well. Once I put the bridle on, (thumb in back of mouth with out hesitating). The only way a horse will avoid my finger in their mouth is to open their mouth at the first hint of a bit touching their teeth. No emotions either way. I don’t consider making it “enjoyable” for them or me. I don’t put the bridle on unless I am planning to drive them. On and off is confusing to me. Think of them like your children. You would certainly like to take the time to teach them to cross the road safely, but you would just do it while you were crossing the road. not by walking up to it and going back a bunch of times. When I teach a horse to lead, we are always going some were. I seldom stop to teach this basic skill. We always end up in the barn or paddock as intended.
I guess this sounds a little negative to me. Please don’t take it that way. I have been a way from my horses and mules for a couples weeks. makes me a little stiff and uncoordinated! DonnJuly 27, 2012 at 2:43 am #74551njfarmerParticipant
Donn enjoyable was my choice over saying not so darn frustrating. I appreciate the pointers tho.July 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm #74545Carl RussellModerator
I don’t think horses relate accepting the bit with any other activities after that. Accepting the bit is just another task, like any other. Like Donn says, approach the horse with intention. There should be no attempt to get the horses permission. Obviously if you are too aggressive, then you will have a lot of ground to make up.
I have also successfully used a shortcut on horses that I got with a habit for resistance. I hold a peppermint in my hand with the bit. The horse has to accept the bit to get the peppermint. Of course you then have to wean them off that……. but it is fast, and easy, with little struggle.
George’s description is great. I have never used a round pen, but use the same methodology to some degree. You basically need to spend the background time to get the horse to want to do what you expect. This leads to something that Donn also touched on……
You can’t put the roof on and ignore the foundation. Accepting the bit, or not, is just an indication of the effectiveness of the communication between you and the horse. Pressure and release. When you press the horse, does it accept, or resist? Do you reward the horse for resisting by releasing pressure?
Even at the most fundamental level of interaction this communication needs to be reinforced. A task like accepting the bit is somewhat more important than some others, as you really can’t work most horses without getting the bit in, so I think it is imperative that it is taken on when the horse is open to your initiative.
Sometimes these expressions of resistance are the horse’s way of telling you that you may need to go back a few steps and work on fundamentals. I have seen a lot of teamsters who seem to be afraid of fundamentals, as if it is too remedial. The most experienced teamsters regularly revisit fundamentals….. you can’t hitch a horse that won’t stand still, you can’t bit a horse that won’t accept it….. and you really shouldn’t try until they are ready……and the only way to get them there is fundamental communication.
CarlJuly 28, 2012 at 9:18 pm #74549karl t pfisterParticipant
“no attempt to get the horses permission ” That is great ! With bridling a resistant horse they can really test you in a personal way .They can get more creative and evasive with the slightest hesitation .
as kids we had a horse that went from being hard to bridle to aggressively trying to bite, there may have been other issues who knows now? ,but the point is as Carl said go with the intention that it’s going to happen, no pausing till it happens , but not aggressive either.
I bridle mine tied to a halter and leave the halter on. some people cross tie. Loose is ideal ,something to work towards . I also think once you have a little success , putting it on and off several times and several times a day then may desensitize her to the process.How old is the mare ? Sounds like a previous owner may have some information ? Good luck be creative ,I never tried to candy approachJuly 29, 2012 at 2:21 pm #74548dominiquer60Moderator
One of my horse show customers is a 3 day Eventer that I I groomed for years ago. When she brought a new horse to the barn, they were taught 3 foundational manners right off the bat. First to stand ground tied (in the grooming and bathing areas to start), lift all four feet from the same side for quick hoof picking (they all had picks in back pocket, pick before coming out of a stall or paddock) and to drop their head on command. Rearguards of what exactly or why, these were here foundational behaviors to set them up for success, whether it was at competition, international travel, or everyday routine. The horses were asked to do things with little resistance as possible. Her mothers horse was off the track and terribly head shy, it took a long time to get him to take a halter or bridle. When he resisted he was asked to put his head down. This was done by applying pressure to his sternum at his heart girth, they were all trained that this means to put your head down. By taking the focus off the bridle and onto something that he knows how to do and is comfortable with (back to the foundation), he was able to a) be distracted from resisting and b) gets his head back to a good place to try again. This strategy worked for training many other desired behaviors as well, if they are supposed to be standing to be tacked and are getting into something on the shelf, have them put their head down, they can’t fiddle with the shelf if their head is where you asked for it. By asking with the sternum pressure point it made control of their head possible without being at their head, one could easily be at the flank and reach the pressure point.
I took these methods to college and used them on the horses that I had in my training classes. I never had a nice performance horse like the teachers pets, but all of mine ground tied, dropped their heads for the bridle, would take a full bath with hose to the face, accepted the clippers to their heads and went home to owners with top notch ground manners. Now that I have cattle the opposite command comes into play, “head up,” this keeps them from fiddling, grazing and keeps the yoke from dropping while yoking up. No matter what animal you are training for any purpose it is best to set yourself up for success with some good basic foundational manners, especially those that can aid in lessening resistance to new tasks.
NJFarmer you don’t have to get fancy with pressure point commands, but certainly getting your horse to do something simple like dropping its head when you ask (with gentle pressure on the lead, then release when they give) will set you up for more success with the bridle. If they are comfortable giving you control of their head, acceptance of the bridle is a step closer to obtainable. I look forward to hearing how it all works out for you.July 29, 2012 at 10:50 pm #74550sickle hocksParticipant
Plus 50 for teaching the head drop…I love this as part of the foundation. Sometimes a tiny, gentle side to side is a good cue on lead, and then release when you get a bit of a drop, pretty soon you’ll have the nose right down when you want, which is a relaxed horse. I also love putting on a heart girth pressure point that bends the horses head around to me (quite low down on the heart girth)…they will bend the right way instinctively, if you release right away you can get this really light too. It’s good for respect as well, if the horse is throwing it’s shoulder at you and counterbent you know where you are on the totem pole…
By the same token, don’t be rude and bend into your horse..some of them are really sensitive about that…hard to describe but you always want to open some space around your horse with your hips away from the horse a bit, make a bit of a vertical ‘c’ with your body, it doesn’t take very much to make a difference and they appreciate it. I’m sure you know this, but don’t face the head square when you are standing up there, you want your hip open and belly button pointed either at the shoulder or in the direction the horse is facing…too much pressure from your posture towards that head area will push that head up and away which is the last thing you need…
with you facing forward and horse head down and bent towards you (use the button’s you’ve added) you can bring the headstall up…let the bit hang under the jaw for now, you can use the off side cheek strap to block the horse from turning it’s nose away…then the thumb and bit part, and finally the ears….you can always go back to ‘head down’ and ‘bend’ but try not to lose the headstall’s position on the face, you don’t want to reward the jerk away with a release…if your horse will tolerate a hand on the pole, a gentle pole pressure with a bit of side to side and the other hand gently on the nose can be another good ‘head down’ button to put on, but it’s not for every horse
….all in a round pen like doe’s leap describes if you have access to one…
…anyway, that’s just what i do FWIW
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