TRAIN­ING How to han­dle a bit puller

EQUUS - - Eq Consultant­s -

Q:I have a Ken­tucky Moun­tain Sad­dle Horse with a sweet, can-do dis­po­si­tion. But he likes to chew and pull on the bit. When I bought him, he came with the bri­dle and bit, and he was trained. I have had the vet­eri­nar­ian check him out, tried lots of dif­fer­ent bits, have had his teeth done, along with a chi­ro­prac­tic ad­just­ment. I have rid­den on a tight rein and a loose rein. Noth­ing seems to help. Look­ing for sug­ges­tions on what to try next.

Name with­held by re­quest

A:This is a great ques­tion. Pain can of­ten cause prob­lems like yours, and I’m glad that you have done your re­search to en­sure that this be­hav­ior is not a re­sult of a den­tal or or­tho­pe­dic is­sue. Since a phys­i­cal prob­lem has been ruled out, we can ex­plore a cou­ple of pos­si­ble so­lu­tions.

First, look at your equip­ment, and con­sider how your bit acts on your horse’s mouth. Any kind of bit that col­lapses com­pletely (you can fold the bit in half, touch­ing the rings or shanks to­gether), like a snaf­fle or a French link, can act like a nutcracker and pinch the bars of the mouth when you are in con­tact with both reins. In ad­di­tion, these mouth­pieces and sim­i­lar ones that lie straight across the tongue can cause a horse dis­com­fort and limit his abil­ity to swal­low. Some horses are very sen­si­tive to this pres­sure. A ported bit---one that lifts up over the tongue be­tween a quar­ter inch to three quar­ters of an inch--- will of­fer some re­lief and in some cases may make a big dif­fer­ence to the horse.

It is dif­fi­cult to of­fer spe­cific train­ing ad­vice with­out watch­ing you work with your horse, but I can of­fer some gen­eral ideas that may help. First, rather than fo­cus­ing on a loose rein ver­sus a con­tact, think in­stead about hav­ing a “feel” in your hands and tim­ing your re­lease. Putting steady, con­tin­u­ous pres­sure on the reins will dull the horse and cre­ate a tol­er­ance to that level of pres­sure. At the other ex­treme, if you avoid us­ing the reins com­pletely, your horse will be­come lost be­cause you are not able to di­rect him ef­fec­tively.

To help your horse soften and ac­cept the bit, de­velop some yields at a slow speed. Ask him to move his hindquar­ters and then his shoul­ders, us­ing one rein at a time and giv­ing the horse time to re­spond. Re­mem­ber to use your body first, and then your rein, so that your

Rather than fo­cus­ing on a loose rein ver­sus a con­tact, think in­stead about hav­ing a “feel” in your hands and tim­ing your re­lease.

horse be­gins to re­spond to your seat and the rein comes just af­ter. Pretty soon you will be able to use less rein and more of your seat. This will cre­ate a much bet­ter con­nec­tion while rid­ing.

The im­por­tant con­cept is to hold; don’t pull. To ap­pre­ci­ate its im­por­tance, do a prac­tice ex­er­cise on the ground with a friend. Each of you can grab an end of the rope and take turns be­ing the horse and the rider. Start by hav­ing the “rider” pull on the rope so the

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