Tag Archives: bitting

How to handle a horse that won’t accept a bit

Comment from Horse Enthusiast: I knew one trainer (never used him, he was just co-owner of the barn I boarded at) who had a really bitchy paint filly- she was vicious when the owner gave her to him for nothing- and he managed to train her enough that she was handleable which was a big accomplishment considering if you showed up with a halter she would run you down, but she still pulled back when tied and riding she would blow up really badly on occoasion, or at least that was the state she was at when I left…
I don’t know her history or how she’s doing now as I haven’t seen her since spring… Anyway he wasn’t my ideal trainer as  he was the “old” cowboy type and would run the snot out of a bronc horse, no matter what age. (this filly was only three and he was cantering and loping her constantly and working her really hard).

But the trick he used to get this filly to accept the bit, because she was terrible of course, was to turn her out with the bridle. (no reins)

Would you ever even consider this in the most dire situation or would you just give up and go bitless? My big fear at the time was that she would catch the ring of the snaffle on a part of the fence or something and rip her mouth apart in a panic, but luckily she didn’t but she actually became easier to bit and was less resistant to it after a week or so. But still, I think that’s too risky…
Just curious :)

Answer from April Reeves: There are many ways to ask a horse to accept a bit, and although many of those ways end up with a horse that will “take” a bit, the question remains, “Is there a better way?” I have had to work with some of the toughest of bitters, and have barely had as much as a fight or future problem.

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Hard bits: where to go from a twisted D ring snaffle?

Question: My horse tends to get very strong while we are jumping. I have a twisted D ring but I just feel as though i cannot stop him. Do you have any suggestions for a bit that is not too harsh, yet will help me slow him down? My trainer told me to look into a D ring with hooks but they are all very expensive.

Also, I read some other answers to similar questions like mine, and all the answers state that it is all the riders fault. I would just like you to know that I am a very good rider and I am never harsh on my horses. I just simply cannot find an appropriate bit, and am looking for suggestions. Your help is appreciated!! Thanks! Olivia

Answer from April Reeves: Hello Olivia. Thanks for asking me this question, as I will be honest and keep it real, but it may not be what you want to hear. I urge you to consider my answer, as it is the only way you will fix your problem.

My first suggestion: consider another coach and get the softest bit you can find. I kid you not, and this is why:

When a rider comes to me with a problem like your having over fences, it has nothing to do with bits and everything to do with lack of a good foundation on a horse (and rider). You won’t solve the problem with a harsher bit: it will only slow down the horse for a few days until that bit also becomes useless, as his mouth gets tougher and tougher and he gets stronger and stronger (ie: his brain). I’m not being mean: I’m just keeping it real.

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My horse keeps needing harsher bits and hackamores. Help!

5-ring-bit

This bit, in the wrong hands, is abuse

Question: Hello I have an 8 yr. old reg. quarter horse and he is the most wonderful, trustworthy horse ever!. But the problem is throughout training  him (since he was 2) I have had problems with his listening to a bit or hackamore. I have everything from a snaffle to a severe curve bit. Same for the hack – I have a hack that has a metal band and a snaffle bit on it and he does listen but I hate it! I feel like it is abuse :(. Im at my wits-end its to the point that I don’t want to ride him sometimes and will pick one of our other horses. I need some new advice if you could help me I would love it. Thank-you

Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: You have good gut instincts, as the harder the bit, the tougher the horse is going to be, and some of the equipment you have is abusive, even in light hands. There are very few harsher bits that have any purpose being near a horse, and they must have some result that is acquired without heavy handling.

Horses that do not respond to tougher bits and equipment are not bad or insensitive. They are a result of improper training.

Problem is, humans resort to harder bits because they don’t want to take the time to train the horse properly. The horse just gets use to the pain and pressure, which causes the bit to stop working, so the human seeks a harder bit, and so the evil process proliferates. Some humans don’t care about the horse’s well being either. This is life.

Whenever you get a tough mouthed horse, lower the harshness on the bit – find the softest one on the market and use it. Why? Horses will fight pain. They will become resistant and irritated, and that always plays out in “bad” behavior (human’s interpretation). The behavior is not bad to the horse: he’s just trying to protect himself. When you take the pain away, you give the horse a chance to work for you. A happy horse free of pain is a horse that will work harder, learn faster and bond with you better.

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How can a green rider progress on a green horse with very little help?

Green horse, green riderQuestion: I have a Quarab mare and one main bad habit she has, is that she is herd bound. The people we got her from kept her out in the pasture with 6 other horses all the time and so now she doesn’t like it when I take my miniature horse away. She doesn’t usually care when I separate her from my miniature horse, but she cannot stand me taking my miniature horse away. I have been working with her on it, taking my mini horse away and walking her back and taking her farther and walking back, just so Twinkle (my horse) knows I will bring Sophie (mini horse) back.
We have a fence up and Twinkle is separated from Sophie but they can still talk and see each other. We had to recently put up a hot wire fence as well because Twinkle was leaning on the fence and trying to walk it, getting her legs stuck in the fence, which it is also good because she doesn’t freak out, she waits patiently for us to get her untied. I was wondering if there is any possible way I can get her to stop being herd bound? She is getting better but I still worry about the fence and her getting hurt.

I also have recently started riding her english. I want to be able to do cross-country and show jumping with her and if we work hard enough, possibly learn some dressage techniques. One bad thing, is that the previous owners galloped her a lot, so a lot of times she wants to run, run, run, or she doesn’t listen to my leg commands. If I ask her to trot, she will either burst into a gallop or trot for a second then go faster. I would like for her to be a better horse for English. She can be impatient and doesn’t listen well to “whoa” or only a “walk” or “trot” command. I will be getting a new English bit because the one I have for her does not work, she doesn’t respect it, but I would love for her to be a better well-behaved horse. I wasn’t sure if I could help get her to listen to my commands and whether or not I can train her to only trot when asked.

Is there a way I can train her myself, or is a professional trainer a better idea? We don’t have a lot of money for a professional trainer, but her and I having a great bond through english riding and my dream of jumping to happen.

Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: I first want to address the fence issue. No fence should allow a horse to get tangled. Although your horse is quiet about it right now, it’s a matter of time when that changes, and you lose the horse from serious leg injuries. I have a saying, “that horse never died before”.

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When do you transition from the snaffle to a shank bit?

Chumley bit from SpillerQuestion: I’m a little confused about the timing for changing bits. I have been using an O ring snaffle for almost 2 years. My gelding is 5. He knows basic stuff – stop, forward, turns and I can ride him on the road and trails. I may want to show him some day and I know I can’t ride him in a snaffle for western. How do I transition into a harder bit? When do I do that?

Answer from April Reeves: Thanks for the good question. I suspect lots of riders are at this crossroad.

If you never plan to show your horse, I see no real reason to move into any bit with shanks.

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How can I get my horse to collect?

Collection on the bitQuestion: I cannot get my 4-year old to collect. I bought her a year ago, and she had no idea how to give or collect. I have been working with her and she is getting better, but she just doesn’t round her back up. I have been trying to sell her for over 3 months. I have lately been “lunge-bitting” her (where I put her in a snaffle, and tie one rein tightly to her girth, just so her head must be bent, and lunge her) I was told it helps build up muscles and teaches her to soften, but do you have any other tips to teach her to collect. She also rides in a low-port curb, are there any excercies I could do with the curb for collection?

Answer from April Reeves: There are no quick ways to achieve collection. It is only achieved through time with proper suppling and muscle development, and cannot be achieved mechanically.

Think about the word ‘collect’. It means to gather. Think about this word when you begin to train for collection.

Let’s go through the pros and cons of the exercises you are doing now, and give you something to work on with her that will build her up gradually. Because of the state of the market for horses right now, you may have her for some time.

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How can my Arabian re-learn how to tie and bridle again?

Pretty ArabianQuestion: I have a 13 year old Arab gelding, which my daughter raised from a baby. (We owned and bred the mother)..it was my daughters teenage project.. he was not used much and spent a lot of time in the pasture, and was sort of a pet. My daughter moved so I let a friend of hers use him and he picked up some bad habits. I can no longer get his bridle on. He just clenches his teeth and will not let me put the bit in his mouth. I have a hold of the headstall over the top and between his ears with my right hand and raise the bit into his mouth with my left hand and gently encourage him to open his mouth with my thumb. He has his teeth clenched tight and just throws his head around until I loose my grip. I do this patiently, over and over until I want to scream (which I don’t, I give up and try again later with the same results.) It is very frustrating because I have always been able to put a bit in his mouth before he spent a year with another person. He is also pulling back on his halter.

Answer from April Reeves: Assuming your Arab had good manners from the start, he may not be as difficult as some horses can be.

Let’s start with the tying problem, assuming the horse use to tie before. Purchase a rope halter if you don’t have one, as they will increase the sensitivity and teach the horse to come off pressure faster. Traditional web halters teach horses to lean and resist, as their pressure points are wider. Make sure your lead rope is at least 12 feet long.

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