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Pulling on the Bit [Part 2]
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [July 7, 2000]


Training Question:

I have a 3 1/2 year-old Arab gelding that I purchased about 6 weeks ago. When I'm riding him, he lowers his head and opens his mouth as if to spit out the bit, pulling my hands. The bit is a snaffle bit and I'm sure that it is not too low in his mouth. I will be sending him back to his trainer for a "refresher couse" soon.
From: Joanne



Trainer's Response:

I have good news for you. If the horse has his teeth regularly floated, a simple training solution will fix the problem. The solution to this problem is quite simple. You won't be needing to spend all that money on an expensive trainer to fix his behavior.

Have a friend hold one end of a lead rope while you hold the other end facing her. Imagine that you are the horse's mouth and she is the rider's hands. Give a quick tug on the rope. You will see that her arms move with you. You know that you can easily pull her hands forward by tugging on the rope, and you can possibly yank the rope out of her hand.

This is how you are currently holding your reins when you ride. The horse gives a tug on the reins downward, and your hands move. It doesn't take the horse long to realize that if he keeps doing this, he will always have a "give" in the reins from your hands.

Now, try this...find a sturdy pole or post around the barn. Place the rope around the pole so that you can hold both ends. Try to tug the rope. The pole doesn't move anywhere does it? If you yanked on that pole for an hour, you'd be pretty stupid, knowing that the pole isn't going to give you any more slack in the reins. You'd get tired. You'd soon realize that you just CAN'T move the pole.

This is how you need to act when your horse pulls on the bit. You need to "be the pole". You need to plant your hands (preferably on the saddle horn or pommel). Show the horse that he isn't going to get any "give" from your hands when he exibits this behavior. If you allow him to move your hands in the slightest, he'll keep trying to move them even more.

He will soon become tired of trying and will quit all-together, knowing that he absolutely cannot move your hands. Depending on how long your horse has been exhibiting this behavior, the time it takes to retrain him will vary. You'll need to show him right from the start, right when you mount him, that he cannot move your hands, and that he will never be able to move your hands again. If you can do this correctly and consistently, your problem can be solved in one or two lessons, however, don't become discouraged if it takes a few more than that!



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This article was published on: July 7, 2000. Last updated on: July 7, 2000.