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Rein Eaters & Bit Chewers
WRITTEN BY: Cheryl Sutor   [July 7, 2000]


Training Question:

When my mare is tied she seems to always need something in her mouth, and if you give her a loose rein, or if they are hanging by her mouth, she will have them in her mouth in seconds. If you have any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated.
From: Renee



Trainer's Response:

Your mare is most likely showing signs of boredom. In becoming bored, she "plays" with anything near her mouth to keep busy. To teach her to stand patiently, you can replace the unwanted behavior with one that is wanted, and/or teach her a cue to drop the reins from her mouth.


Replacing The Behavior:
Since the source of the problem is boredom, you'll need to keep her busy until she forgets about chewing on the reins. The next time you tie her, immediately begin petting her head. Then ask for a series of cues from her such as: turn your head left, turn your head right, raise your head, lower your head, extend your neck...you get the idea.

By keeping her busy, you are replacing the behavior you don't want with ones that you do want. You do want her to be able to move her head up, down, left and right on command. You don't want her to chew on the reins. So, whenever she shows signs of boredom, just give her a little something to do.


Teaching A Cue:
By teaching your horse a cue to drop the reins from her mouth, you will be able to stop the behavior without having to take the reins from her mouth yourself. Make sure you have a pocket full of small treats for her to enjoy when she responds to your request correctly.

Wait until she picks up the rein in her mouth. Once she has the rein in her mouth, say "Drop". (Or create a physical cue such as pressure on her muzzle). If she does not drop it from her mouth within 3 seconds, take it out of her mouth. Then, stroke her head and give her a treat.

Wait until she decides to pick up the rein again, and repeat the entire process. She will soon drop the rein on command to fetch a yummy treat. Once she does this like a pro, start to eliminate the treats and replace them with pets, rubs and praise. Alternate pets, rubs, praise and treats until she drops the rein no matter what type of reward she receives.





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