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BRIDLING THE HORSE WITH CONTROL

by

John O'Leary
Horseman
2002

 

 

 

 

 Horses inherit psychological problems with the bridling process. They inherit this in a number of ways. I rank them in order of importance hereunder:

  • Incompetent bridling techniques. 80%

  • Ear twitching 15%   

  • veterinary reasons 5%

Let's deal with them one by one.

INCOMPETENT BRIDLING TECHNIQUE

I do not apologize for continuing to point out the inadequacy of the teaching of Pony Clubs in Australia. They teach a bridling technique that in some cases, given the greeness of the horse, that actually causes unsuccessful bridling or a mental problem with the event. In fact the system they do teach goes some way to the problems a lot of horses are taught regarding major bridling evasion, followed by mental problems.

Pony Club teaches kids to hold the bridle bunched up in the right hand with the arm around the off side of the horses face whilst trying to jam the bit into the horses mouth. If the horse happens to open its mouth and swallow the bit, they quickly change hands so that their right hand is free to place the ear piece over the head.

 This is a system that has little  control and whilst they get away with it a lot of the time, it doesn't assist in-experienced horses, nor does it  mean that it is the best system imho. My reason for that comment is found in the statistics above and in the fact that the re-education success mechanism for problem bridling horses is found in a more competent system with more control.

Having said that I must say in fairness that Pony Club is limited somewhat as it is mainly dealing with small people who are not high enough to use the system that follows below but this does not excuse them for not teaching the alternatives. So why do "stuff ups" in the bridling process cause varying degrees of problems with the bridling process?

Especially in the formative times of the young horses education, any mistakes made in the bridling process can and do cause varying degrees of bridling evasion. These can go from mere hiding of the face by the horse, raising it too high for the handler to reach to the complete a complete mental condition where the horse becomes impossible to bridle for the mere mortal.

 Any failed attempt to bridle, ranging from just missing the mouth a few times to the horse flinging its head up and throwing the bridle across the car park, quickly causes regression with bridling.

Believe it or not, especially young green horses are so susceptive to mistakes made with the bridling process that is never ceases to amaze me. In no time, they can start to become suspicious, worried, evasive or manic about it. So what is the main cause of all this? Lack of control whilst bridling!!

THE HORSEMAN'S' SYSTEM

  • Hang the bridle on your right hand thumb.
     

  • Place your right forearm between the ears of the horse with the bridle hanging down the face.
     

  • Lower the bridle so that the bit falls behind the horses face.
     

  • Now grab the left cheek strap in your left hand and use this for setup control by pulling the horses head back into position if it is evading you by hiding its face to the right and by pushing the left cheek of the horse if it is trying to evade you to the left. Do not attempt to complete the process until the horse has settled.
     

  • Use the forearm and pressure from it if required to force the head down to stop upward evasion. (see next section re success with this)
     

  • Oh, I forgot to make step 3 that you grab hold of the forelock with your remaining fingers of your right hand to gain stability and more control.
     

  • Be holding the bit between your thumb and 4th,5th fingers leaving your middle finger free.
     

  • Position the bit exactly adjacent to the join between the top and bottom teeth.
     

  • Move slowly and gently.
     

  • Insert your middle finger of the left hand into the right hand side centre of the horses mouth where there are no teeth, thus causing the horse to momentarily open its mouth.
     

  • The right hand thumb immediately lifts the complete bridle including the bit up into the mouth.
     

  • Place the ear piece over one ear at the same time.
     

  • Complete the other ear with any hand you like.
     

  • Always have the bridle adjustment too big by a couple of holes on the near side. Re-adjust them when the bridle is on. This allows a nice slack ear piece so that you don't have to crunch the ears.

LOWERING A HORSES HEAD AND NECK

  • It is simply unacceptable for a horse to evade you whilst you are bridling it. You do not have to accept this and it is a simple matter to retrain the horse to the point whereby you should even be able to bridle it whilst you are on your knees. Go on, dare to go the next step
     

  • Put a rope halter and lead rope on your horse.
     

  • Take hold of the rope about 150mm below the headstall.
     

  • Place a few pounds of pressure downwards on the lead rope .Hold to that pressure consistently without giving.
     

  • Observe like a hawk, for the slightest give downwards by the horses head and release your pressure totally within 100th of second, immediately, pronto, NOW!!!!
     

  • If the horse keeps the hold and its head still, maintain the pressure. If it raises its head against your pressure, keep it until it gives its head downwards and then you give.
     

  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. A softer feel will come.
     

  • With a softer feel, you MUST also give a softer feel. Even at the first take hold. As the horse softens, you soften, keeping the same principals in place all the time. Feel, and immediate relief by giving. The horse stays ignorant, you stay ignorant or even increase the pressure if you want.
     

  • We are teaching a comfortable place to be for the horse. It puts its head up where you don't want it, you make it uncomfortable. It puts it down, softens, you soften as the reward and pretty soon the horse will learn where the comfortable place to be is. After all, that's what the horse most wants. Right?

THE PSYCHOLOGICAL PROCESS

It is a weird thing but horses can and do quickly deteriorate in a psychological way, caused by drama in the bridling process. Mistakes and resultant reaction quickly build in the horses mind that there must be something suspicious about the process. They start to actually believe this and gain an increased paranoia which multiplies by each failed attempt at bridling quickly and smoothly. They become more and more ear shy and start to believe that they have a problem with their ears. The original belief that it was the bridling process that was the problem quickly changes to them being sure it is a problem with their ears. This is what makes the Problem Horse.

TYING HORSES UP

I regularly get major problem bridling horses through my hands. I have one here today in fact. Some of them can be extremely dangerous, using their heads as a weapon, pulling back violently or even striking with the front leg.

One of the control mechanisms that I use to gain more control over horses that are acting up, is to tie them up. (See Tying up of Horses) However, this not only does not work with the psychologically affected horse but it also causes them to associate tying up with bridling problems as well as compounding the failures due to the danger that is presented to the handler. When the owner moves away from the horse because it threatens to or does pull back, as the owner should, more damage is being done to the process in terms of "Learned Evasions"  There is a common behavioral link with all horses that suffer bridling paranoia and that is that as you go to place the bridle on the head, they think themselves backwards  and upwards into a pull back. This compounds to the bridle being thrown across the yard or damage to the horses mouth. A common occurrence and one that sends such horses quicker along the road to difficulties. So when dealing with a bridling challenged horse, work with it in the round pen or other safe area.

THE USE OF RESTRAINTS

Very few people would realize or agree that various types of restraints can and do work on horses with bridle evasion problems. In general, I prefer to use techniques involving "advance and retreat" to overcome these problems but time constraints on hard cases does not allow this given the economic pressures put on horse trainers these days. The life of the horse is at stake.

Given that there is no greater cure than a successful bridling event, sometimes I find that training horses to give to restraints, (hobbles, collar ropes etc) is the fasted way to fix them. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, that the use of a particular restraint can take the mind off the bridle and it can also cause a horse to give in to the desires of the handler. Often, problem horses such as this have been caused by poor breaking in and a lack of "Give to pressure" being instilled into the horse during that important  time. If horses are broken in to give rather than fight, you wouldn't normally even find a bridling problem occurring.

ANOTHER

If you stand in a yard and have half an hour to spare, you can progress a little with some of these disturbed horses. Place you hand on the forehead of the horse. Lightly and speedily run your hand up the head and straight over the ears to the neck of the horse. You have touched the ears in the preferred direction of the horse. The horse will duck its head but keep rhythmically doing the same move, time after time. In the end, you may even slow the hand bit by bit and dwell upon the ears for the split second. Over time, this can assist the horse in accepting the touch of the ears and you can build upon this.

  • You can use a bridle with no brow band during the re-education process.

  • You can undo the side of the bridle, putting the bit in on its own first with the real bad ones.

  • Move soft, quiet, gentle.

  • stand on  bucket or put your horse downhill or in a hole to reach better.

Successful bridling, every time, no matter how, sets up a belief in the horses mind that everything is OK and with that belief comes success in the re-habilitation process.

Go here for the video:

http://www.horseproblems.com.au/Video/bridling%20streaming%20media.wmv

http://www.horseproblems.com.au/Video/Bridling%20Pt2.wmv

 

Cheers

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