||Missouri almost 2 year old Foxtrotter ridden
in one-ear head stall, curb and foxtrotting saddle in round pen, pasture
by good, expericineced rider.
Question: I have an almost 2 year old Missouri Foxtrotter, I am training
her to ride in shows. She is great with the saddle, and I can ride her
with the halter, but when I go to use the bit she does nothing but back
up and rear (to the point where she has
Fallen over on me once). I have been using the halter with reins tied
on to each side of the halter and then put the bridal on her, (so she will
be use to the bit). I hold both set of reins but only put about 10% pressure
on the reins that are on the bit and she does OK. Do you have any suggestions
that might be able to help me make this clearer for her to understand???????
From Panelist Lee
First, IMO you should not be riding a horse this young. It is
putting a 10 year old child to work in a coal mine. Nylon ribbons
worth the stress early riding puts on a horse that is not even 2 years
Do some extensive ground work between now and the time she is more
physically to be ridden. Drive her in long reins, practice
over obstacles, pony her, but stay off her back and out of her mouth.
you do that, she will be more ready for riding, with a foundation of
listening to you and learning to build on.
Second, when you do start a young horse, the curb bit is not the best
beginning bit. The curb puts a lot of pressure on the jaw of
the horse and
with any pull at all on the reins it can cause pain in the mouth.
the horse has gone over with you -- the bit most likely is way too
for her tender young mouth. When you start over, say at the end
coming summer, in about 6-8 months at the earliest, use a different
Put a snaffle bit ( a real snaffle, no shanks) in her mouth.
Be sure that
it is the right size for her mouth (no more than 1/4 inch of metal
between the corners of her lips and the rings) and is adjusted so that
leaves one fold at the corner of the mouth, not hanging too low or
so that it leaves several wrinkles. Let her carry the bit
on a separate
headstall, but with no reins as you ride. Instead of using the
bit, fit her
with either a halter or a sidepull (better than the halter, IMO) with
so that you can signal her when to turn, stop, etc. When she
mouthing the bit and is really concentrating well on what you are asking
to do (stop, turn, flat walk, some fox trot) add a set of reins to
snaffle bit, but do not use them -- tie them in a knot and let them
over her neck. Ride for some time ( a week or so) in this
setup, then pick
up the bit reins, carrying them one in each hand, along with the sidepull
reins, two fingers on each rein. Put pressure on the bit reins
only once in
a while, at the same time you use the sidepull reins. Gradually
the bit reins more than the sidepull reins, not pulling hard on them,
just feeling the horse's mouth as you ask her to turn, stop, slow down,
At no time take a strong steady pull on the bit reins.
Let her learn to
accept the bit as a tool of communication, not something that will
Eventually, when she works well in the snaffle and understands what
in the way of gait and behavior, you can switch her to a short shanked
bit. If you don't pull hard on it, she should respond well to
From Panelist Nancy
At this point in her training put the curb bit away and just use a snaffle
bit - no leverage. She needs to be taught about the bit and become
supple and flexible so that she can give to the bit (and not stiffen up
and tip over on you). Bit her up, either to the saddle or to a bitting
harness. Leave the reins slightly relaxed - just short enough so
that she can come onto the bit and give to it slightly. Later you
can shorten them some and demand more
flexion. Be sure that the reins are exactly equal on both sides
and long enough that she can be comfortable - but you want her to be able
to reach the bit and flex to it. If you have left them long enough
that she is comfortable, you can leave her bitted up for 15 to 30 minutes.
Probably 15 to 20 minutes would be best at this stage as her neck muscles
strengthened yet. Do this every day. Let her walk around
in the round pen bitted up and you can longe her while she is bitted up.
She will begin to teach herself to flex. Do this a number of times
before you try to ride her with the bit. Then when you ride
her, make sure that you use the reins in a light manner and give when she
gives (instantly),and take when she takes. Only when she is soft,
light and responsive to the action of the snaffle will she be ready for
a curb. I like to use a loose, short shanked curb with a snaffle
mouthpiece (such as a Tom Thumb). This is a very important part of
her training, so work carefully and don't rush.
I hope this helps you and her training goes along well.