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 about like
putting a 10 year old child to work in a coal mine.  Nylon ribbons are not
worth the stress early riding puts on a horse that is not even 2 years old.
Do some extensive ground work between now and the time she is more ready
physically to be ridden.   Drive her in long reins, practice leading her
over obstacles, pony her, but stay off her back and out of her mouth.  If
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.  No wonder
the horse has gone over with you -- the bit most likely is way too strong
for her tender young mouth.  When you start over, say at the end of the
coming summer, in about 6-8 months at the earliest, use a different bit.
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 showing
between the corners of her lips and the rings) and is adjusted so that it
leaves one fold at the corner of the mouth, not hanging too low or too high
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 reins
so that you can signal her when to turn, stop, etc.  When she has stopped
mouthing the bit and is really concentrating well on what you are asking her
to do (stop, turn, flat walk, some fox trot) add a set of reins to the
snaffle bit, but do not use them -- tie them in a knot and let them hang
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 start using
the bit reins more than the sidepull reins, not pulling hard on them, but
just feeling the horse's mouth as you ask her to turn, stop, slow down, etc.
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 cause

Eventually, when she works well in the snaffle and understands what you want
in the way of gait and behavior, you can switch her to a short shanked curb
bit.  If you don't pull hard on it, she should respond well to it.

Good luck.

Lee Ziegler

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 are not 
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.

Nancy Cade 


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