MFT VERY front heavy and PACES.

California   13 year old MFT cross (we think with TWH) Gelding, ridden  in Halter/bridle combo with a walking bit (6" shanks) and mild block port mouth (he's very very front heavy )in a Orthoflex patriot (it fits well according to his chiropractor) in Arena, trails, round-pen by intermediate-advanced rider.

Question: Since I've got him back from his year-long lease, he's VERY front heavy, paces paces paces (and NOT a comfortable pace), and I miss the horse that was very easy to control, listened, and would somewhat gait for me whan we would work on it.  I have been working with him a LOT to try to gain that level of partnership we had before, and it feels like it's not working.  I used to compete with him on 60-100 mile rides, and now I don't know if I could even make it 10.

From Panelists Laura

This sounds like one of the very few times when I would recommend the use of a more severe bit to correct a problem.  Since you are an intermediate/advanced rider, I will assume you have light, kind hands and do not use the bit for your balance in the saddle.  Your horse sounds like he has had a year's worth of "training" to push on the bit, ignore cues, and drop his weight to his forehand.  This is going to be a hard problem but can 
be corrected.

I would recommend you use a double twisted wire, gag type of bit.  Don't use a single twisted wire - it's too severe.  If you can borrow one from someone, try to do that.  You won't need to use it very long.  When you fit the bit, adjust your bridle so the bit fits right in the corner of the horse's mouth - one wrinkle is okay.  Check to be sure that as the bit rises in the horse's mouth that it won't hit any wolf teeth (on upper jaw in front of molars). 
The curb chain rides much higher on the horse's jawline and should be adjusted tight enough so that when you pull back on both the shanks there will about 2-3 inches of play in the shanks before the curb chain engages.

Be very gentle when you ride, you have more ammunition in your hands than you may be used to.  Start your horse out just walking slowly and when he leans forward give a small sharp tug to get him to raise his head.  As his head comes up, praise him and raise your hands a little higher.  Keep your hands in one spot and when he drops his head let him hit the bit and bring himself back up.  Keep him moving and after he figures out he can't just push on the bit, reward him by putting him up.  Keep this up for a few days.  Be very 
encouraging and gentle when he carries himself up off the bit and give him a few sharp tugs on the reins when he drops and hits the bit.  He will figure out fairly quickly that it is in his best interest to carry himself better. 

After he is working a little lighter on the front end, you might want to switch him to a nicer bit such as the Wonder Bit with a sweet iron mouthpiece (don't use one of those thin mouthpieces - way too harsh) to help keep him light in the front end.  You can also work on teaching him to shift his weight to his hind end by working on turns on the hindquarters by facing a fence and getting him to rotate first one direction then the other.  Another 
thing you can try is to borrow a bitting rig with an overcheck and a nice thick, smooth snaffle bit and gradually shorten the overcheck each day to teach him to carry his head higher.  Only leave him bitted up this way a few minutes each day (usually wait for him to relax and tuck his head on his own, then release him).  Those neck muscles get tired and crampy if you leave him very long.  The point is to teach him where to carry his head, not hurt him.

Once he quits pushing his considerable weight forward on to your hands, you can now go back to working on collecting him properly which is probably what you were trying to do when you got him home.


From Panelists Christine
If this was an Icelandic the answer would be easy. Trot him, trot him, trot him. I know some of you are gasping for air reading this, but I know of some very successful Walking Horse trainers who have trotted their pacey horses to clean up the gait and get more movement back into the horse. Generally when a horse is getting pacey he is getting more tension and shortening his back muscles. Trotting loosens him up and allows for more freedom. The two gaited breeds that advocate trotting, American Saddlebreds and Icelandics, also have the horses with the fastest 4 beat gait.


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