Louisiana 5 year old Paso Fino with professional training ridden in  paso bit, mid spoon, 4" shank and  McClellan saddle in round pen, pasture by intermediate rider.

Question: Won't flex under saddle or during ground work. I got the mare last spring, she was in foal when we got her and was put up for the last two months before she foaled and
wasn't ridden for three months after.  Did lite workout and riding during the hottest part of the summer on into the fall. She's good under saddle with an outstanding performance gate, fast Largo.  Was not trained to flex, and puts up a fight, and spin out whenever I try to teach her. 

Was told by one of the old time trainer I know to tie her head to the D of the saddle and work her in the round pen slowly taking up any slack until she is flexed, then work the other side in the same manner.  Doing this each day on the ground then move to doing it under saddle.  Is there a better way?

From Panelsits Lee

Yes.  Your first problem is asking for a lateral flex from a horse that doesn't know how to do it in a curb bit.  Start on the ground, in a halter. Stand at her side, about half way between her shoulder and head.  Hold the side of the noseband of the halter, and ask her gently to bend her neck toward you.  She may have trouble.  If she tries to slew her entire body around instead of bending her neck, stand her next to a solid fence or wall so that she can't move sideways with her haunches.

Gently and gradually ask her to bend her neck, with little pulls and slacks (tremors) on the halter.  Offer her a bribe of a carrot or something to encourage her to bend.  The first time, ask for only a few inches of bend, in both directions, obviously.  Next lesson ask for a little more. Eventually ( and this may take several weeks) she will be able to easily bring her nose to her shoulder when you vibrate the side of the halter. When she can do that on the ground (and it is better to do it this gradual way than to force her into it by tying her to anything, IMO) then you can ask the same way  from the saddle, preferably in a serretta and not the bit. Eventually she should be able to do it in the bit with no problems.

However, there may be more than just muscle stiffness and lack of understanding preventing her from flexing -- if she is not able to do this at all, even on the ground, consult a chiropractor. 

Good luck,

Lee Ziegler

From Panelsits Carol


Thanks for your inquiry.  I would strongly prefer not to tie the horse's head in a position that she can't change.  If the bend put her in extreme pain, she might flip herself over backward and get hurt real bad in an attempt to escape.  I reccommend that you go back to the bosal, the type commonly used on Pasos, or a string halter, and, from the ground, put a little steady pressure on one rein and see if she will give to it even a little bit.  If she will even tip her nose, you may be able to gradually build this into a bend.  If she moves her feet, that's ok, just release only when she bends.  If she stops moving that's ok too. 

After you're comfortable that she's not going to be violent, you can do this from the saddle.  If you need your regular bridle on, add it on top  of the bosal or string halter.  If after several repetitions of this routine (let's just say 10 minutes of bends and then releases for 10 minutes for 7 workouts), you are not seeing much improvement, I would get her seen by an equine chiropractor.  I know you guys are going to get tired of me saying this over and over, but if a horse is in pain when asked to do a particular move, you've
got to remove the pain to get what you want.  I hope that this helps.  Let me know how it goes.

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Laura

This is a good method which is safe for you and the horse.  Don't tie her head back for too long at a time.  Usually just 5 - 15 min.  Look for her to relax and give to the bit, then immediately untie her.  You can do this gently under saddle, but since she is fighting you, the ground method would probably be safer for you and more straightforward for her.


From Panelist Liz

In this case I would start working with her on the ground and teach her in a halter to start.
Work both sides by standing in front of the shoulder to start and move back from there as she starts to get this. With light tugs on the halter pull her head to you, asking maybe only a 1/4 of the way to you and release when she does. You could also use a treat to entice her to bring her head to you. Reward her for this action with a rub and pleasant tone of voice. Then increase the amount she brings her head to you. Take your time and this does not need to be done all in one lesson.
 Next when she does this well I would either use a bitless bridle that works great for this or go to a snaffle bit (no shank, No curb) and start asking from the saddle for her to bring her head around toward your knee.  Use light tug , release on the bit or nose band, then
release completely  when she gives as her reward and voice reward. This does take time but you are teaching not forcing. Using the round pen for this is a good place where she can be focused on you. 
You should be able to repeat these lessons daily and build on them. I  find working anything new I like to work at the least three days in a row without skipping a day. When she does what you ask don't over work it in a session. Get what you want with in reason and reward her and move on to something else or finish the lesson. You are having to fill in a hole in her basic training but by working this way she should really bond up with you and may be more willing to learn new things with out resistance.

Good luck and have fun!

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