Illinois 6 year old Paso Fino, I can't bridle him yet, Circle Y western cordura saddle in  arena, pasture, trail by beginner rider.

Question: I am the first owner of Eco (besides his breeder.) He was a stallion for 4 years; gelded for 2. He has never been formally trained to ride. I rode him before I bought him--breeder had put him in a spoon (spade) bit and had put him at a trail riding intensive facility. he also had a bad experience at a training facility when he was 3 --breeder
does not know what went wrong, but he came home dehydrated and under-weight. I loved his personality--very calm and loving--and I knew all of the above--bought him anyway.

Our 2 problems: 1. He refuses his one white foot to me consistently. (The others he lifts.) He EVENTUALLY LIFTS the white foot, but it takes time and patience. Could something have happened to him in his past that is causing this, or is this simply a sign of disrespect? (Nothing is wrong with the foot.)

2. I have not been able to bridle or to bit him in the 6 months I've had him, although you could cuddle his head all day long if you wanted to. he is not headshy--just has had a
bad experience with this.

What little I know is this: the spoon bit was a ploy of control used on him to get him ride able too fast--I am very willing to take my time with him. We have now gotten to the
point where I can saddle him and drape my full weight on him with  no problem. But, what next step do I take? I have to bridle him eventually....I have gotten him to "wear" the
bridle on his head like John Lyons recommends. baby steps are the best thing for this horse. Would you recommend we go to a bosal or a mild snaffle next--and, how do I meet his resistance (which is generally raising head, moving away)?

From Panelist Johnathan

First of all you sound like you are very understanding of this  horse's emotional status . But if this is your first spanish blooded gaited horse let me share a little with you that others may not have .

I purchased a wonderfull half spanish/european bred gaited horse . I  was told she definately took after the spanish sire . It is quit a learning experience these typical spanish types . It has taken years to acomplish half they degree of trust it takes me with my other stock , some of which are a fify/fifty cross aswell. In a round about way I'm trying to tell you that 6 months is a drop in the bucket for some unique examples of this type , BUT , what you should have once he has completed the trial period and you have jumped thru all the hoops in a satisfactory manner , you could not buy for love or money . They are a undieingly loyal type horse .

No , I don't think it is disrespect he is showing by not giving you that one foot . It could be from abuse as you indicated , but trying to diagnose that over the internet is not within my ability .

I will hesitantly disagree with you concerning the spoon bit . First of all it is not as harsh as a snaffle , secondly it is very traditional with spanish gaited trainers of South America . And along with this tradition a horse is suppose to graduate to a spoon bit from a bosal , signifying a better than green trained horse . Not to mention this type of bit normally will not allow anyone to skip any levels of trainung and force the horse into a more rideable attitude it's just not made to operate like that . A spoon bit is a very complexway of comunication , not a my way or the highway cowboy tool , as I'm sure you are realizing from trying to bridal him up , these types do not force easy .

Speaking of which . I would direct my energy towards working on the trust issue with him. I would be leading this horse on sun shiney days untill my feet hurt , letting him browse while putting him thru ground  manner school 101 , consisting of a lot of touching , whispering and exploreing his mouth with your fingers in preperation of accepting a bit connected to the bridal . Most of all I would concentrate on applying gentle ressure/weight by resting my forearm and hand on his poll area and quickly releasing this pressure/weight as soom as he submits to a verbal request to drop his head . Start off accepting as little as he will give and slowly , gently , patiently work him into submiting all the way down to touching his nose on your boot toe . And if you get frustrated try getting him hooked on 
apples and put a piece on your boot . Then I would introduce the bridle . I believe you will see a difference.

Yes , a bosal is preferable on a green horse and I prefer a mechanicle hackamore . But I am just now starting a filly in ground manner school 101 and she has accepted with delight a bit , during our walks . So it all boils down , again , to what ever works is alright with me!

So! Ground work , continue incorperated with laying your weight on him , as you are doing now and when he will kiss your boot you will probably be ready for the next step . Only you can make that determination .

Good luck , be patient , it will all come back to you ten fold .


From Panelist Liz

In regards to not lifting his one foot. I would have him checked for a sore spots such as back being out of alignment, sore hip, could be many things. Being one foot particular foot makes me think he is feeling discomfort with it being picked up. Also when asking for the
foot be sure to pick it up and pull it up and back, not out to the side which can pull them  off balance and be very unconformable to the hip joint.

Now with the issue of not accepting the bit and not being head shy does sound like it is possibly from a bad experience. I have seen many of these same situation over the years and here is what works for me when I already have them giving me their head and they are to the point of dropping the head when I ask, but refuse to take the bit. I use a small handful of grain in the palm of my left hand and get them used to eating this from my hand a couple of days . 

Then while standing on the left side of the horse I will take my right hand and place it from behind and between the ears and grab the crown piece of the headstall with the right hand. In my left hand I will have a small handful of grain and hold the bit with my thumb and ring
finger. Bring it to the mouth and when he opens his mouth to take in the feed lift the bit into the mouth if I feel resistance by the head coming up put pressure on the poll with your right arm signaling to drop his head. If he is not opening him mouth still you have your pinky finger on the left hand that you can push into the bar of the mouth and this also will get the mouth to open up. 

While doing all this be firm and confident yet talking positive and reassuring him that all is well. I would use a snaffle bit to start. If you can I would practice this on another horse that  takes a bit well to get the feel and practiced with the movements of your hands
and arm so you are confident when doing this with your horse. If he is taught to tie( not cross tie), I would tie him , eye high arm length so he has a guide to know he can only go so far up with his head and so far back on the lead. 

Be confident and sure when you do this as if he sense any hesitancy on your part he could resist more. When he has taken the bit make a big fuss over him and tell him how wonderful he is.


From Panelist Laura

#1 - I wouldn't worry too much about him being slow to lift this foot since he eventually gives it to you.  May just be one of his personal quirks.  Just take your time and be consistent about how you ask him to pick it up.

#2 - Since you are a beginner, I would recommend you get some professional help to start this horse.  What can be an annoying habit at first can quickly develop into a really bad habit if you don't know what you are doing.  Find a trainer you like, get recommendations from people who have used the trainer and be sure you get lessons and can watch the trainer work your horse.


From Panelist Carol


You sound like a very patient and loving owner--the kind any horse would like.  I'll try to give some suggestions for overcoming these 2 problems:

1)  It's not too unusual for a horse to be protective of a particular foot, so don't feel like you're the only one who has this problem.  I'd start by looping my lead rope around his pastern (just in a fold) and asking him to raise his foot up and down again.  If he won't tolerate the rope pressure on the pastern, just take a rope and stroke his leg with it until he's ok.  Then "walk" hands down the rope until you are at his foot and set it down.  Hold it longer and longer, you won't need to pick the foot up with the rope eventually.  If he tends to snatch his feet up quickly, don't forget to stay out of the way. 

2)  Start by gently inserting your fingers in the horse's mouth and gently massage the bars for a second or two, also gently stroke his tongue.  Be careful!  Next, see if you can slide a slim peice of rope into his mouth.  If you can, you might even fix your self a rope "bit" and attach it to the halter.  As this starts going ok, you can put in a snaffle.  You might put a bridle with no reins on and leave it on while you do ground work or just work around the barn where you can keep an eye on him in case he gets in trouble with it.  It won't hurt him to eat with a bit in his mouth, either.  

Hope this helps.  Let me know how it goes.

Carol Camp Tosh

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