Florida, almost 5 year old Paso Fino with Professional Training ridden in a flat straight bar bit and a mcclellan saddle in round pen, ring, miles of trails by intermediate rider.

Question:  I am trying to get my gelding to bend, just a little at the poll so he doesn't travel with his nose so high.This gelding was in training for show, with great bloodlines, conformation.  He would never "give" to the bit, and always goes with his nose up.  The trainers tried several bits, and normal training methods of bosal work, flexing etc. with no success.  He would resist and fight. 

I took him and began working him totally without resistance.  He does not fight the flat bar bit and gaits very well.  I ride him miles and miles, training for endurance, competitive.  He was stalled for two years while in training and hates being in a stall.  He behaves much better under saddle if he has pasture all the time, so he has been out for almost two years. He is a much happier horse in general. 

The last two months, I have tried two different bits, with very gentle hands, to try to get him to give just a little at the poll.  He has a fit and misbehaves.  When he goes in gait
he has a beautiful headset, so I see the bit is encouraging him to give.  It just makes him so mad that he regresses into fits. If I put the flat bar back on he is fine, although his nose is sky high. Should I just let him go with his nose high, or is there a way to get him to bend and travel with a normal headset? 

I sincerely appreciate any input or suggestions. 

From Panelist Liz

 I would first check 2 things here. Is the saddle pinching some where when he is trying to bring his head in for collection. Also are his back and neck out of adjustment.

If all in well I would then look at the structure of the horse and ask myself is he put together to collect like you want. Is the neck too short  and thick . Is he to thick in the throat latch to break and collect there like you want. The Paso Fino having a neck that is set higher from the shoulder can make the flexing difficult if he is to short and thick in the neck.

If this is not the case I would start working this horse at the dog walk, really slow and let him walk with his head down and if he won't put it there start to massage the top line of the neck pushing  down on the neck while massaging it while you are on him. As he learns to
dog walk with his head down increase the speed to a slow flat walk doing the same thing.
 Since he has been going this way for some time it will take a lot of time to build the muscles on the top of the neck instead of them being built and enlarged on the underside of the neck because of this nose out carriage.

When he does start to carry his head lower and relaxed start asking for him to bring in his nose. Not with steady pull but keep your hands lower so the head does not come up instantly and lightly bump each hand (left hand, right hand, left hand, right hand rhythm) at a time if you can get him to bring his face in slowly when he does release the pressure and tell him good boy. If he gets tense take him back to a slow relaxed dog walk and start again. This is time consuming work but the pay off can be big. As he gets it at the slower speeds then work to the faster ones. While doing this kind of work I would avoid
any gait work in the old frame . Just work the walks, until he collects correctly.

The goal is not to collect from the head being at maximum up and then in but bringing the head from down, then in and then up while still in and collected.


From Panelist Jonathan

Sounds like this is just one of those high set horses that is doing what is "normal" for him . I think your attitude and subsequent approach is comendable . My feeling is you are on the right track and what ever is his best , you will get it . I can believe you about the variety of bits he has been exposed to but I think the key is length of exposure . I would look into a hackamore with a very gentle nose band . You'll find them very user friendly when training for endurance if he likes to snack at the rest stops . Or , if you want to stay in his mouth and work the nose aswell , Myler has a wonderfull bit/hack combo . It has a copper inlaid smooth bar that swivels at a slite roller port . 

Whether you choose one of these or some other remember to introduce a new bit slowly . Let him stand tied with a halter over his bridle untill he stops fussing , or even better , bit him up and take him for a long walk . I believe a horse can never have enough ground 
manner schooling . I believe constant rideing with this type of nose dropping gear together with a light hand will do the job for you , in time .   Remeber this is a very young horse , all this may very well change  the closer he gets to 7 years of age . Please , always make sure that you place the nose band high above the softer sensitive cartilage section of the nose 
with any hackamore style head gear .

good riding


From Panelist Erica

Have you tried John Lyons' method of giving to the bit? I find it works very well, and you can practice it with either a halter or a bridle on. Starting out with small baby gives and working your way up to raising the withers. You simply repeat over and over again, taking the slack out of the rein (one side only) and waiting for the horse to move it's jaw in the direction of the active rein - then releasing, count two seconds and repeat. You can use
your straight bar bit (I am assuming it is a mullen mouth) with this as well.

I think that he may well have a more sensitive mouth and a jointed mouthpiece simply bothers him too much. Perhaps when thinking about changing bits, be sure to try ones with a mullen mouth (straight unbroken mouth). Also, with giving to the bit, you should use a snaffle bit and not any type of leverage bits (including Tom Thumbs and Kimberwicks). 

Good luck
Erica Frei

From Panelist Stella

It may be that you asked for too much to soon with the other bits. I switching, its best to allow a few sessions for them to explore the bit and use gently, without asking for more flexion right away - let the bit do the work. The nature of some of the spoons and ports is such that the horse will gradually learn to flex as he adjusts to the change of how the mouthpiece operates, and finds the most comfortable position for him.Both bits may have 
had more severe mouthpieces than necessary, especially going from a flat bar; the change may have been too abrupt.

Its not only the mouthpiece that can illicit changes in flexion from the poll, but also the upper shank portion; the adjustment of the curb chain controls this. A tighter curb chain will lesson the degree of pressure of the bridle to the poll; you may want to try loosening the curb chain a notch or 2 to increase poll pressure and decrease chin pressure. How quickly the bridle engages to the poll, and if it does at all, also depends on the shape 
of the bridlekeepers on the bit, and the bridle itself. Large round ringshapes with a narrow bridle or snaps allow the upper shanks of the bit to slide forward with pressure without taking the bridle with it(which puts pressure on the poll if it does move with it), whereas smaller oval, or square shapes, particularly with a wider cheek on the bridle, carry the 
bridle forward and exert pressure to the poll. You might first try making such adjustments to this bit that he does accept before trying another bit.How much flexion you are able to get also depends on the length of poll he has; many pasos have relatively short polls and only a certain degree of poll flexion is possible, although you dont necessarily want a horse stargazing, as this tends to hollow the back. Horses will use their necks and heads to help balance themselves, the head only being fully set once the horse is able to fully engage from the hindquarters and well-conditioned. You may find that by simply adjusting the curb chain so that he can get his head down more,and simply more lateral and other exercises will have him gradually flexing better on his own.


From Panelst Carol


Thanks for your letter.  Your horse sounds like a candidate for chiropractic evaluation.  When you have
been through all the proper ways of trying for lateral flexion in a bosal, and you still aren't getting any
lateral and/or vertical flexion, it's real likely that what you are dealing with is a physical problem.  

Carol Camp Tosh

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