California 9 year old Rocky Mountain Owner has ridden her three times, present every they have ridden her. Ridden in  western brow band, have tried reining bit, loose jaw, three jointed mouth piece, and tried a quick, loose jaw, three jointed mouth piece, low arch port with roller.They have have used a Sharon Saare endurance saddle, and a big horn Wintec saddle worked in large paddock, working on round pen, other than that, miles of dirt roads, desert, they live in the  high desert. Intermediate level rider without much gaited experiance.

 Question: We got two horses out from Kentucky. One a gelding, who goes on light contact. He is not the problem.The mare is a real dynamo, very fast when she gaits and I am  not sure if she is trying to lean on the bit or trying to get her head down to possible pitch. I have friends who have TWH's and they seem to lean on the bit. She is hard to stop,  but once she is stopped, stands quiet, not pawing or jigging  around. She also has not been ridden but once in two years before she came to us. But that was last spring, almost a  year ago. If she is trying to lean on the bit as I have seen some gaited horses, I would not worry. I am in my fifties  and already had one very bad accident, horse, that left me  with brain damage and seizures, so, I don't want to miss  read any signs and get hurt again. She has good ground  manners and stands till you are in the saddle and is asked
to move off. Once you ask her, she is gone......... and is  hard to stop. I recently picked up a bit that is a three forty swivel cheek, walking horse bit, good bar relief, low,  almost a mullen type port, but I had loaned it to a friend  who recently got a twenty year old TWH ma re and was having problems with her going thru the bit she had  on her, which was a tom thumb type. It worked well, and she recently got one, so I can get mine back. I am waiting for a break in the weather and was thinking of perhaps doing some long lining,
I would like to drive her anyway. Any suggestions would be  greatly appreciated. At this point I am afraid to take her out of the fenced acre for fear I will never be heard from
again till I am in the next state. Thanks in advance, sincerely, 
aniMules (Penny)

From Panelist Steve

Hi Penny,

Your problem is very common in horses. It is easily soluble in a horse this age.

First, rule out pain. Horses run when in pain. I like the saddles you are using and doubt they could be the problem. Not certain, of course, but wouldn't start looking there.

Have the horse's mouth examined  and floated by an expert equine dentist. Ask the hunter jumper or dressage people to recommend a good one. They usually know the best in your area. Be especially concerned  about possible deep wolf teeth.

I don't like the bits you are using and I don't like the general approach, which incidentally, is all too common in this breed. The approach is to use the bit as a brake and not as a communication device. The bit you are using is certainly causing the horse pain and the horse is "fleeing" from it. You probably will respond that you have tried lighter contact but that it doesn't work. It won't for a while. You need to undo a conditioned response.
That takes time, patience and understanding. Some Parelli 7 games would be a good place to start, just to get the communication concept into the horse's mind

You need to communicate to the horse the speed you want to go at through the contact of the bit as a telephone, not as a handbrake.  You also need to give the horse confidence that if she speeds up past what you want she will not be hurt in the mouth and that there is no benefit to going fast. 

For communication without pain (AND yet, with the ability to be used as a brake during the start of this retraining) I suggest going to a simple broken mouth piece Wonder Bit. All my horses like this bit. It will stop any horse alive. Yet it is gentle in most of its applications, even up to 4-5 ounces of pressure. I would start with this bit. Then move to a plain snaffle. Then to a bitless bridle. And then, to a neck ring. What a wonderful accomplishment !! You can do it.

Spend an afternoon riding the horse in an enclosed space practicing almost nothing but half halts, circles and most important, BACKING. Backing is the most overlooked "gait" in a Walker. Your horse needs to be rewarded with very light pressure and praise as she backs well. Teach the horse to respond to lighter and lighter contact...perhaps down to only 1 or 2 ounces of pressure. And release when the horse responds. The release is the reward telling the horse you like what she is doing.

If she speeds up outside the ring, and she will, ASK her to slow down. No cranking the bit please. If she ignores you (and she might at first), gruffly ask her to slow down with a little bump in the bit and a change in your seat as though you are trying to get her to back up.

If she still refuses, stop and do back ups. Do this everytime she speeds up past what you want. If you have problems stopping her, do tight circles and half halts...eventually she'll figure out that all that work of going forward doesn't get her anywhere. Then do more backing. 

Horses listen for whispers and flee from shouting. Remember that whenever you do anything with them.

Stephen B. Chasko,

From Panelist Liz

Hi Penny,

This is a very good question and one I am finding coming here for correction a lot the last couple of years. It seems there is a new trend to get these Rocky's just going really fast all the time. Sometimes into an all out speed rack instead of the true Rocky mountain gait which is not a fast gait and excessive speed is to even be penalized in the show ring.
 I have found some retraining is the answer. Ground driving can be good but in a small (round pen) area as they will start out just as fast that way to. Keeping up on foot can be a real challenge.

I would recommend teaching her to start at the walk all over again, a slow one and a faster one so she learns those are the 2 chosen speeds for a while and not work gait at all until she has the 2 speeds of walks down and can hold each separately and consistently. When going to gait ask slowly and if she  starts fast bring her back down to the walk. She sure does sound like she is leaning on the bit and pushing right through it. Teach her a good whoa signal again from the ground too and use a voice command to back it up so when she hears this when you are on she will respond . I say this so she gets a new whoa
command somewhere else then by using the bit all the time since this has already been used up . As for bit I think a solid mouth piece is called for her. Not a longer shank but something she can not push though. Maybe a mullen so you do have tongue release to.
Good luck and if this if more than you really want to do go take the horse to a good natural trainer to do this for you. Not one that fixes problems with more bit but one that teaches. This can be fixed and a good horse is worth the time and effort. It sounds like she is just doing what she was trained for not that she is ignoring you.



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