Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back to Bridling Basics

First off, I want to thank my husband for wandering outside right when I was doing a bridling lesson with Gabbrielle, and taking pictures so that I can share it with you.

I have to return to basics with Gabbrielle since I haven't worked with her all winter. This is really a lesson I could have been doing all winter if I weren't such a wimp about going out in the cold. The first step to teaching a horse to accept a bridle and bit is to tie it to a post, and teach it to willingly lower its head.

I place once hand over the crown of her head between her ears and the other hand underneath her chin on the lead rope. You may as well also associate a verbal command with the action by saying "Down", so that you can use it when in the saddle.

If your horse is sensitive about letting hands near its ears, you will want to make a habit of always petting it in and around its ears until it learns to relax. Since Gabbrielle had an accident last summer in which she lost the tip of her ear, she's been especially sensitive about letting anyone near her ears. So, the more she avoided being touched there, the more I petted her there until she understood that I didn't intend to snip off the tip of her ear like the vet did after her accident.

When you first press down on the poll and pull down on the rope, the horse will want to resist and press back as you can see in the picture below...

Either hold the pressure or pulsate the pressure until the horse either stops pressing back or lowers its head to move away from the pressure. As soon as you feel the horse relax or move away, let go. That's the reward.

Some trainers prefer that you pulsate the pressure instead of holding it, so that you don't give the horse something to brace against. However, you just need to find out which method works best for your horse.

Repeat the process, asking for the horse to give to the pressure and lower its head further each time.

In addition to the release of pressure as a reward, pet and praise your horse for the correct response.

Once you are satisfied that your horse is consistently lowering its head to the height you want it to be at, introduce the bridle by placing it in front of the horse's face. You will find that the horse will most likely raise its head really high to evade the bridle.

However, never fear. You just need to repeat the process of applying and releasing pressure like you did before, only this time with the bridle touching the horse's face.

However, in my case, as you can see, Gabbrielle's head was too high for me to reach her poll. So, I chose the tactic of keeping the bridle on her face and waiting for her to lower her head willingly.

The whole time I'm saying, "Down..."


And once she lowers her head a decent amount, I pull the bridle away from her face to take the pressure off, pet and praise her.

I encourage her to set her head where I need it to be to accept the bridle.

Then I place my arm over her poll and bring the bit up to her muzzle.

Gently slip my thumb inside the side of her mouth where there are no teeth to encourage her to open up...

And voila!

Slip the bridle up over her ears.

Once you succeed in getting the bridle on, let her chew the bit for a minute, and gently remove it as a reward. Repeat and rinse.


Katharine Swan said...

Great post -- and tell your hubby great pictures!

I don't remember us having to do any of this with Panama when we bridled him for the first time. He accepted it right away, and has never had a problem with it. I don't think we specifically taught him to lower his head at that point, but he figured that out on his own pretty quickly. (He lowers it so that I can brush his forelock too. He's very obliging. ;o)

Panama is so eager for the bit, in fact, that I often find myself yelling at him to WAIT, as he has an annoying habit of diving for it before I'm even ready to give it to him. Weird, huh?

fernvalley01 said...

Looks like Gabrielle hasn't forgotten everything

Jenn said...

I know there a quite a few horsefolks out there who aren't big fans of handfed treats, but I've found that holding a treat in my hand with the bit really encourages the head to come down and the mouth to open right up. I hold the treat (usually a peppermint) in my palm, lay the bit in my palm and move it towards the mouth while raising the crown of the bridle into place with the other hand.

Gabe is so eager for his bit now that when he sees it coming towards him he drops his head and opens his mouth, reaching for the bit. It's rather amusing and makes bridling so, so easy.

I used this method on all my horses to teach them to take the bit willingly and drop their heads nicely...even Chief, who was SUPER headshy when we got him is eager and willing to be bridled now.

Leah Fry said...

Excellent how-to, and tell hubby "good job" on the pix.

And say, that's a cute little green phone thingie ya got there ;-)

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Leah - Ha ha! I was wondering if you'd notice that. I don't go anywhere without it.

Once Upon an Equine said...

"Repeat and rinse" tee hee. Good one. And great sequence of pictures and explanation. And I see there in the background, that you have two more waiting for their turn to be bridle models.

Breathe said...

Interesting. I'm surprised she didn't fuss more...

Paint Girl said...

Good Gabrielle!
Something I get to look forward to in about a year!
We have some horses at the farm that can be really difficult to bridle. One of the Half Arabs I can't put my hand above her poll, she just hates it, so I have to put my hand on her nose and press down, she'll drop her head for the bridle. The other horse had ear surgery so you literally have to take the bridle apart to get it on! The bit is the last thing that is added, after the headstall is on!

lytha said...

i like how your audience of two is watching in fascination.


Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Great post. Visuals are always better. Thanks to hubbie for the perfect pics, too.

Gabbrielle sure has filled out. She looks so mature and muscled now. Beautiful mare!

Kate said...

Excellent set of photos and descriptions - thanks for sharing!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Since you have bridled Gabbrielle before I'm sure you are competely familiar with her typical responses, but just as a safety measure for people who are bridling a new horse or a young horse for the first few times, I wouldn't recommend leaving them tied.

It's just a minor safety precaution in case the horse would pull back.