Today I want to talk about your horse’s attitude about bridling and especially taking the bit on its own. I often see people who try to bridle their horse in vain or with much effort and pressure and of course, if they care about their horses, they weren’t really happy about that. They came with the bridle, took the bit on their hand and the horse gritted its teeth as close as it could right in the moment it has seen the bit. I think nearly every one of us was there before and remember how that felt.
There is nothing worse than mounting your horse being annoyed, angry and bad mooded. And it’s definitely not your horses fault! It is our everlasting challenge to make sure that the horse loves what we want them to do for and with us. So we have to do something to make us and our horses feeling better with bridling and accepting the bit.
Most reactions we get from the horses, we get because of created patterns. Every horse learned to accept the bit and to be bridled first. Some with sympathetic reinforcement, some with pressure, but every horse could be bridled before start riding on it. Just because it’s necessary. Even if the people reward the good willing cooperation of the horse for the first few weeks, they will soon take it for granted and stop rewarding. Remember: if you don’t reward good and right reactions, they will become worse. But there will be several possibilities to punish your horse because it won’t do what you want him to do. There is no reason for the horse to do that, because all it associates with the task is just negative. Can you follow me?
Back to the topic. Let us now start bridling your horse without any pressure. Let us build up the exercise “taking the bit” from the beginning, back to the roots. We will make a game out of it.
Take the bit out of the bridle, put away the reins and show the bit to your horse. If he is interested in any way, reward it. No matter if it looks for the bit or nudges on it with its nose. Let the horse know, that what you want him to do, has something to do with the bit, by instantly rewarding any contact to the bit.
If your timing of reinforcement and rewarding was correct, your horse would come more familiar with the bit and comes close with its mouth. Still reward! Anytime, your horse would open his mouth and maybe nibbles at the bit. That is great! Even if you didn’t, take the bit with both hands, each ring in a hand and put it right under its nose and repeat the last steps. It’s merely a matter of time until the horse take the bit on its own; you’ll see how easy it is.
The next step is easy. Just do the same with a full bridle. Hold the bridle ready to use in front of the horse. If the horse lowers its head and tries to catch it, reward it and repeat. It won’t be long until it understands and if it takes the bit on its own, you can pull the bridle on. That’s it! You’re done, good job!
And just be careful what you’re doing with the bit. You can’t expect that your horse love to be bridled, when you are pulling the reins and hurting him with the bit.
Now it’s up to you to keep it up. Don’t make this task a matter of course. It is never a matter of course, when horses do things which aren’t natural. They do it, because we’ve taught them to do and they’ve learned to give the right answer. And of course, the do it because we reward it – anymore. The best prevention to make a behavior won’t be deleted, is to reward it. You don’t have to reward it anytime, but why not? Why not telling the horse that he’s such a hero, because he did great?
Wouldn’t it be great when your horse is dying to take the bit? So let it know, how it can make you proud, Things can be so simple … So, check out how easy and relaxed it can be to bridle your horse.