Question: Hello I have an 8 yr. old reg. quarter horse and he is the most wonderful, trustworthy horse ever!. But the problem is throughout training him (since he was 2) I have had problems with his listening to a bit or hackamore. I have everything from a snaffle to a severe curve bit. Same for the hack – I have a hack that has a metal band and a snaffle bit on it and he does listen but I hate it! I feel like it is abuse :(. Im at my wits-end its to the point that I don’t want to ride him sometimes and will pick one of our other horses. I need some new advice if you could help me I would love it. Thank-you
Answer from April Reeves, Horseman’s U.com: You have good gut instincts, as the harder the bit, the tougher the horse is going to be, and some of the equipment you have is abusive, even in light hands. There are very few harsher bits that have any purpose being near a horse, and they must have some result that is acquired without heavy handling.
Horses that do not respond to tougher bits and equipment are not bad or insensitive. They are a result of improper training.
Problem is, humans resort to harder bits because they don’t want to take the time to train the horse properly. The horse just gets use to the pain and pressure, which causes the bit to stop working, so the human seeks a harder bit, and so the evil process proliferates. Some humans don’t care about the horse’s well being either. This is life.
Whenever you get a tough mouthed horse, lower the harshness on the bit – find the softest one on the market and use it. Why? Horses will fight pain. They will become resistant and irritated, and that always plays out in “bad” behavior (human’s interpretation). The behavior is not bad to the horse: he’s just trying to protect himself. When you take the pain away, you give the horse a chance to work for you. A happy horse free of pain is a horse that will work harder, learn faster and bond with you better.
I have some great articles for you to read through that will help you with your problem, plus give you some additional training to work on.
You have come this far with your gelding, so don’t quit now. He can become responsive and light, with your help, but it will take longer than a green horse would take because you now have to undo the damage and start over. From what I can tell, you have missed a big part of his foundation, and will have to go back and redo it. Don’t worry though – this is the fun part! It’s so rewarding to rebuild a horse! And how many people get the experience, or even know how to!
Here are the articles. First one is on basic groundwork (you may or may not need this) and leads into riding and foundation training. It does not expressly contain hard mouth horses but the techniques involved do help with fixing those ‘holes’.
Here are the ‘connection’ and ‘collection’ articles for helping your gelding work softer. The exercise for Vertical Flexion will help your horse. It will be a bit harder for you as he is insensitive, but don’t give up or give in. Follow the exercise carefully. If done right, you will eventually see the difference.