Help With My Horse

Hard to Bridle Horse

Today, we’re going to discuss how to bridle a horse that is hard to bridle. I will talk about effective techniques to work with a difficult horse and explain what causes this issue, as well as how to bring about positive change. Let’s get started!

When bridling a horse, there are three essential things that need to happen. Firstly, we need the horse to lower its head when pressure is applied to the pole. The pole is in the center, just behind the ears. I apply a gentle squeeze to the pole to ask the horse to lower its head. It’s crucial to hold the pressure until the horse lowers its head and then release it. Avoid following the horse’s head with your hand as it lowers. Instead, maintain a steady position so that the horse pulls its head away from your hand. Work with your horse so that it is comfortable lowering its head off of a soft contact pressure on the pole.

Secondly, the horse needs to be comfortable having its ears handled. This step is essential because we will either slide the bridle over the ears or put the ears forward and then slide the bridle through. Spend time scratching around its ears until the horse enjoys the scratching and touching. If your horse has a problem with its ears, like a tick or other insect in its ears, the ears could be sore. If that is the case with your horse you might need to get a vet involved to clear up the issue causing the pain then spend lots of time showing your horse that its ears don’t hurt anymore, and the scratching feels good.

Next you want to work with your horse opening its mouth. This is the problem area for many horses. Resistance of opening the mouth stems from the pain caused by previous bridle removal methods that harmed its teeth. If the bridle is removed incorrectly, the bit will hit the back of the front teeth, causing pain. The horse then associates that pain with the bridle and therefore becomes hard to bridle. The horse becomes apprehensive about opening its mouth and may throw its head up in an attempt to avoid the pain. To address this issue, gradually work on desensitizing the horse to having its mouth handled.

To begin, place your finger on the side of the horse’s mouth where it clamps down tightly. When the horse opens its mouth and chews, release the contact. Repeat this process a few times, gradually moving your finger to different corners of the mouth. The goal is to help the horse become more comfortable opening its mouth without anticipating pain.
Once we’ve worked on these individual aspects, we can proceed to bridle the horse. Start by standing on the side opposite the horse’s resistance. Instead of approaching directly, take your time and make sure the horse is comfortable with each step. Begin by touching the horse’s nose and then gradually move over its ears. Allow the bridle to hang there for a moment, reinforcing the horse’s comfort.

Next, take the bridle in your hand, with one hand holding the top of the bridle, use your other hand to gently guide the horse’s head back while putting the bridle on. Remember not to squeeze or apply excessive pressure. One hand should be up near the horse’s head, preventing it from pushing back against you. Take your time and break the process into smaller, manageable steps.
After sliding the bridle over the horse’s head, reward its progress by taking the bridle off again. This step helps the horse understand that there is no pain involved. Repeat this process several times, gradually increasing the duration the bridle remains on the horse. Focus on maintaining a comfortable position for the horse’s head, neither too high nor too low.

Continue practicing these steps until the horse becomes more comfortable and cooperative. It’s important to remember that the initial resistance is a result of past pain, and our goal is to build trust and eliminate any fear associated with bridling. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, the horse will eventually accept the bridle without difficulty.

Always prioritize the safety of both yourself and the horse when working with bridling or any other training exercises. Avoid putting your face in a vulnerable position, and work in an area where the horse is comfortable but generally confined. If you worked your preparatory steps correctly and actually bridling should be relatively easy.

In conclusion, bridling a difficult horse requires patience, understanding, and a systematic approach. By addressing the underlying causes of resistance and using gentle, gradual desensitization techniques, we can help the horse overcome its fear and discomfort. Remember to prioritize the safety of both yourself and the horse throughout the process. With consistent practice and positive reinforcement, the horse will gradually become more comfortable with the bridle and bridling process.

You can watch a video of me working through this process in the video, Bridling a difficult hard to bridle horse. I discuss the relationship of training and behavior problems in the blog article, How Lack of Training causes horse behavior problems.

Until next time, thank you for reading.

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