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Horse rearing when being bridled

I have recently gotten my horse back from a facility where they broke my 4yr old gelding for me. I know that he needs working with but they didn't tell me that when he is bridled he rears up. He is real sensitive now about his head being touched when he wasn't before. I don't know what they did to him but I want to help him now. What can I do to make him stand while I bridle him.

Thank you, Nora

Hi Nora,

In this case they really did 'break' your horse. What a shame. This is the fault of the humans and not of your horse. Your horse is totally innocent in this situation. They abused your horse. It's that simple. He has been hit in the head probably and more than once. I would strongly urge you to tell these horse 'breakers' they are full of you know what and horse abusers.

To gain his trust back is going to take some time. The goal now is not to bridle him, but to gain his trust back first. So, put any agenda aside other than his becoming more trusting of humans. I do not know if you can halter him easily. I hope so. If not what you do is to begin to rub him all over with the halter and rope for a minute or less, and then stop for a minute and let the horse stand peacefully. Only go as close to his head as he feels comfortable about. Gradually he will allow you closer and closer to his head with the halter and rope and you can rub him for longer and longer periods. This is one-step-at-a-time training with the break from pressure as immediate positive reinforcement for compliance (the horse being peaceful about having his head approached and touched) is what will be most effective for his training. If you can halter him, do so. Leave it on a minute or two and then remove it and end the session. Ending the session is the biggest reward.

Once he halters easily and is comfortable with it on for an extended period you can move on to the bridle. First off, make certain the horse has no mouth or teeth pain issues. So, consult a veterinarian on this before moving forward. Next would be to handle the horse's mouth with your hand/fingers. This is done first by laying the flat of your hand on the side of his mouth for a moment only and then removing it. Repeat the process until the horse allows you to keep your hand there for longer periods of time, on either side, without it bothering him. Next is to put your finger in his mouth along the inside of his cheek for a moment and remove it. The horse will move a bit to avoid this initially. Even once he is OK with it, he will still open his mouth and move a bit. But he will not hugely try to avoid it. Next would be to message his upper gum or gently just put your fingers on his upper gum gently. When done properly this will put your horse to sleep in your hand. A bit of gentle pressure on the upper gum releases endorphins in his brain. If you are brave and OK with it, you can put your finger in his mouth exactly where the bit would go briefly and then remove it. Repeat this a few times anyway.

Next handle his ears. If he has a problem with this, halter him and begin to lead him in a small circle to the left. Hold the lead in your left hand and put your right hand on his neck. As you lead him gradually bring your hand higher and higher up his neck. Stop a lot and just let him stand for a few moments w/o you touching him (the reward). Repeat this and eventually you should be able to have his ear in your hand while moving him, rub the top of his head a bit and handle the other ear as well. At some point, when you feel the time is right, stop walking with his ear in your hand. Hold it a little bit and then gentle release and reward the horse. Repeat until he is really good with his ears and the top of his head being handled while he is standing still.

Next, and all this is like trying to teach you to tango from an essay, put the reins over his head and rub his face gently with the bridle and your hand, being careful not to hit or irritate him with the bit, or straps, etc.. Then remove it all. Wait and then put the reins over his head again. Repeat this a few times. Then first thing is to just put his head through the bridle/headstall (forget about the bit for the moment). Then remove it. Then again and perhaps put the bridle over his ears. No bit just yet. Repeat this a few times and end session for the day.

Its fine if the bit hangs a little low in the horse's mouth. Better that than too high at this time. Of course you do not want the horse to be able to put his tongue over the bit. Not good. So, size the bridle properly beforehand. So, now put the reins over his head and put his head through the headstall. Put your right arm on his neck with your hand coming out between his ears. You take a hold of the top of the bridle with your right hand so you can raise the bridle by simply raising your right hand at the wrist with a small movement. Hold the bit appropriately (there is a right way and a wrong way to hold the bit) just a little below his mouth. Basically, so you can use a finger to request the horse to open his mouth a little with the bit in the proper position. Ask him to open the mouth and the instant he does raise the bit with your right hand. Be very careful not to hit the animal's teeth with the bit. If he takes it, just hold it like that for a few seconds and remove it all. Do not put the bridle over his ears yet. You could end that session at that point or repeat the same thing once more and then end the session. Next day repeat the process. If he take the bit easily, grasp the top of the bridle with your left hand and with your right, lay the right ear forward gently and slip the top of the bridle over it. next lay the left ear forward and slip the top of the bridle over it. Straighten out his forelock. Affix the throatlatch. Then, if all that went well, remove the whole thing and end the session. If it did not go well, go back a few steps to what did go well, do that and end the session on a positive note. You can always try again the next day. After a few positive experiences where you remove the bridle after he wears it briefly, you might consider letting him carry the bridle w/o being ridded in the lunge. A round pen would be great for this. If no round pen you could just haze him around a paddock a little while he gets used to carrying the bit w/o any pressure on it. If you are using a snaffle you could ground drive him with it, if you really know how to do this. Ground driving the horse in a halter would be a good thing to do as well.

So, please understand horse training is risky. It is easy to make a mistake. You can get hurt or hurt your horse. If things begin to go wrong, go back to what worked and where the horse felt safe. This is how you develop trust with a horse in this situation and circumstance. I have written you a short book here. You need to see it to really get it. But I hope this all makes sense to you. I can talk you through this on the phone as well. I do a lot of phone coaching. Let me know how it all goes.

Sincerely, with wishes for success with your horse, Franklin

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