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How do you get a young horse to except the bridle?

Dear Franklin.

I am a 15 year old girl. I just recently got a 2 1/2 year old qh paint stallion in the summer of 2009. Me and my dad are planning on breaking him this spring but we have one problem. He doesn't let anybody near him when they have a bridle in their hand. If you have him in a stall he pushes himself up to the wall and raises his head as far as it will go, the whites of his eyes are showing and his legs are quivering. If he's not in a stall he'll rear up and try to go in the other direction. We have tried to tie the bit to his halter and let him run around with that, thinking it was the bit that he was scared of but he was fine with the bit. It's the bridle itself. We have tried to put honey and other stuff on the bit, a gentle approach, just about everything but he still wont let us get near him with the bridle. He is perfectly fine with the saddle. Once you get the bridle on him he goes perfect. Its just the process of getting the bridle on him. It usually takes 4 people to get the bridle over his head. 2 to hold his head down, 1 to hold the lead rope and 1 to put the bridle on. I'm scared that if we keep doing it that way that we wont ever be able to get the bridle on him ever again. He is an easy going colt for his age. He lets you do anything with him, but for some reason' he doesn't like the bridle. I thought that it was like this with every young horse but we own a young Belgian gelding and he was perfect from the first day that he started him with the bridle. I was wondering if you could help me and my horse get over his fear of the bridle.

Thank you.
Marissa L.

Hello Marissa,

First off, by trying to force the bridle on him with three people at the same time you are creating a much worse situation and more fear within the horse. I think this is definitely the WRONG approach. This is a fear/trust issue and using coercion of any sort will create more fear. If he is fine with a halter he will eventually be fine with the bridle. It requires some skill and no force at all. It requires an ability to 'read' the horse and not assuming anything about it. Your goal is not to get the bridle on the animal, but rather to keep his trust. If you do that, he will try to do what you ask. Currently you do not have this around the bridling and have made things worse I imagine through the tactics you have been using.

When you have the halter on him, someone who knows how, should handle his mouth first. A finger up along the inside of his cheek, a finger or two straight in where the bit goes and also to rub his upper gum above the front teeth. Do not force this. It requires someone with some knowledge and skill. Once the horse is good with having his mouth handled you would go to the headstall. I have written a lot on this topic and there is free information archived within my help center. Please review what I have already written using the handy search feature within the help center. I ask you to do this so I do not have to keep repeating myself over and over again. Your issue is common, read up on what is there. Go slowly and immediately reward each and every little effort at compliance the horse offers, by letting him stand quietly. Read up on how to reward the horse for trying. Probably this is not happening either. Please, please no force or coercion.

Keep me posted.
Sincerely, Franklin

Dear Franklin,

Thanks for your advise. I rode my horse yesterday with absolutely no problem with the bit. He is going even better than he did then when we were struggling on getting the bridle on him. I am grateful and I'm pretty sure that my horse is grateful too that he doesn't have people going after him and holding him down. Thank you!

Sincerest regards,  Marissa

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