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Bridling Problems (3 year old quarter horse)

Years ago I rode and showed horses. It has been years since I owned a horse, but last week I had my mare delivered. We have had her about a week, and the first couple of times I bridled her, she was fine. I purchased a broken bit, similar to the previous owner's, and never was tough on her on or off the ground. Then a couple days went by and I did not ride her, and when I tried to bridle her... It was a nightmare! She threw her head, resisted terribly and I patiently tried on several occasions, and finally gave up rather than losing my temper. And then tonight, I and a close friend both had to eventually use a lip twist technique to bridle her. And then we decided... She was able to eat and drink with the bridle in, so I left it in for several hours without the reins.

I am trying my best to be gentle, to establish a relationship with her, and pet her, brush her, and talk to her. Truthfully, she is a honey and rides like a baby. She handles well, even with children. It has become a huge ordeal, though just trying to bridle her. Please give me your advice, and I realize it could be the shock of new ownership and a different handler, but I think the previous person must have had problems as well. Believe me I want to have the least resistance and have a positive experience with riding once again.

Sincerely, Steven


Hello Steven,

Thank you for your email and question. I have helped numerous people with a similar problem to yours that they had for years (in one case having to take the bridle apart to put it on the horse). It is a shame you have used a twitch to put it on her. That is abuse and I know you didn't want to do that. The problem is not the horse unless there is some medical/dental problem (have the horse’s mouth checked by a veterinarian). It is you, my friend. You may think you know how to properly put a bridle on a horse, but I assure you, by the results you have described, you definitely do not. The last time a person came to me with this problem it had lasted 12 years and one of the household was even a Junior Olympics rider. I had no problem bridling the horse and the owner and his family were flabbergasted and couldn't believe their eyes. You need the help of a professional trainer who specializes in 'starting' horses. That person will have the skill to show you how to stand. where to stand, how to hold the bridle properly, how to reassure the horse continuously, how to hold the bit, how to encourage the horse to lower his head, how to properly ask the horse to open his mouth, how to properly position the bit and bridle on the horse's head and take it over the horse's ears and quite a few additional items about bridling a horse I know you do not know. You may have been a good rider and won ribbons, but you have had little education in training horses or certain proper techniques for horse handling. Please DO NOT TAKE OFFENCE to my comments. Judge your abilities by the results of your handling techniques. Please, please, do not force this on your horse with a twitch or any other restraint, aid, apparatus or drug. This is not what your horse needs. You need a basic lesson or two from a real trainer. You don't think you need this. You think it is the horse. This is not about the horse. Can you accept that?

This is very hard for most people who are good riders and have owned horses many years to believe, until they see someone like me bridle their horse quickly without a problem. They can't understand that their horse is not being stubborn, willful, arrogant, stupid or outright mean. They are all blaming the horse for their lack of knowledge, skill and expertise. Try talking to the previous owner and perhaps they can help you. Don't assume you have been lied to or deceived by the previous owner. They probably did not have this problem. If they say they do not want to come right over and help then perhaps there may be cause for doubt. Don't say you want to return the horse, just ask for help. But either way, it is still not the horse's fault and not about the horse.

For me to describe the process in detail would take very lengthily, detailed instructions and then you may not get it. It is the kind of thing you have to see up close to understand and get. Check around at various stables and barns and see if there is a gentle horse trainer who doesn't use restraint for basic training such as bridling a horse or anything else. I only use restraint in the fewest most extreme cases and then with great care and sensitivity. It is just so unnecessary to do what you are doing. I know you are frustrated. But your horse scared. That is the truth. He is not being handled properly. Consider this; I know you want a "positive riding experience". But how about having a positive horse experience and consider the horse first. Just for the first little while, let go of your agenda of riding the horse and have the horse's comfort and confidence be your goal. If this is the case you will seek and find the proper help and quickly. I give you my most sincere promise that if you take this advice you will have the most incredible relationship, riding partner, dance partner and friend in your horse that you could ever imagine. You will also find out if, for any reason, this is not the horse for you. Rather you find out quickly than have time go by when you get more frustrated and angry and lay that on the horse also. Please do not make your horse suffer any more than he already has. Become his sanctuary, his place of peace, like a good friend is. Your rewards will be beyond your imagination at this point. I know I am being rather strong in my response to you. But this is big for you and your horse. Are you going to go for 'control' no matter what? Or will you rather seek understanding and cooperation. This is an intelligent, feeling, sentient creature. It is an empathetic being much more sensitive than you are giving it credit for. Perhaps this is not what you bargained for when you got this horse. Maybe you just wanted a no-brainer riding horse. That horse would be, maybe, tolerating what you are doing more than this horse. But there is definitely a problem with how you are going about this task. There is more to having a relationship with a horse than petting and brushing and even feeding. There is something called real understanding and the development of mutual trust and respect through a common language based on empathy and compassion.

Anyway, I'll stop beating you up now and ask where you are and invite you to call me (I am at the Colorado number) and perhaps I can talk to you more about the techniques involved. The best time to reach me is between 7 & 8 AM Rocky Mountain Time. I am at a ranch in Aspen, Colorado. I am free to travel and do so a lot to teach and train horses. Perhaps I could come there. Please let me know and I really want you to call. I hope I have not put you off. That was not my intention. It’s just that, as a professional trainer, I can really promise you, THIS IS NOT ABOUT THE HORSE.

Sincerest Blessings to you and Aloha, Franklin

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