QUESTION: I have always enjoyed horses, and have taken riding lessons, horsemanship classes etc. I just now bought my first horse. A 3-year-old, cross bred gelding. I was told from the last owner he has been very good as they had put their small children on him and led him around the yard. He has not bucked or reared while under saddle but he does have a problem taking a bit so the previous owner was starting to use some kind of hackamore??? Apparently when she tried to put the bit in his mouth, it ended up that his teeth got banged a couple of times and now he refuses a bit. I have not tried anything yet but I do touch his nose and lips and put my thumb in the corner of his mouth and he hasn't bit me, but it does upset him lots. Should I just start off with the hackamore and not even try a bit because of this experience he has had?
I have never trained a horse before and need all the help I can get with him not liking to have a bit in his mouth.

ANSWER: Once a horse has had its teeth slammed while being bridled or often when the owner is taking the bridle off too, the horse begins to be hesitant about accepting the bit.

You are on the right track by touching the horse’s face and slipping your finger or thumb into the corner of the horse’s mouth to get him used to the feel. Also rub his ears and all over his head until he does not mind any part of his head being touched.

You also need to teach him to lower his head on command for haltering, bridling, etc.

With one hand holding the lead rope attached to his halter, place your fingers and thumb on either side of his Poll (the bump between his ears), yet slightly behind this bump. Apply gentle pressure both at the Poll and gentle downward pressure on the lead rope. The second he drops his head, even a couple of inches. RELEASE all pressure. The first day, work with him only a few minutes until he is dropping his head several inches, cued by gentle pressure on the lead rope and pressure at the Poll. Work with him like this for a few days until he is dropping his head all the way down, instantly on command. KEY WORD: Is GENTLE. No yanking on the lead rope, no pressing like a maniac at the Poll. SECOND KEYWORD: Is to RELEASE all pressure the second he responds.

Now your ready to introduce the bridle again. Let a very learned horse person show you how the first couple of times. Some people even smear sweet molasses or honey on the mouthpiece of the bit which makes the horse accept the bit very quickly since they like sugar. Others have had great success with the second the horse is bridled, giving the horse a bite of grain or a horse crunchy or cookie. Again the horse soon learns to want that bit in place because they know a treat is coming. The trouble with hand fed treats is some horses get nippy, (nipping at a person's hands) looking for a treat. So discontinue the treat once the horse is now easy to bridle. Start by a treat only every second time he is bridled, then every third, etc. until you wean him off the treats.

No riding the first few times you are bridling the horse since he is in training to learn to accept bridling at this time. Instead bridle him, pet and/or groom him, lead him around, then gently drop the bit out of his mouth (don't let it fall out of his mouth, banging his teeth, but correctly lower the bit out of his mouth). Then pet him, lead him around and put the bridle back on. Do this four or five times, then his training is over for the day.

Also have his Wolf Teeth removed because many hard to bridle horses are resistant because of their Wolf Teeth, interfering with the bit.

I train a lot with a colt Hackamore (Bosal) but do not recommend a Bosal for anyone who is not an experienced trainer. As for a Mechanical Hackamore? The only place for a Mechanical Hackamore is in the garbage, never on a horse’s head. A Bosal is a rawhide oval that fits low on a horse’s face but much like a halter fits on them. A Mechanical Hackamore has a leather noseband, chain under the chin and metal shanks like a bit with shanks. All they have ever produced is high-headed horses who will not bend their body into a turn, stop on their hindquarters or anything else.

Horse sellers love to say" My kids ride him around the yard with/without being lead." The buyer is wowed by this but truthfully, I do not even consider these horses as Green Broke. Just barely started. So start from square one with this young horse. Consider him as not even started and you will safely train him with less surprises than thinking he is already well started or green broke.

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