Does anyone have any useful hints of getting my young horse to not be afraid of the bridle. I have to back him up into a corner to get it on, and when I take it off he throws this head and the bit hits him in the mouth. He is 16.3hh so can be a bit painful for my arms. Thanks

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Hi Raquel,
The first thing I can think of is to have your horse's teeth checked. I would also have a very knowledgeable professional check to make sure the bit fits him properly and is not pinching him anywhere. You can also look for little cuts or signs of rubbing at the corners of his mouth. How is he under saddle? Does he tilt his head, try to stay behind the bit or throw his head in the air? These would be futher signs that either his teeth are bothering him or perhaps the bit does not fit properly. If everything checks out fine, you could try rubbing some molasses onto the bit in order to tempt him to willingly take it. If he keeps banging his teeth on it every time it comes off, it will of course hurt him and he will continue to be afraid, so you might want to be careful to slowly take it off and perhaps offer him a reward as well. I hope some of these ideas are helpful! Good luck!!
Linda Tellington-Jones and TTouch would help you here... She has a method of gently hand rubbing all around the mouth, chin, lips, nostrels, then inside -under the top lip and rub the gums. Putting your fingers in his mouth at the side - where there is no teeth! and getting him used to it. Can he take a rope in his mouth - can you attach it to his halter and just let him chew/suck on it.
Parelli does this too in a different way. Check out how Linda does it.What's he like when you put on a halter?
And DEFINITELY get someone who's been recommended! to float his teeth thoroughly
My horse used to be difficult with his double bridle and he did exactly the same thing when taking it off - throw his head back, get bits rattled around his teeth, and frighten himself. He is now fine.
What I did was apply gentle pressure to the poll , decreasing the pressure when he lowered his head, increasing it when he went to put it up again. (probably do it without the bridle at first, to give him a really clear, simple message: up=pressure, down=release) it's amazing how quickly they figure it out. Practise until it is second nature to both of you, and get your timing dialled in so you can anticipate his movement (you'll feel the muscles tense up moments before he moves his head).
with a tall horse, if you are small (like me) you will want to have a box or mounting block to stand on, so he learns it is pointless putting his head higher. You can do away with the box once the lesson is learnt.
When he understands the poll lowering signal, try the bridle. **It may be useful to lengthen the cheek pieces by 2-3 holes on the near side, sometimes young horses can be offended if the bridle feels tight.** Then you can adjust the bit to the correct position once he has settled.
Taking the bridle off, make sure you are in a 'safe' environment where risk of something spooking him is minimised. Take your time, get him used to your hands around his ears. Wait until he is relaxed (the head will drop, he will sigh or chew) repeat the poll pressure/release, head lowering exercise. It may seem tedious, but wait until he seems almost bored, then gently ease the headpiece off. Now he will want to do his party piece, and this is where you need to be quick with pressure on his poll to remind him to stay down. Don't rush, but try to ease the bridle off smoothly. Be ready to follow his head movement - my horse would at first let me get the head piece off then fling his head up, so I would have hold of both cheek pieces in my left hand, and stay with him, so the bits stayed in his mouth until he was still again, then quickly and quietly out without banging the teeth.
The key to it all is in the timing, and try not to get worried about it as the horse will sense it. It's a bit of a juggling act, but that's what worked for me in my situation. Good luck :-)
ps the teeth should definitely be ruled out first, of course as he will not unlearn the behaviour if the root cause is physical discomfort.
pps have you tried a synthetic bit? at least it won't bang on his teeth!
ppps I hope some of that made sense!
I to have a young horse with the same problem, as much as I love him I cant stand his manners in the stall. To get his bit on I use glicerine. I put a bit on my fingers and let him taste it - it tastes like peppermints - then I put it on the bit and he smells the minty smell. He goes to taste it, then he takes the bit. We have afew horses at the barn we do this to. Plus Glicerine in very good for the horses mouth, it keeps it from getting to dried out.

Anouther thing is teeth. Wolf teeth are common on all young horses and need to be removed because they are very painful and sharp. I would recommend speaking to your horses dentist to see if you can find a solution.

One GREAT trick to find out if maybe your bit in pinching is to have someone lay your bit on your arm and try to wrap it around. If it pinches and hurts you, it will hurt your horse. - I've dont this in stores and people look at me like Im nuts but it's worth it. -
What you describe is a horrid vicious circle.

What method do you use to put the bridle on?
First of all, have his mouth and teeth checked by a professional. He may be sore somewhere.
If that is ruled out ,try dipping the bit in honey, jam, or molasses. Let him sniff it first and have a taste. He might start accepting it better. And stand on a small stool beside him as so that the bit doesn't knock on his teeth while you take it out of his mouth. You could also hold a carrot in front of his mouth before you take the bit out and give it to him right away. This may help in him throwing his head up.
Yep, absolutely - my horse was frightened by a motorbike, at the very moment he was having the double bridle taken off, the very first time he wore it! What are the chances of that happening! After the initial fright, it became a habit which carried on for a long time! He has mostly forgotten it now, but occasionally will catch me out if there are distractions around. Horses have amazing minds!
Thank you so much everyone for your advice. His teeth are perfect, dentist did him last week and said there are no problems. I just bought over the weekend one of those softer bits, the non metal ones, and will give it a try over the coming week. It is just so frustrating, but I know I just need to persevere with it. I will try the molasses trick as well. I also think it was when he was being broken in, when the bridle was taken off him, it got stuck in his mouth and he thru his head up. He is pretty much fine with me getting the bridle on, its just at the end when it is time to take it off and it makes me not want to do anything with him. If I can just over come this problem he will be an absolute pleasure and is grand prix material. He is a true gentleman execpt when it comes taking the bit off. So thank you again and if there is anything else, please let me know.

Would you consider a bitless bridle? My mare had that problem - both getting a bit and bridle on and off. I switched her to a bitless for quite a long time - close to a year before I tried a bit again. During this time, I also worked with having her lower her head for bridling, haltering, even brushing her forelock and face, coming to or from the pasture/barn - any time, place or reason. I then used a Happy Mouth mullen mouth bit. She is now fine with bit or bitless.
If the problem is only when you are removing the bridle, try sliding his ears out then holding the bit with one hand whilst you lower the rest of the bridle down his face, this will reduce the risk of the bit knocking into his teeth. Then remove the bit slowly, offering a nice bit of apple immediatly after the bit leaves his mouth. I know it sounds daft and a bit primitive but I had similar trouble with my 4yr old and this worked for me. Good luck xxx
I wonder if there is a problem at the poll. Has he been checked by a chiropractor to se if he as out between the atlas and axis? Often horses are literally born this way, through trauma at birth, and they are the ones who are the most head shy, and will exhibit the signs you describe.

You might try, in addition to the wonderful Tellington TTouch exercises described by Susan and some of the other things people have suggested, getting him checked.

I'm going to make a suggestion (and sorry about the length):
Also, a little TTouch or massage of the poll and base of the ear area, every day. Try this even when you have no intention of coming near him with the bridle. Just walk up to him, ask him to lower his head,TTouch or massage him gently and thank him for his attention.

If you give his head enough positive attention without the negative association of the bridle, he might be more receptive to the bridle after any associated problems in his upper cervical area are solved. If there is no problem in the atlas/axis, and his teeth were the problem, then you would then be able to move forward with adding TTouch/massage to bridling.

Do the same massage/TTouch before bridling. Allow him to sniff the bridle. Take it away (and out of sight). Massage some more. Bring back the bridle for another sniff. Massage some more. Hopefully each time you bring it back, he will react less and less negatively. If he reacts badly (throwing his head up, etc), do not remove the bridle from his sight until he shows a sign of relaxation. Once he does, remove the bridle immediately. Praise is a good thing.
If you succeed at getting the whole thing on (don't worry about any straps and buckles), massage/TTouch again, lavishly. Take it off and consider this a HUGE success. Come back to it another time.
Try lots of massage at the poll, jaw, in and around the mouth, gums, lips, etc. He may act as if he objects to this, but it's just that horses are not accustomed to it. They really start to like it quickly.

I'll bet that soon after you solve whatever mechanical issue is causing his pain and you get him comfortable with having his mouth interfered with (i.e. by the bit), he will accept it just fine.

Good luck solving the problem!

Kim Carneal
One of the problems with some of the advice you have been given (like standing on a stool so he can't get his head up and away from you) is that you may actually be causing the horse to throw his head in the air, by putting your core in his face as you go to put on or take off the bridle. It's a very common problem and it does indeed become a vicious circle. The higher he goes, the more you reach up, the more you push him higher. Chris Irwin advocates a very simple way (once you get the hang of it) of getting the horse to bring his head to you without you going in to capture his head.

Have a look at Chris's website ( and go to 'articles by Kathryn'. Kathryn (Chris's wife) writes a column for Horses All magazine and she did a column on this very problem, with photos to show you how to do it.

I am 5ft 2 and my horse is a good 16hh, so he can reach way higher than me if he chooses. However, by getting him to bring his head around and down, simply by standing at the girth, I can put his head collar or bridle on without any fuss (same taking it off) and he learned quickly that this was a much better way of doing it, so now he brings his head to me when I just go to stand at the shoulder.

Good luck with it.



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