Cathy River's latest blog re-post from Love this!


This past week I have been introducing my 2 year old filly to the bit. First two times, no problem. She was willing to put it in her mouth and she chewed and fussed on the rubber snaffle. Then came bit attempt #3 and out came the “You Can’t Make Me!” For little Peg, she decided there was nothing in it for her in putting that awkward thing in her mouth. She was done.

Now, knowing that wearing a bit is the next step in her training to become a riding horse, I could force the issue or I could train the issue. This is one of those crucial turning points. And the path you choose depends on the horse’s personality and learning style. When Peg’s older brother, Andrew, got to this same point, the answer was to just put the bit on him, anyway I could, and let him figure it out. Andrew’s an easy going guy that just wants to please me. I could push him on this particular topic and I knew he’d work it out and not hold anything against me.

Now Peg is different. She has to understand everything; she has to decide things are okay. If I put too much pressure on her she checks out. However, if I break things down in to nice little bits, let her have small successes, all of a sudden she gets the big picture and all resistance melts away. And most of all, she will never forget, the new skill is in her ‘toolbox’ forever. With Peg, and my other horses that learn this same way, the moment I get a whiff of “You Can’t Make Me” I immediately adjust my training methods and break things down into small little steps.

So I want to ask you, “Where are you shutting down and stopping? Where are you checking out? Where is your progress blocked and you just can’t find a way through it?

Are you trying to force yourself to just get something done? And getting more discouraged in the process?

Anywhere in your life where you are forcing yourself and still feeling resistance, it is time to back off and try a new approach. Stop forcing and start training yourself. Break things down into small little steps where you can give yourself small, but frequent successes. Make it into a game that you can win. Don’t be afraid of making the steps too small. Small and steady will get you to your goal where forcing was not working.

© 2012 Big Horse Dreams, Inc.

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Cathy Rivers and Big Horse Dreams

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Comment by wildehex on May 22, 2012 at 10:03am

The question is why the horses 'properly' do behaviors and what causes them to refuse the handler/rider.  Horses are fairly simple souls, and easily convinced of behaviors which suit their nature and balance.  And with something this simple ideally the bit is presented in the first place in a way the horse never refuses, but if it does then simply hold the bridle/bit in the right hand and over the nose, and put the left pointer finger into the lips (between the teeth/onto the tongue) and the horse opens the mouth. Most of the time when this happens the bit has hit the teeth above the bit.  And for me I always have honey/fruit roll ups/etc on the bit in the first couple of times.  It is where educated horsemen should teach those less experienced for the good of the horse.

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