When Your Horse Talks Do You Listen
 By Winniefield Park   •   29th May 2013   •   3,301 views   •   5 comments
Who hasn't heard of a horse whisper? Theyíre those mystical trainers who can lift an eyebrow, shake a finger or twirl a rope and transform a horse from unruly and wild to docile and willing. However, the fact is, when weíre solving training problems, itís often more important to start out as a horse listener, than a horse whisperer. Hereís one example of why we need to start listening when our horse is talking.

Itís not uncommon for horses to chew the bit. However, this isn't acceptable to most riders and certainly isn't going to win any points in the show ring. So, an easy fix is to put a flash or dropped noseband on the bridle. Problem solved, right? However, now, for some reason, the horse starts tossing its head. So, we put on a standing martingale, and all goes well for a while. But, the horse seems to insist on being inverted, and itís getting a bit cold backed and inclined to buck every so often. So our hands get more demanding, we smack it with a crop, and soon we have a sour horse that we donít know what to do with. Itís a bad horse, and we curse our luck for having so many problems to contend with.

Where did this host of problems start? We went from a horse that chewed the bit, to a horse that resents having a rider on its back. But, right from the beginning our horse was talking to us. We, however, didn't do a good job of listening. What if, instead of just putting that flash noseband on, we tried to find out what our horse was saying when it chewed the bit. Was it saying, I have a loose, impacted or sharp tooth thatís making it hard to carry this bit? Or was it saying, this big thick eggbutt snaffle youíre making me carry because you thought it was a mild bit is just too much of a mouthful in my small mouth? Or was it telling you that it didn't understand the lesson you were teaching it, and expressing its frustration by chewing the bit?

It sometimes takes time to ferret out the reason for training problems. Itís certainly easier and cheaper to strap on a flash nose band, then pay to have an equine dentist check your horseís teeth. But, imagine having your mouth strapped down on a bad tooth, or a bit that is hard to hold or is poking your palate. And what if you didn't understand how to do something? Would punishment make it easier to learn?

So very often, our horses talk to us this way. They tell us they are in pain, uncomfortable, confused and sometimes scared. And we respond by punishing and restricting them. We donít listen. We donít ask why. And we compound our problems by simply masking them with more gear and harsher training methods. But, what if, instead of wishing we were horse whisperers, we focused on being horse listeners? What could we gain if we stopped whispering, talking and demanding and actually started listening?
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Oh, I love this so much. For so long Pogo kept his mouth open and chewed the bit, so my instructor threw on the Flash. We both hated it and I quickly 'lost' it. Then everyone insisted on a martingale that I knew was the source of his head tossing. After he started seriously acting up (bolting, rearing) we finally got a dentist in. Poor baby had wolf teeth. Now I can gallop him on a loose rein and I haven't seen him buck in a long time, even in the pasture. :)
  May 29, 2013  •  3,615 views
Ooh, nice article.
Would anyone have a clue why my mare is always tossing her head, mostly when she stops? She always does it, in our western saddle, english saddle, and bareback, as well as in her english and western bridles and even in a halter. Her english bit is an single-jointed eggbutt snaffle, maybe 1/2 or an inch around. Her western bit is also a single-jointed snaffle of similar diameter, though it is a loose-ring instead. Both the saddles fit pretty well. The western might be a tad narrow, but we don't use it often, and use a thick pad when we do. And like I said, it wasn't only in that. We don't use anything else, except sometimes a breatplate, but not that often. So, any ideas? She tosses her head out in the pasture a lot, so could it just be a habit? How would I fix that?
  May 29, 2013  •  4,332 views
When my young mare Bella was sent away for breaking in, the bloke who broke her put her in a pelham (Does it with all of them, using soft hands, just so if the horse takes off he's got a chance of stopping them- although I didn't entirely agree with it), we got her back and she couldn't stand the bit, she was always trying to get her tongue over the top of it (He had ended up using a tongue grid to counter-act this). So for a while we put her in a bitless, mum didn't want to go down the the road of a tongue grid (Which is understandable) so we never got one. I checked her mouth one day and noticed bruising, I realised her mouth obviously hadn't had time to toughen up to a bit. So our work started here. I rode her in a bosal (A bitless noseband) and she had a french link in without the reins attached, so she could mouth and get used to it. Eventually I changed the French link to a straightbar happy mouth and due to some rebellious disagreements we ended up doing lots of lunging in a pes
  May 30, 2013  •  3,657 views
Oh Wow! Great Article!! I loved the way you explained the part where the horse was chewing on the bit and Then you put all those accessories on the horse to prevent him from supposedly being naughty when all he was doing was talking to you. Thanks Heaps!
  Jun 4, 2013  •  3,424 views
great article. this could really help the rider become more connected with the horse
  Jul 6, 2013  •  3,416 views
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