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I enjoyed your website very much. I am a Pediatric Nurse. I have two young horses I am raising. One I bottle fed because his mother died. They are both three now. I do not know what kind of bit to start them on now. I usually just ride them with leather halters.

Also, since I got my nursing job, Beau and Dakota hate to be separated. And that is a problem because I can not always work with them both at the same time. Well, enjoyed your page. Thanks,

- C. D.

You raise a couple of interesting issues... here are some thoughts:

The most common starting bit is a snaffle - without a curb chain. This rig allows you to work on communicating directly with his head with the least trauma to his mouth and jaw. If, however, you can handle the critters now with just a halter, you may want to go with a bosal or a hackamore. A word of caution: a hackamore or curb bit with a curb chain can inflict a lot more pain and damage than many riders realize. The combination of anything that has a shank with a curb chain can give you enough leverage to literally break a horse's jaw if you pull too hard. The solution is to use very gentle hands. Never jerk the reins; give easy hints by twitching the reins and signaling your intentions by contact with the mouth and neck. The ideal, of course, is to cue your mount with your balance, legs, and posture. I tend to look on the bit and reins as an intermediate tool while working toward that ideal.

Regarding separation anxiety, it is a lot worse for horses - especially young ones - than most humans realize. Horses are herd animals and being away from the herd is one of the most terrifying things that can happen to them. With proper training, a rider and mount will form a herd of two, thus easing the horse's natural sense of panic. It's far worse for the one left behind with no companions. With no other horses around, it will feel extremely isolated and totally vulnerable.

While doing ground work, try to position yourself so the two horses can see each other. You will have a more difficult time keeping the attention of the horse you're training, but I reckon this is still better than trying to work with a critter that's close to panic.

When it comes time to hit the trail, if you can't find a partner to ride the other animal, you may want to try "ponying" it -- either allowing it to range along side of you or trailing like a pack horse. This can also be good practice in case you ever decide to go horse camping.

Willy talks to his herdmatesThis isn't the world's greatest horse picture - I just whipped a camera out of my pocket and snapped it to capture the moment. If you know the background to the photo, it tells a lot about the herd mentality of the horse.

Willy and I had been out on the trails for some four or five hours. When we returned, the other horses heard us coming - and immediately ran to the fence closest to where I was dismounting. The other horses kept calling to Willy with anxious whinnies and nickers. From time to time, Willy would give an answering whinny. It was obvious that the other horses were uptight about their herdmate's lengthy absence and were asking Willy if he was fine. Willy's calm replies were clearly telling the others that all was well and that he was perfectly safe.

Who says horses can't talk?!

Happy Riding!

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