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I have a six-year-old Arabian. I don't know much about his history. My problem is I have a hard time getting him to take a bit. We have tried hackamores, snaffles, and straight bits. We just got him three months ago. We would like any help you might pass along...


- G. H.


Since you don't know much about your horse's past, I'd say play it safe and assume he either has very little training or was previously worked by someone who over-used the bit (and thus taught the animal that a bit always causes pain).

In starting to work with any horse, you'll want to begin with a snaffle bit. After he has fully mastered the idea of direct control of his head, you can move on to a hackamore or curb bit.

Sometimes you will simply have a contest of wills over getting a horse to accept a bit. I'm going to assume that the horse will stand hitched during this process. If he won't, you have a different problem on your hands.

If he clenches his teeth and won't open his mouth for the bit, hold the bridle in your left hand with the bit near - but not touching - the teeth. With your right hand, grab the lower jaw and press in at the corners of his mouth (to the rear of his teeth. It's usually not long before he'll give to the pressure and open his mouth. When he does, quickly slid the bit to the back of the mouth, trying to avoid hitting the teeth more than necessary. Hold the bit in place as you slide the headstall behind the ears. I like a throatlatch on a bridle, because it reduces the chance of a horse shaking or rubbing the bridle off.

Now, just let him have some time to get used to this new feeling. Some folks believe in coating the bit with peanut butter to make it a little less unpleasant in the mouth. I've never gone that route, but it might be worth a try if he really fights the bit.

Don't rush the process. Did you ever wear braces on your teeth? If so, you may be able to identify with the problem of getting used to a strange metal contraption in your mouth. Give him some time. Talk quietly to him and pet him as you assure him that he's being very good. Harsh behavior on your part at this time may confirm any suspicions he has that this metal gadget is a punishment of some sort.

Let me again stress that you want to get your horse used to primarily being guided by your balance and legs, not by the bit and reins. Only move to the harsher indirect control bits after you reach the point where you rarely need to signal him with the reins. This will lessen the possibility of the horse souring to the bit.

Happy Riding!

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