What are the reasons for the mouths of horses to progressively deteriorate after being handed over to the owner by the ‘Breaker’? They almost always do, some more than others and some, totally.
Lets say the mouth of the horse is finished at a 9-10 when it is handed back to the owner. From that day forward, unless the owner is a professional rider, the mouth of that horse will diminish for various reasons and end anywhere between zero and about 6.5. I rarely meet one over that mark. So what are the causes of this?
- Having a contact against the mouth of the horse at any time other than when actual rein aids are being employed. Put another way, holding a feel of the mouth of the horse, via the reins, of any type, when the horse is not correctly ‘on the bit, round and soft’
- Leading a horse ‘Pony Club style’ and allowing ignorance.
- Standing still on a horse, with any contact, even a gram, unless the horse is under the Judges eye and/or ’round and submissive’
- Having ANY contact against the mouth of a horse at the walk whilst on a trail, pleasure ride or even walking from the tack up area to a dressage arena or back.
- Working any horse under training and allowing it to be ‘above the bit’ and therefore not truly or completely submissive.
- Allowing horses to break away whilst tied up (twine)
- Whilst lunging, allowing a horse to hang on the end of the lunge line.
- Whilst leading a horse, regardless of the style or technique, allowing the horse to hang against the rope, no matter how subtly. Put another way, leading without a loop in the rope at all times.
- Allowing a horse to invade your space on the ground, push you, pull you, head butt you or make you move instead of it moving…….and
- Not understanding that ‘reward and relief’ for lightness doesn’t come from the rider UNTIL the horse does it first!!!!!
- Never being told that it is not always about feel, savvy, an ounce, give to the lightest give and so on.
- Knowing when to give or soften and the timing associated with that.
- Not having consistency in the hands.
- Having un-forgiving hands due to hand and arm position.
- Never having been truthfully told the secret to keeping a good mouth on a horse. and………..
The most senseless thing that I ever see in the Horse Industry. Hanging on to the lead rope of a horse that is tied up and poking it’s head this way and that way. Tugging, attempting to influence, horse pulling, handler pulling, all for what? For a complete lesson in ignorance and the undoing of any good work that a Trainer may have put into the horse. I see it all the time and I saw it today. Pushing and pulling on the head of a horse that was tied up solid and ties up like an Olympic Tie up horse.
I see it particularly when a person is hosing a horse down. The horse is moving so we pull the lead rope, push the lead rope, “Stand UP”…..tug, pull, push, ..”Stand Up”!!!!. For Gods sake, leave the bloody horse along, stand back away from it and train the bloody hose on it. Leave its damm head alone and just blast it. Stop fighting with it. Stop getting up close and personal. Get out of it’s space so it can’t invade your space and use it’s size to manipulate you. IT IS TIED UP!
LEG VERSUS HAND
There is a debate in the World of Dressage about the use of simultaneously using leg and hand. Depending upon which School they may come from, dictates whether they promote leg and hand separately or if ever leg and hand together is acceptable.
There has been a frenzy of debate lately, regarding the German Training Scale and in particular, the question of whether leg and hand should be used separately or together. Probably the difference being that those pushing the ‘separate aids’ principle are supporters of the French system rather than the German but I hasten to point out the results from the recent Olympics and ask you to tell me where the French were placed.
My other observation is that the noise is being made by Trainers who don’t compete in Dressage. Very easy from the arm chair whilst navel gazing. However, I want to pass onto you, my Readers, some observations from the real World and in particular, the Mouth of the Horse.
- If one uses hand alone, not supported by leg, the Mouth of the Horse deteriorates. (Read my lips)
- However, if the integrity of the Mouth is Good, it matters not.
- If the hand is used, separately from the leg, the Mouth of the Horse normally deteriorates unless certain rules are followed.
- As the Mouth of the Horse deteriorates, resistance builds and progressive hollowing occurs.
- As regular riding in this style goes on, the muscular ability of the Horse diminishes.
- Then so to the shape of the Horse alters and top line diminishes
- Ending in poorer Dressage Scores all round.
- and Yes, Professionals can ride without Leg and do but they also keep the rules in place and the integrity of the Mouth in tact.
Learned Resistance being the result , This subject is truly , THE most mis-understood and poorly taught of all. The secrets are rarely passed on and often not understood by the teacher. There is basically no chance of learning these things at Pony Club and less than 50% chance of being truly taught later. Confusion abounds and Trainers, Coaches and Clinicians often want to pass on one message but do exactly the opposite on their own horses.
Best of Luck
Listen to Your Horses