The first little bit.

By Patty Wilber

After the huge excitement of the World Show, I am back at it and have a new colt start to keep me on my toes.

When I am ready to get on for the first time, I like to use a snaffle bit, but BEFORE just leaping up there (and these days there is no leaping–the knees are creeping not leaping), I do some preparation.

I “bridle” with a baling twine bridle and let the horse hang out in his pen wearing the bridle.  The throat-latchless twine headstall ensures that in case of catching it accidentally on something, it will slip off or break. This has actually never happened, but just in case.  With horses, it is always “just in case”.

I make sure the youngster is untied prior to putting the beautiful orange hay bale designer twine bridle on.  If a horse needs to move back or try to evade this strange contraption, that is all right with me, but I don’t want a pull back panic attack situation on top of the new bridling.

(I untie my trained horses, prior to bridling, too, actually, you know, just in case.)

If a colt does want to go backward or try to evade, I try to just stay with them, with the bit in a good position and wait until he decides to relax and open up.  This usually takes about a minute maximum, even for the first bridling, but I did have one horse that about lost her mind when she simply SAW the bit from three feet away.  In her case, the first step was to let her carry the bit tied to her halter under her chin! It took three days to get her to accept it IN her mouth, quietly.

The clever, and oh so attractive, twine design allows me to quickly customize the size and secure it with a half hitch.

Once on, the youngster usually makes some dramatic expressions of disbelief for a few minutes and then pretty much ignores the bit.

“eeewww!” says Courtney’s Jude. “what did i do to deserve this?!”

On day two, Jude was still not totally on board with the bridling process, but once the bit was in his mouth, he was fine and could easily concentrate on other things, like learning to cross a bridge.

“look, ma! i grew!”

In addition to the accepting the bit and bridling process work, I spend time helping horses get used to the feeling of reins, by attaching them to the bit (duh) and tying them to the stirrups, and free lunging.  The reins are loose but the movement of the stirrups gives them a little life so the horse can feel them.

We will also work on “giving to the bit” by asking for lateral bends left and right, vertical flexion and backing.  Once they are easy with that, I will have them walk around me in a circle, like a mini lunging session, using the rein as the lunge line.

I typically do not ground drive, mainly because I don’t find it very fun and the other stuff I do seems to work.

When I am ready to get on, responding to the bit goes pretty well!

I do like colt starting. 

I might have to go buy just ONE MORE youngster for myself…(Am I getting too old for that? Nah! So, I just now spent a tiny bit of time looking…tiny.)

P.S. For just 29.99 + shipping, I can send orange, blue, or yellow, fully customizable “bit training” head stalls. Some assembly required. He he!

About BlogPatty

Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
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3 Responses to The first little bit.

  1. dorannadurgin says:

    “With horses, it is always ‘just in case.'”

    Best line ever.

  2. Patty says:

    Thank you!

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