Horse training, as you know, is not an event. Horse training is a process that has fairly logical steps that go from one to another. One of the big keys in horse training is getting a horse to “give”. In other words, when you lift a rein and slightly pull, his head comes the direction of the pull. A good give is when you pull the rein, his head follows, and you almost can’t feel the rein pulling. In a sense, it’s almost like his head follows your arm like your shadow follows your body on a sunny day. Now that’s a give!
Horse trainer Kenny Scott said this: “The horse has to give his chin before he gives anything else.” Amen. Kenny went on to say, “We work from the chin, through the jaw, up the neck, to his withers.” This gets the body to arc and gets the horse broke at the withers. Eventually, Kenny uses that to get the horse where he no longer uses his head for balance – instead, his head becomes more like a hood ornament… meaning he’s collected and balanced and no longer needs his head for balance.
Note that with the rider on, the horse’s normal center of gravity has changed. The head becomes less of a force than normal. However, if you’ve ever watched cutting horses you’d see where the head and neck are still a major force. Anyway, since the chin is the place to start, you may often have trouble getting that chin. If you do, here’s little secret. Vibrate the bit. Yep…vibrate it. In other words, as you pull on the rein a little and he’s not giving his chin, vibrate the bit by shaking the rein. You don’t shake it hard. Just enough to make it uncomfortable. As you do it, watch for the give. Sometimes, the give may be so subtle you’ll miss it. Try not to miss it because the second you get a response from your horse you need to quit. Then let him think about it for a moment. As he gets it, you can ask for more.
One of the reasons the vibrating bit works is because it’s uncomfortable. Horses, much like people, don’t like to be uncomfortable so they will seek comfort. When they move in the direction you want and you cease vibrating the bit, there’s the comfort. Eventually they’ll understand, “Okay… when I move my chin over here like he wants, then it’s comfy. That’s what I’ll do.” The good thing is it’s not painful unless his teeth are in need of help or if the vibrating bit is too intense. One thing to be aware of is you must have patience with this. Do not expect the horse to immediately understand…. “Oh! you want me to move my chin over here? Okay. I get it.” You see, just because “you” know what you want doesn’t mean your horse does. He must guess. Give him time. With some horses, it will seem like it takes forever. You may think to yourself, “Dumb horse.” And sure, as death and taxes, the second you give up thinking it won’t work is the very second the horse did what you asked… or was just about to.
Provided by Charlie Hicks at HorseTrainingResources.com.