I’m hoping you checked out my article “Resistance-free Bridling” in the September/October issue of Horse-Canada magazine, where I talk about teaching your horses to bridle himself. It utilizes the foundation lesson of targeting. If not, be sure to pick up a copy to get all the details on how to teach this!
I use behaviours that I have taught not only as useful behaviours in and of themselves, but also as a monitor as to how my horse is feeling about the work we are doing and how he is feeling in his body. If Icaro, who normally eagerly takes his bridle, suddenly is less eager or won’t take it at all I can use this as a ‘red flag’ to tell me something is going on that I need to have a closer look at. Is the work we did yesterday too hard? Causing too much mental or physical stress? Is his body sore from the work or from some other reason? Is there an issue with his teeth? I don’t look at this as a ‘disobedience’ as so many people would but as an effort to communicate that something is amiss.
Once we give a voice to our horses we must listen to that voice. And sometimes it may say things we don’t want to hear. Has your horse always been reluctant to bridle or was he good when you first got him? If things have changed for the worse then it is up to you to find out why? I suggest that you video how you bridle your horse and then look at it. You may be surprised at what you see.
Look at how you are presenting the bit. Do you bang his teeth, force his mouth open? is the bit too small? bridle too tight? How do you handle his ears? Do you bend, fold or otherwise mutilate his ears in your attempt to ‘get that bridle on’!
His reluctance may stem, not from poor bridling technique, but from what happen after the bridle is on. How gentle are you rein cues? Is your bit too severe for your skill level? This reluctance may even stem from a poor fitting saddle, though you might see more clues if this is the issue. Trying to bite you when you girth up the saddle or dancing around as you approach with it.
Clicker training is all about educating your eye to see small changes. Good training is also about seeing small problems and fixing them before they become the elephant in the room.
Here is the link to the video showing how I like my horses to bridle. I hope it helps you to get your horse better to bridle.