Among my equine students is a little three-year-old quarter horse stallion named Rusty. He’s here to be started under saddle. When I worked him at liberty he showed a lot of willingness and intelligence. He “sacked out” pretty easy, not very spooky. The first few saddles I put on him while he was out in the working pen with no halter or any restraint. I was riding him at the walk soon after, with no indication of pitching or wanting to run. But the day I decided to put a snaffle bit in his mouth he broke the contract. He swung his head, knocked off my hat (a cardinal sin) and even reared up once. So, I went back to square one and did a lot of “Round pen” work, then I was able to put a Bill Dorrance “be nice” bridle on him with an old lariat. When he jerked away it applied pressure, and automatically released when he “gave” and turned toward me. Next I put a “lip string” on him. It is a piece of sash cord that runs under the upper lip in the groove of the gum. When he pulls it squeezes. Eventually it taught him to lower his head, and then to chew. At that point I slid a molasses coated snaffle bit into his mouth. He chewed and licked. His face almost seemed to light up. When I slid the bit out he reached for it with his tongue. I poured more molasses on it and said “oh, now you like the bit! ” After several more sessions that day I didn’t need the lip string anymore. I could slather molasses on the bit and he’d come gobble it up. Now I leave the snaffle in his feed box. Several times a day I offer it to him with molasses on it and he’s getting real good at taking it. Only problem now is my hands stay sticky all the time. I’ve even been tempted to suck on the snaffle myself!
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