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Below are some horse training questions submitted by visitors to the Andersen Acres website with an associated brief answer. Please note that most of the questions will need more details than we can provide in a paragraph or two. We encourage you to contact us in learning what one needs to do to get the desired response.

My horse often pushes me and steps on my feet when I try to lead her especially when she is around other horses and is excited. How can I get her to stop doing this?

You've already figured out why your horse is doing this and that is because she is excited and nervous. What you can do is show her that you are a strong leader and that she will be better off by remaining calm with you.

So for starters make sure she moves her hips away from you at your request from the ground by either you touching her side or better yet just by glaring at them. You can use a spinning rope too to get her to move over.

After she knows that well then you can teach her to respect your space by if she starts to get to close to you, you end up flapping your arms like a chicken and march with high knees. If she gets too close she ends up being bonked by your arms and knees. Once she moves away from you keep flapping for another 5 seconds but don't try to hit her. Just act like you are a flapping machine that she accidentally ran into.

When she knows to respect your space at a stand still then go ahead and lead her. If she starts walking on top of you do the flappy thing till she backs away. If she just starts moving past you then you turn around 180 degrees and walk back to where you were coming from. Then make a gradual turn towards where you want to go. After a few times of realizing that if she stays behind you or to your side and not on top of you then she won't get bonked or have to make sudden changes in direction. If she decides to ignore you because things are just too exciting then you can have her do small circles by moving her hips over like I explained earlier. That little thing just becomes a reminder that you can control her feet even when she is excited.

I have tried to do natural horsemanship training with my horse because she is not trusting at all but it seems like the more I do the natural horsemanship stuff with her the worse she gets what should I do?

About your horse getting more and more untrusting. First off let's take out the obvious and that is there any physical problems that your horse may have? Arthritis, sore teeth or mouth, very sensitive skin, hoof problem? If your horse has been experiencing some sort of pain that has been getting worse through the years she can just be leary of everything because she is in constant pain. She may do well when doing barrels because the pain is increased and she has learned already that the sooner she gets done running them the sooner the extra pain goes away.

If you know that she isn't experiencing pain then it could be that people have been too rough and demanding on her even if their intentions where to be friendly. Because in her eyes she has been controlled and not allowed relax and understand what the human is asking she gets frustrated and feels unconfident. Thus getting more and more scared over things.

I suggest you just pet her each time you see here for at least 10 minutes at a time or until her eyes have a sullen or very relaxed look. Whichever takes longer. Once she trusts you with petting then you can start asking for more.

How can I teach my horse how to salute?

If you horse is treat monster then she will catch on quickly. Assuming you and your horse already know a cue for picking up one of her front feet as if you were going to clean them you need to practice it where she does it with just a light touch on her chestnut or elbow. Each time she does it give her a treat. When you do give her a treat hold it a little lower each time below her nose until you are giving her a treat down near her knee thus causing her to bend her head down. Sooner or later she'll start picking up her foot when you start to reach down to touch her. At that stage start standing more to the front of her while you hold your hand up in a salute. Then after holding that position for 3 to 5 seconds reach down to her cue spot on her leg that you've been using for her to lift her leg. She will eventually start understanding that every time you salute her it will proceed you leaning down to have her pick up her feet which proceeds a treat. So she will figure it out that to get a treat faster she'll go ahead and pick up her foot as soon as she see you holding your hand up.

By the way don't try everything in one day. Take 2 or 3 days in teaching her and she'll be more willing to do it

how can I teach my horse to pick up my hat and give it to me?

You will need to have a trash can or large bag of treats that your horse loves. Keep an old hat in that can for several days so that the scent of the treats permeates it.

When you are ready to spend time with your horse in learning to pick up the hat have him in a stall or small area so that his attention can be focused on the hat and treats. Put the hat on the ground. If he puts his nose down to the the hat give him a treat as soon as he touch it. If he needs help in lowering his nose to the hat give him a treat and then when he is done eating it hold another treat lower towards the hat and let him get that one. Practice with this and have your hand with the treat lower each time you feed him until he does touch the hat.

Once he can touch the hat with his nose each time and you give him a treat hold off until he moves the hat to the side and then give him a treat. Practice this for a few times and then quit for several hours or till the next day.

The next day go ahead and practice once or twice what you have already done with him and the hat. When he does that well now is where you need to be really patient. Go ahead and hold a treat down near the hat. He will probably nudge the hat but hold off in giving the treat. He will nudge the hat again. Still hold off on the treat. The third time if he doesn't grab the hat go ahead and give him the treat when he nudges it. The reason we go ahead and reward him this time is so that we keep him interested and don't have him give up trying. Keep practicing this till he actually grabs the hat and then reward him. Do this several times and then again quit for awhile or till the next day.

This 3rd day practice again a few times of him grabbing the hat. After he is grabbing the hat consistently practice having him hold it longer till you reward him. If he drops it too soon then hold off on the treat till he grabs the hat again. Like what we did in day 2 go ahead and reward the treat on the 3rd try of picking up the hat even if he doesn't hold it long enough for you. Again this is so that we keep him interested. After he is holding the hat longer start bringing the treat closer to his shoulder which causes him to turn his head to you for when you are on his back. Practice this everyday or at least a few times a week. Eventually your horse will get proficient in grabbing the hat and turning his head to you so that you can grab it.

How do I keep my gelding from biting the lead rope while leading?

It sounds like your boy is horse that likes to play a lot or he also could be a horse that has a little bit of confidence issues and so by holding on to the lead rope it acts like a pacifier to him and so he is avoiding the pull on his head by holding it. In any case it would be best to have him learn that chewing on the lead may not be all that great of a thing to do.

What I would try is discouraging him chewing on the lead and encourage him to not want to bite it. If he is a horse that likes treats observe him while you start to lead him. If you notice him attempting to grab it make a sudden flick with your wrist while holding the lead so that you cause a wave on the rope so that the snap bonks his chin. Then when he leads fine for a half a dozen steps go ahead and give him a treat. Practice this each time you lead him and try to make the distance between giving treats further and further apart.

If he already is holding the lead rope then go ahead and stop and take the lead with both hands, one and each side of his mouth, and try to slowly move it back and forth in his mouth. After a bit he'll get tired of holding it and want to spit it out. You then keep holding it in his mouth for another 15 to 30 seconds and then draw it out. Give him 15 to 30 seconds to think what happened and try leading him again. The key is to catch him before he grabs hold but you don't want to punish him if he already has a hold of it but just make it uncomfortable for him so that he will not want to keep holding it.

How can I teach my horse to not be so herd bound / barn sour

In short it will take some time to get your horse to be confident in themselves and to have that feeling of "been there, done that" attitude. What you can do is ride your horse a lot around the barn and then when you are done take your horse out for a walk while she is still wearing her tack and saddle out on the road and allow her to graze, explore things, and relax. If she doesn't relax then you can get tense and excited for 3 seconds and then you relax and picture in your mind being very tired and sleepy. If she continues to be excitable then just stop and pet her at her withers till she calms down. Then take a few steps back to the barn and just stand there and hang out till she grazes quietly. Once she does walk slowly back to the barn and call it a day. Practice this for several days with each days goal of trying to go out just 10 yards farther than the previous day. Once you notice her being calm no matter what distance you go then you can practice this while being mounted on her. The key is the petting at the withers so that she associates that feel of your hand as to being a calm down cue. This also mimics in a way the feeling the foal gets when it stands underneath it's mother.

How can I teach my horse to be more calm for the vet and to accept shots

It will take a little bit of time, patience, and frequency but it can be done. The best thing you can do is a lot of petting and rubbing of him all over. Once he allows you to do that with no problem get a syringe without the needle to practice with. Show him it and rub him around his neck with it. Then when he accepts that okay alternate patting and rubbing him at the neck with the palm of your hand while holding the syringe. Again repeat this pattern till he is very calm about it. You can give him treats occasionally too when he stands quietly for you. After he does great for you with all of the above. Get a rag that has some rubbing alcohol on in it and or a rag with betadine on it along with latex gloves. Rub him with those around the neck so that he starts associating the smells that a vet may have with the rubbing and petting that you have done before. Practice this till he is calm about it. Note that you should do this several days in a row and then occasionally before it is time for the vet.

After you have exposed him to the sights, smells, and feels of what a vet may do yourself (since he already knows you won't hurt him) then when it comes time for the vet himself to do the exam he should be calmer about it. It still will take practice so don't expect a miracle overnight but it will work.

How do you teach your horse to kneel

A first impulse on what to do is somehow force the horse to kneel but forcing will not teach the horse anything other than be more afraid. So lets break it down. We know horses can kneel because we see them do it before they lay down. What can we do to make it so the horse wants to lay down? Getting them really tired may work but they probably will outlast us since they only sleep a few hours a day. So why else does a horse lay down? The answer is to roll. And why do they roll? Because their back itches! They key will be to make them feel itchy on their back.

Usually after we ride or give a bath and then provide a soft spot for them they will roll and before they roll they kneel down. So give your horse the opportunity to role after a bath or ride but have him attached to at least a 20+ foot long line with you on the other end and be patient while you wait for him to attempt to lay down. Have a treat ready too. When he kneels down go over to him but be very careful not to be in the line of fire of his feet in case he suddenly jumps up. Give him his treat. Now you may not get to him in time before he does the next thing after a kneel and that is a roll. That is okay but give him his treat anyway. This hopefully will stop him from rolling more as he is occupied with eating. As soon as he gets done eating wiggle your rope lightly so that it annoys him slightly till he gets up.

Repeat this routine after each ride or bath. Eventually you will be able to give him the treat soon after he kneels but before he rolls. Also only wiggle the rope when he rolls and not when he is kneeling. He will like that he keeps getting a treat when he goes down and so he will start to keel down before you do something that itches. He will also learn that the kneel is what is desired and won't attempt to roll. Once he is doing this start applying a cue in addition to giving out the treats.

All of this will take numerous sessions and so if you only cause something to itch his back once a week be prepared for him to take months to learn to kneel on command.

How do you encourage your horse to want to be with you

Assuming it is a horse that has not been handled much I put him in a round pen or small arena and let him go and do whatever he wants for several mintues while I'm in the pen. I'm just observing at this stage. After about 5 or 10 minutes I do approach and retreats and / or run or walk around at the same intensity as the horse does. Basicly mirror its movements. If he runs I run parellel to him and then quickly run the other way. If he is just walking I do the same thing but at a walk. I do this and progressively get closer to the horse until the horse's curiosity takes over and he starts following me when I turn away. I then offer my hand as I face him at an angle. If he touches it I pull it back and turn around. Once he touches it a couple of times I then attempt to touch the side of his neck to pet him. If he stands still great. If he moves off I turn around again and walk off. Eventually when he starts allowing me to pet him all over I then start attempting to have him move his head, hips, feet, etc with direct pressure or by just my movements.

When he is no longer reluctant or frightened by me touching him and asking for movement I can progress to more specific requests using a halter and rope.

That is a very brief explanation of what one can do. For the most part when you start asking for requests that cause him to move his feet alot will cause him to want to be with you more because you will come across as a strong leader who knows what you want.

How do you teach your horse to sidepass

First lets make it easy for the horse to understand the concept of walking sideways by having him practice with you working with him from the ground. Have him in a halter with a 12 foot lead rope and line him up so that he is perpendicular to a fence. Lets have him move sideways to his right so you will then stand on his left side facing his side with the lead rope in your left hand and a stick or a dressage whip in your right hand. Now wiggle the rope up and down lightly at first and then gradually increase the intensity until your horse move his front feet away from you. At that point stop wiggling.

At this point he probably is at a 45 degree angle to the fence with his head farther away from you than his rear end. Now with the stick lightly tap his hips so that his hips move away from you. Now I bet he is looking at you because his hips moved farther away than his front end. So wiggle the rope again to get his front feet to move away from you. You probably got the idea now. Wiggle the rope to get the front end to move away and tap his hip to get the hind end to move away. Alternate between the two but do not do both at the same time but you can wiggle the rope once, then tap once, then wiggle once, tap, wiggle, etc. Have him only move a few steps at a time and then stop and relax and pet him.

When he starts moving both ends easily try just tapping your stick on the ground in front of you about where your stirrup hangs. If he moves nicely away sideways then great. If not you can go back to alternating between wiggling the rope and tapping his hip with the stick. Once he moves both ends nicely with just tapping the stick on the ground then the next stage will be to have him stand there and place the end of the stick in the middle of his side and lightly press. Allow him to learn that a press here means to move sideways. If he doesn't move sideways then go back a step to just tapping the stick on the ground.

Hopefully now he understands about pressure on the middle of his side means to move sideways so you can now saddle him and get on to try it. Still have him facing a fence and then with you sitting there turn your hips as you look to the right so that your entire upper body is facing towards the right. Place your left leg against his body with your left heel lightly pressing against him too. Your right leg will be moved away from his body completely in the direction you want to go. Use a direct rein to tilt his nose slightly to the right if he hasn't started moving in a few seconds of applying pressure against his side. He then most likely will step with his front feet first. If he gets to the point where he is at a 45 degree angle to the fence with his front end leading the way then drop the rein and move your left heel back to ask his hips to move over till he is squared up to the fence again. Repeat this till he has moved about 10 feet then give him a break.

Repeat the above for moving sideways to the left but make sure he moves easily from the ground going both directions before you practice it under saddle. Make sure you pause after he takes a couple of steps each time to give him a reward for figuring out that is what you want. Pet him a lot too. After several sessions he should move easily under saddle for you and then you can practice it without using a fence as a barrier from going forward for he will know that sideways is what you want.

How do you stop a yearling filly from trying to bite you?

Weanlings and yearlings minds are like sponges that are damp with moisture. They have a little bit of experience of what the world has to offer but still have a lot of room to hold in more and so are eager to learn. They can be very curious while at the same time frighten easily because they don't have the experience. Now think back to when you were 5 years old and you first experimented with your moms makeup (or whatever age you were). You probably made a mess of it all over you and on clothing, furniture, etc. She found out. Your mom then probably did one of two things. Either yelled, screamed, spanked you and sent you to your room or was astonished and told you how disappointed she was in you and sent you to your room to think about what you did. In both cases you got sent to your room to think about what happened. You probably can relate in someway to either option. Which one made the most lasting impression on you on how you act today. I bet it was when your mom was disappointed in you because that effected our emotions more than then the spank did. A spank is short term where the disappointment in love lasts immeasurably longer.

Now lets relate that to a horse. Most of the time a weanling or yearling nibbles on you because they are just being curious and since they don't have hands all they can use to grab something to figure out what it is is by using their mouth. I want the horse to learn that nibbling is not right to do to humans but I don't want them to be frightened so that it becomes harder for them to earn our respect later on. What I do is as soon as the horse nibbles me I go and give her a lot of rubs stronger than normal on her cheek. I keep rubbing even if the horse turns her head away. I rub for about 5 to 7 seconds and then do a light pet somewhere else on her body for about 1 to 2 seconds then I go back to doing whatever it was I was doing before the nibble. If you do this each time she nibbles you then after about 3 times she would've figured out that each time she nibbles she gets a hard rub that isn't that fun so she'll stop doing it and will still respect and appreciate being around you.

If on the other hand if she just bites you for the fun of it then that is another story. Especially if it really hurts. She is playing a game with you and we want her to know that that game is not allowed. You then need to take in account your own safety and so you need to do what it takes to protect yourself. The only catch is you can only use your bare hands and only touch her above the legs and not on the head. Based off of John Lyons methods from the moment she bites you you have 3 seconds to kill her with your bare hands and it can not last shorter than 3 seconds either. Hit, Slap, Scream, Yell for those 3 seconds on her main body and then stop. Do NOT do anything else past those 3 seconds. She most likely will run off and go find a herd mate to hang out with. If she takes off before the end of the 3 seconds at least continue to yell. The drawback with this is it can take her a while to warm back up to you but as soon as she does give her a lot of affectionate pets and rubs. You can even go to her after about minute later after the reprimand. All the hitting and screaming will cause a frightened response in her and so she may not do it again after one or per haps 2 times. But at the same time she will then be a little afraid of you and so you will need to build up trust again.

Each method works if it is done for the right reason as long as you are consistent.

I have a 19 year old mare than has always refused to load into a two horse trailor. What do I do to get her to load?

A horse will typically try all her avoidance tricks when it comes to loading into trailers unless they are taught that there is nothing to be afraid of in the trailer. I got into training because we once had a horse that would put up a fight and then end up hurting herself or me in the process. She was 16 years old at the time and like your horse put up a big fuss when it came time to loading. I finally decided one day to spend as long as it takes to have her load into the trailer and be calm about it. It took 2 straight hours but the persistance paid off. After the 2 hours it then only took a few minutes for her to load the 2nd time. Then on the 3rd time of trailering and then after she loaded within a few seconds. All this was done without having to step into the trailer myself or use anything other than a rope and dressage whip.

The first thing you need to do is set aside a full day. It may not take a full day to teach her but at least you'll have the time for it. Work with your horse in having her do small circles around you. To get her going tap her butt with a stick , riding crop, or dressage whip as you stand at her shoulder and point with your other hand that is holding a lead rope in the direction you want her to go. After a while do this next to the trailer or building or fence where there is only about 3 feet distance between you and the imovable object. This way your horse will have to get accustom to going through a narrow space. Once she does this freely and willingly then start working with her at the back of the trailer. You then ask her to hop in using the same cues as asking her to go around you in a circle. If she tries going between you and the trailer then step closer to the trailer. If she backs up then give her slack, let her back up, and walk with her but as soon as she stops ask her go forward again. If she stops going forward give her a moment, pet her and then ask her to go forward again. Keep working with her till her feet are next to the trailer opening. At that point just pet her for at leat a minute then ask her to step forward again. If she puts a foot in the trailer then stop asking for the cue and pet her some more. If she takes the foot out no poblem just ask her to go forward again. If she keeps it there then give her at least 15 seconds of petting then ask her to go forward for the next foot. Keep repeating this pattern for each of her feet till all 4 feet are in the trailer. This is where it might seem to take a lot of time but as long as you are persistant, gentle, firm, and reward her with lots of petting or rubs she will eventually get in.

How do I get my horse to circle around me?

Lets get him to want to move forward when you lightly tap his hips. You will be using the end of a rope or a dressage whip or stick about 4 feet long, and lightly taping his hips while you are holding your lead rope with at least 3 feet of slack in it between your grip and the halter. You will be about your arms length away from him on his left side but facing his shoulder. Keep you left arm down (the one holding the lead) and start tapping his hips till he moves forward a step then immediately stop tapping him. If he turns into you and trys to go to your left side while he takes the step let him. He at least went forward. Do this at least 3 times. He should have the concept down by that point. Now this time hold your left arm up and while holding the lead point in the direction you want him to go before you tap him. Since your arm is up it will appear to be a barrier to him so he will hesitate wanting to go into you and most likely will go forward 2 or 3 steps in order to go around your arm. Practice this a few times. When he goes forward consistantly then try just holding your lead hand up. He should start to go on his own because he knows if he doesn't start moving forward then the other hand will start tapping him. If he doesn't just lift the other hand and pause for half a second. He may start going at that point. If not then proceed with tapping again.

Once he is consistant at going forward with you just pointing and then turning around you when he reaches then end of 3 feet of rope then gradually allow more rope out so he can make a bigger circle around you. If he gets confused with the bigger circle then try making the circle a tad smaller but still try to keep the radius bigger then the 3 feet you started with. You can also try glaring at his hip when you want him to move and if he still gets a little confused then lift the other hand as you did before you were going to tap him. This will add an additional push to get him started.

One last thing, once he is moving forward with you holding your arm out in the direction you want him to go drop that arm. If he stops then raise it back up again. We want him to circle around you until you say otherwise. At the same time we don't want you having to hold your arm up constantly.

Later on you'll want him to stop. Just say the sound you want to use to have him stop and then become really relaxed and look at the ground until he stops.

My horse panics when his head is tied. He will pull back until he's free. Is there any way to correct this?

From what you told me it sounds like your horse was never properly taught how to be tied. Your horse sometime in the past learned that if he pulls hard enough the thing holding him will give and so now he keeps pulling until something breaks. The good news is that it can be cured but the bad is that it may take a bit of time.

I assume your horse leads well for you. If not make sure he can before you try the following.

First off we need to teach your horse to give in to pressure. Stand in front of your horse with a lead rope that is at least 12' long. Lightly hold the lead rope in one hand and start to pull the rope with the other hand but let it slip through that hand as you bring it closer to you. Now switch hands and then when you let it slip through this time hold the rope a little tighter in the hand that is letting the rope slip. Continue switching hands and gradually keep adding a little bit to your grip until the horse starts coming to you. As a safety precaution so you don't get a rope burn, wear gloves and if your horse starts to panic and pull back allow the rope to slip through your hands till you get to the end of the rope and then if he still is backing, walk with him until he stops. Then at that time you walk backward holding the end of the rope with him following you till you get back to the point where you started.

Once your horse consistantly comes to you by just lightly tugging the lead then we can start working with a hitching post. Using a lead that is about 20 feet long have your horse stand about 12 feet or more from the hitching post. You then will stand on the opposite side of the hitching post and practice having the horse come to the hitching post like what you did in the previous paragraph.

When he comes to you without hesitation when you tug on the rope we then will have you on the same side of the hitchen post as your horse but have the rope go from the horse to the hitchen post and then back to you. Both of you will be about 4 feet from post. Now lightly pull the rope towards you which will cause tension in the rope to the horse. Ideally we want him to step towards the post and walk past you but if he doesn't but instead backs up then drop the rope so he doesn't feel any pressure. As soon as he stops pick up the rope and then lightly pull it towards you again. Keep doing this until you can get your horse to walk to the hitchen post whenever he feels the pressure you put on the rope. You then ought to be able to tie him to a hitchen post without any problems. You may have to practice this same scenerio with a tie on your horst trailer or anything you normally tie him too.

Note: Whenever you do tie him make sure the rope is at least long enough where he can reach the ground with his nose. This way he won't feel so nervous and scared because he will have free movement of his head.

Work at your horses pace with this. He may do fine with just an hours worth of time or you may have to work with this for several days. In any case have fun with your horse

How do I teach my horse to neck rein?

to get your horses to neck rein we'll work from the ground first.

I want to mention that having your horse neck rein with reins is just half of it. The horse should also learn leg cues so he can associate the two together so that the message is more clear but I'll just give you some points on how to get the reining part.

From the ground stand to the side of your horses head. Take a rope and hold it in your hands with your hands about 2 feet apart and your arms out strait. Now use the rope and press against the side of your horses head at the same location where your halter rests around your horses nose. Remember to use little pressure and then slowly increase the pressure until your horse moves his head away from your pressure. Do this about a dozen times per side. Now do it again with the side you started with but this time do it with the rope being pressed against your horses neck. Remember to repeat this about a dozen times per side. After your done do something else for an hour or two or wait till tomorrow.

The next time you do this just start with the horses neck and repeat the same steps that you did before. After a few sessions you'll notice your horse will start to move his head/neck away from you as soon as you touch him with the rope.

Next we want to teach your horse to move away from you with what I call feigned pressure. Basicly pressure that is due to motion but without actually touching your horse. We want your horse to move his head away from you as you swing the rope in front of you as if it was a propeller. If he doesn't move his head away as you are swinging it slightly rotate your hand so that the tip of the rope starts hitting his neck and/or use your other hand and tap your horses cheek until he moves his head away. Work with this until your horse moves his head away without hesitation. Then do something else for awhile or come back the next day.

Repeat everything I have mentioned so far but this time your goal isn't just to have your horse move his head away but to actually move his front feet so that he pivots away from you.

Now you can work while mounted. While mounted work with having a rope or rein lay against your horses neck. If he moves his neck away from the rope then great. If not, swing another rope near his face like what was done from the ground so he moves away from the feigned pressure or wave a 3 to 4 foot long stick out in front of you. He ought to move away nicely for you because of the work you've done from the ground.

There are other methods to use then what I mentioned above but the above works for me most of the time.

My horse chews non stop on his bit. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

In many ways it is looked upon as it being a good thing for a horse to chew on the bit. A bit can work like a pacifier to keep your horse calm. Now if it is excessive then many times it is because the bit does not fit right. You may have your bridle too tight and it pulling on his cheeks causing him discomfort or it is too loose and and so he is trying to adjust it with his tongue. Most of the time you want it so you bit pulls back on the back of his mouth to where it just starts to cause a crease at the back.

Also it is beneficial to have your equine dentist file his teeth so he has a bit set in place. This way the bit will set in the correct place in his mouth.

The type of bit makes a difference too. If you are using too harse of bit for the level of training that your horse knows then he will allows be focusing on the bit and working with it to avoid feeling pain from it. I personally like using a snaffle or a very mild curb bit that breaks in 2 places for the mouthpiece with a copper roller in the middle.

Trying these things may work but there is the possibility that your horse has made this a learned behavior and so will always chew it excesively. One cure for that is to teach your horse to not use a bit and to be able to ride bridleless :) I personally enjoying doing most of my riding in just a rope halter.

I'm ready to consider hackamore or bridle for my young horse.  What bits (no pun intended) of advice do you have for starting out?

For a hackamore I would suggest anything that has a soft and/or a smooth finish for the piece that goes over the nose. I do not recommend a mechanical hackamore for they do not translate left and right cues very well.

For a bit my favorite is a bit that breaks into 3 pieces for the mouthpiece. It can be a curb with very short shanks (try not to go longer than 3") so that there will be only slight leverage or you could go with a full cheek or D-Ring snaffle where you will not have any extra leverage which is good since it gives your horse a chance to learn progressive stages of pressure. The mouthpiece will be smooth and will have a copper roller and ideally should be made of sweet iron. The reason for this is so that the bit has a good taste to the horse and that way the horse will like having the bit in his mouth to play with.

You may think "why would I want my horse to play with the bit if I want him to pay attention to me?" Horses typically don't think ahead (thus you don't see to many horses playing chess) They are concerned with the present and want instant gratification. When you give a cue with the bit a discomfort occurs and so they then forget about playing with the bit and try to figure out what to do to get rid of the discomfort. Once he moves in a way that is desirable for you, you then release the discomfort and so the instant gratification comes back of the nice tasting thing in his mouth and he goes back to being a happy horse until you again give a cue. Eventually he will remember what he did to get rid of the specific discomfort and will instantly do the thing that keeps releasing it.

Another thing a nice tasting bit becomes is a pacifier when the horse becomes nervous. Have you ever noticed that when you ride and your horse grabs long piece of grass yet doesn't eat it. He just carries it around in his mouth until you either take it out or he goes and grabs a mouthfull of grass to eat. Having something to hold in his mouth is a calming effect and so the bit can be a way of keeping horses more calm.

Just to be fair I'll mention a negative thing that bits cause. Bits do cause the horse to salivate and so they will become more hungary and so they may try eating grass along the trail more often compared to if you were riding in just a halter. However, it can also do the opposite for a few horses in that it curbs the horses urge to eat like chewing gum does for us.

There are many articles on bits and even people have written full books on bits. Each year people try to improve on the bit but the concepts stay the same but still learn what you can so that you can make a rational and educated decision.

To reiterate I suggest a snaffle or gentle curb bit with sweet iron and or copper for the mouthpiece. The mouthpiece should always be smooth and be about 1cm in diameter (or about 3/8th of an inch). Also make sure the length of the mouthpiece fits the width of your horses mouth. You don't want it too small where it pinches your horses cheeks and at the same time you don't want it too large where the cheek pieces don't rest against your horse. If it is too large the cheek pieces will turn and pinch your horse when you lift the reins.

How do you change leads still in the canter?

This is a question that needs to assume a lot about what the horse already knows and how relaxed the horse is when you ride. The assumptions will be that the horse naturally changes lead when you change directions, say for instance you are doing figure eights and the horse naturally changes when your turn changes into the opposite direction. Also his neck should be supple and he willing flexes his neck when you direct rein him. If he puts up resistence to you when you turn then he is not mentally ready to listen to you when you give him the cues for changing leads. He should also be willing to start on what ever lead you ask him to lope off on from a trot and a stand still and will maintain the gate until you ask otherwise.

Now with our assumptions in place have him cantering down a straight line. If he is on the right lead and we want to go to the left lead then put slight tension in the left rein so that his nose tips to the left. Apply pressure to his left rib cage so that you are almost asking him to two track. After a few strides release the left rein tension and left leg at the same time while you put your right calf and heel against his body and back a couple of inches from straight down. You then may want to put your left leg ahead and out about an inch too. Hold this position until he changes leads. Then go back to a neutral state. Don't force the lead by applying more pressure. Just let him find it.

If you run out of room going in the straight line then at the point where you have to turn ask him to turn to the left so that he will pick up on the left lead anyway. Practice this only 2 or 3 times per session. If he does the lead change on the first attempt don't bother doing the lesson again till the next session. This way he won't associate lead changes as being a form of punishment. Also allowing him to work on this in a big pasture will be best so there is time for him to figure out the pressure against him releases when he does the lead change and not just because he turned.

How do you teach your horse how to bow?

Have your horse in a halter and lead rope so you can guide him if need be.

Start by getting him to reach his head to the ground for a treat.  Then slowly keep putting the treats farther and farther back until it is in between his front legs.  Ideally he should keep putting his head back farther to get the treat but he may start stepping backwards to get the treat.  Don't dispear if he does this.  Just use a halter and lead rope and guide his head down to it. What you are trying to do is let him know that he can reach down and get the treat without moving backwards  Stop this exercise once he has been reaching to his feet with his head consistently.

Now we will work on a completely different thing.  Work on him giving you his left foot,  as if you were going to clean it but instead of facing towards his rear you are facing towards the front.  Get to the point where he easily just rests his foot in your hand.  Ideally he should lift his foot for you but that may not happen until after many days.  Don't worry, we can still move ahead as long as he will rest his foot nicely in your hand.

Now we are going to combine the two and add a cue.  The cue I used was placing my hand on his left shoulder but you can do anything you want for a cue.

1.  Get him to rest his foot in your hand.
2.  Put the treat down between his front legs but now just behind them.  You may need to show him where you are putting the treat by having his nose follow the treat down.
3.  Do your cue.
4.  Now just roll back slightly to his rear end while holding his foot while
he trys reaching down to get the treat.  When you move back about 6 inches he may stop and lean back forward because this is strange to him.  Just dwell for about 15 to 30 seconds and try again.  Do this until he is comfortable with reaching down to get the treat while you lean him back slightly.  After a while of doing this his right foot will be extended out in front.  His left leg will be kneeling down on the ground and his his head will be tucked up underneath him as he reaches for the treat.

Only have him bow down at most 2 to 3 times a session.  Don't come back to a session until an hour or several days later.  You need to have him rest his muscles and think about what he did because it does put a lot of strain on the right leg muscles in order for him to get back up let alone the mental strain.

I have this 19 yr old mare and she is "all go and no whoa." What can be done to to calm her down?

Because of her age and experience it sounds like a behavior associated with fear from pain. I suggest you have her teeth looked at by an equine dentist to find out if this is the case. You will be amazed at all the soars in the horses mouth when there teeth are not wearing evenly.

Now if pain is not her problem then to teach her your cue for stopping place a branch, stick, pole, board or a piece of rope down that is about 8 feet long perpendicular to a fence inside a round pen or arena. Ride at a walk along the fence and ask your horse to stop about 10 feet before you come to the stick. If she stops before the stick then great. Sit there for 30 seconds and turn her around and go the opposite direction. Stop again before you come to the stick. Again if she stops great and sit there for 30 seconds. Do this several times and then progress to the trot doing the same thing. If she doesn't stop before her feet cross the line then when she does stop have her back up until her front feet are back over on the other side of the stick and then wait the 30 seconds. What this does is teach your mare to learn that she will be stopping at the same point each time. When she does learn that she will then be associating what your body movements are right before you stop and so she will pick up on those cues when you start stopping her at other times. Practice this several times a week and have the stick at a different location in the pen each day.

How do I get a horse to nod yes?

Hold a treat in one hand and a pointy object such as a screw or nail in the other hand. Show the horse the treat and then with the hand that is holding the treat make a fist and and flex your wrist up and down as if your wrist is nodding yes. At the same time gently press the point of your sharp object to the horses chest. Slowly apply pressure till your horse makes an attempt to bend his head down towards the pointy object. At that time give your horse the treat. How this works is the pointy object acts like a bug biting him and so he then attempts to shoe it away. Repeat this several times a day and in no time your horse will learn to nod just by seeing you flex your wrist.