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R. T.

Getting a horse to relax a stiff, locked jaw?

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I happen to have a book in front of me at the moment, "The New Basic Training of the Young Horse," by Ingrid and Reiner Klimke.

On Page 59 under "The Development of basic training" they write:

He (the horse) should also accept a contact with the reins, flexing through the poll, top line of the neck and back, allowing the hindquarters to tuck under the body, which is achieved through halts and half-halts using the co-ordinated weight, leg and rein aids.

There is further clarification on pages 79 - 82. It's a good book and worth purchasing, even if you don't have a young horse. The basic training of a horse is basic training, whether it is a young horse or it is retraining.

The important part is that the horse must not be tense (that is, he must be free from pain and from anxiety,) and that the rider must use his weight and leg aids in coordination with the rein aids to achieve correct and supple contact with the bit.

If the horse is locking his jaw and bracing against the bit, the first thing to consider is actual pain ... pain in the mouth, jaw, poll, back, or even his legs. If it is determined that none of those things are the problem, the next step is to determine if the riding is the problem. You may need to have someone else ride the horse ... and not just once or twice, because locking the jaw can also be a habit or defensive posture and even if incorrect riding or a previous pain caused it, it can take several sessions, or weeks, or even months, to fix it.

And finally, it is important to understand that the problem must be addressed throughout the horse's body, and not just in the mouth. He must learn to step into the contact, which means that as a rider you must use your aids in coordination and not just your hand.

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Yes, I also agree that there could be pain somewhere in the horse's body. It would be wise to check, just to make sure.

A horse will also brace against the bit if there is too much contact, i.e. too much pressure in his mouth. Maybe you are holding him too tight. A horse will also do this when they are frustrated. Maybe he is getting confused about some of your aids.

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Appy, it's funny you mention the contact thing, because I actually notice that this horse tends to lock her jaw when I don't have a heavy contact, more like no contact. Maybe it's the dreaded slapping reins, probably my fault.

Anyway, thanks to both of you for the replies.

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Try doing lots of wrist circles and making sure you're not tense.

also, try overbending while massaging the rein on the outside. But, like my trainer says, it's all in the release. Once that jaw is a little more relaxed, praise him by straightening him out.

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R.T.-

Being a student of Mike Schaffer's, the training should loosen your horses jaw. To have your horse give, pull your outside rein straight back and a little vertically. And your inside rein should up towards your horses ears and just hold the contact. Your horse within a matter of seconds or so depending on your horse will soften their jaw, and will give to the bit and a see a lot of horses give and will chew at the same time. As soon as your horse gives to you, give back to your horse by softening your hand, not having a bit loop in the rein unless your starting a brand new baby and they need to understand with a big reward that giving is what you want. I have had problems with my horse that they will stiffen their jaw again right after I give to them, so I just ask again for them to give to me. If its a bad day usuall within 5-10 mins. my horse will realize, oh yea thats what you want, and we can continue to a normal training day. Another method is just to raise both reins completely straight up and wait until they give. I usually do this when my horse can bend comfortably, without needing the inside rein to go more out then up. Hope this helps!

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A lot of old timers do jaw exercises from the ground. You stand in front of the horse with the bridle on and place a finger in the bit ring and with only the lightest touch, ask for slight flexion in both directions and forward and back. Usually the mouth will relax the jaw and chew slowly. You can then go on to poll flexion exercises, carrot stretches, etc.

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Appylover4life, thanks, I actually tried this exercise last spring, but I felt it made my horse want to curl behind the vertical when I got on to ride her. But then again, we were both a little rusty at that time. I'll give it another try though.

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Most horses do tend to curl with this exercise. Mike told me this does not matter at all since it is more starting exercise, to just help your horse learn how to relax. As your horse gets more training they then will put their head more on the vertical.

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quote:

Originally posted by lightness:

A lot of old timers do jaw exercises from the ground. You stand in front of the horse with the bridle on and place a finger in the bit ring and with only the lightest touch, ask for slight flexion in both directions and forward and back. Usually the mouth will relax the jaw and chew slowly. You can then go on to poll flexion exercises, carrot stretches, etc.

I like that exercise, but you can also do in on the horse too. Rotate your right knuckles toward your left hip. Make sure that you don't pass over the neck with your hand though. And visa versa.

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