Why Won’t My Horse Let Me Put His Bridle On?

How to Put a Bridle on a Horse That Tosses Its Head Up

Have you ever tried to put a bridle on a horse that would always toss its head as soon as it realized what you were doing? Yeah, I have too and it’s super annoying. In order to correct this behavior in your horse, you must first get to the root of the problem.

There are a few different reasons why your horse won’t let you put the bridle on; they are as follows:

  • The horse is suffering from mouth pain/injury
  • Are you putting the bridle on correctly?
  • Your horse is just being stubborn

 

When you can understand why the horse is behaving in such a manner, then you can take the proper actions needed to correct whatever is wrong. You would handle the situation much differently if a horse has mouth pain compared to if you’re just working with a stubborn horse. Either way, it’s important to be aware of why the horse is doing such a thing so you can help the horse in the right way.

The Horse Refusing the Bridle Due to Mouth Pain or Injury

One reason you may have trouble getting your bridle on your horse is that your horse may be suffering from mouth pain or injury. Problems in the horse’s mouth usually go overlooked since no one ever really thinks to check their horse’s mouth as a daily routine.

Horses have unique and sensitive mouths that require regular maintenance. Unlike humans, a horse’s teeth continue to grow their entire life. The way they chew also tends to wear their teeth and create jagged edges that can create abrasions and ulcers. Because of this, horses must have their teeth floated, or rasped down routinely by a veterinarian or equine dentist.

How To Tell If There’s Something Wrong In Your Horse’s Mouth

It can sometimes be hard to tell if your horse needs its teeth floated or if there is another issue in the mouth.  Here are some symptoms that horses can demonstrate when they are having mouth issues:

  • Excess salivation
  • Dropping food as they eat
  • Leaving partially chewed up hay behind
  • Throwing their head randomly
  • Avoiding the bridle 
  • Losing weight 

 

In order to avoid issues in your horse’s mouth being overlooked, make a habit of lifting up your horse’s gums and checking the inside of their mouth at least once a week. I learned this the hard way when I had noticed my horse acting weird for a few weeks. He was drooling quite a bit, so I finally turned up his lip to be introduced to a gaping foxtail abscess. (learn how to treat here)

Ever since then, I’ve always been sure to check my horse’s mouth regularly. Before assuming that your horse is just refusing the bridle to be stubborn, take time to re-examine your horse and see if they’re showing some behavior that links back to mouth issues.

Keep a record of when your horse’s teeth were floated last. Horses usually need their teeth floated at least once a year. If it’s been longer than that, you’ll want to call a vet and schedule a teeth examination.

Check to See If You’re Putting The Bridle On Correctly

Another reason why a horse may refuse to let you put its bridle on is that you’re attempting to put it on the wrong way. If you’re pushing the bit into the horse’s front teeth, that will cause discomfort for them. If the bit is backward or if the bridle is too tight, that may be another reason your horse is lifting its head when you attempt to put the bridle on.

How to Correctly Put a Bridle on a Horse

In the beginning, putting on a horse’s bridle may seem like a confusing mess. There are so many straps and parts that can get in the way. Here are some steps to help you put the bridle on correctly:

Step 1: Stand on the Left Side of the Horse

When I put the bridle on my horse, I usually do it from the left side since on the straps buckle on the left. Put the reins over your horse’s head before you try and put the bridle on the horse, just in case the horse tries to walk off.

Step 2: Use Both of Your Hands

Put your right arm under your horse’s head and hold the bridle right under the browband in front of your horse’s face. This hand will direct the bridle over the horse’s ears once the bit is in the horse’s mouth. With your left hand, you’ll hold the bit and use your hand to get the bit in the horse’s mouth.

Step 3: Make Sure Your Bit is Turned the Right Way

Before you attempt to put the bit in your horse’s mouth, make sure your bit is turned the right way. If you look closely at the bit, you’ll notice that there is a slight curve through the mouthpiece. Make sure that the curve outward curve faces forward.

Step 4: Stick Your Thumb Into Your Horse’s Mouth

When you go to put the bit in your horse’s mouth, don’t push the bit against there teeth in an effort to get them to open their mouth; this will only cause the horse to throw its head. Instead, Stick your left thumb into your horse’s mouth right behind their incisors and wiggle your thumb.

This will cause your horse to open their mouth, at which point you can slip the bit unto the mouth and pull the bridle over their ears.

How to Tell If Your Bridle Fits the Horse

Horse bridles can be confusing when it comes to telling if whether or not they fit. I’ve met a lot of horse people in my day and they always seem to have a different opinion when it comes to how the bridle should fit. Here’s how I gauge it:

The Bit

Bits can be too small or too big for your horse. A perfectly-sized bit would stick out of the horse’s mouth no further than 1/4 inch on either side. It also wouldn’t be too small that the bit cheek would be right up against the side of the horse’s mouth.

The Cheekpiece

There are two cheekpieces on a bridle that connect the bit to the rest of the bridle. These should be just long enough so that the bit in the horse’s mouth will make one wrinkle one either side of the horse’s mouth.

A better way to gauge if your cheekpieces are too loose or too tight is how the bit sits in your horse’s mouth. The bit should sit in the part of the horse’s mouth where there are no teeth. This is between the incisors and the molars. The bit shouldn’t come into contact with any teeth.

The Straps

The noseband goes around your horse’s nose. You should be able to fit one finger between your horse and the strap once the strap is tightened.

The throatlatch goes around your horse’s jaw. You should be able to fit four fingers between your horse and the strap once the strap is tightened.

The Browband

The browband goes over your horse’s brow and sits just below the base of the horse’s ears. This should not be so tight that it squeezes your horse’s head. A good rule of thumb is that you should be able to flatten your hand and fit it under the band.

How to Get a Bridle on a Stubborn Horse

One of the most common reasons your horse may refuse to accept the bridle when you try to put it on is that your horse is just being stubborn. It’s important to remember that having a bit in its mouth isn’t natural to a horse, and they tend to try and avoid things that aren’t natural to them.

Here’s how I train stubborn horses to allow me to put their bridle on:

Step 1: Teach the Horse to Lower It’s Head to Pressure

It can be easy for horses to avoid the bridle because all they have to do is stick their heads up in the air; then they’re too tall for you to do anything.

The first part of teaching your horse to accept the bridle is to train them to lower their head when pressure is applied to their poll, or right behind their ears. This will help to signal to your horse to keep their head down instead of tossing it up as a stubborn horse would do.

First, start with a halter and lead rope. With one hand, take the base of the lead rope that’s connected to the halter and pull towards the ground gently but firmly. At the same time, take your other hand and put it at the horse’s poll, gently applying pressure to guide the horse’s head towards the ground.

Step 2: Reward Your Horse If They Lower Their Head When Asked

When you first go to train a horse to lower their head, they may fight the pressure by trying to jerk their heads up. If this is the case, just keep consistent pressure on the lead rope and on the horse’s poll until you notice the horse drop their head even the slightest inch towards the ground. As soon as the horse does this, release the pressure and reward them.

From there, keep on practicing with your horse to get them to lower their heads to the ground. At some point, you should be able to simply get your horse to drop its head by placing your hand on their poll behind their ears.

Make sure your horse is very responsive to this exercise before trying to put the bridle on. You want to ensure that your horse understands what the pressure means in case they try to avoid the bridle.

Step 3: Apply Pressure To Your Horse’s Poll If the Horse Tries to Raise Its Head When You’re Putting the Bridle On

If my horse likes to fling its head up when I try to put the bridle on, I’m going to put the bridle on a little differently.  Instead of putting my right arm under the horse’s head and over to hold the bridle, I’ll now put my right arm over the horse’s head and between its two ears, and then with my right hand, I’ll hold the crown piece of the bridle in front of their face.

My arm on the horse’s head should apply the pressure to communicate with the horse that it needs to keep its head down.

I’ll then go to put on the bridle. If the horse tries to throw its head, I’ll keep the bridle where it’s at and apply a heavier pressure with my arm on top of the horse’s head. I’ll keep doing this until the horse drops its head. If the horse drops its head, I’ll let them sit there a moment so they know that they responded correctly, then I’ll continue until the horse lets me put the bridle on as normal.

I hope that this article will help you when it comes to answering the question why won’t my horse let me put his bridle on? Training your horse to lower its head will not only make it easier for you to put the bridle on, but it can also keep the horse from getting injured in a dangerous situation, like getting its head stuck in the fence.

Maybe you can get your horse’s bridle on, but what if you can’t get your horse to go? A lazy horse can be just as difficult to deal with as a horse that refuses to let you put the bridle on. If you’d like to know how I deal with a lazy horse, check out my article Making Your Horse Faster: What You Need to Know.