Ask Our Expert - Teryn Muench
This Month's Expert
Teryn Muench, a performance horse trainer from Marietta, Oklahoma, makes his living starting colts and laying the foundation a horse needs to compete in Western performance events. A champion in American Stock Horse Association events and ranch horse competitions, Muench also competes in Mustang Makeover events, winning the 2011 Mustang Magic Trainers Challenge and the 2010 Supreme Extreme Mustang Makeover.
The March issue features Muench's tips for saddling a young horse for the first time in the article "A Simple Start," on page 27. Visit westernhorseman.com for an exclusive training tip from Muench, as well. For more information on Teryn Muench, visit terynmuenchperformancehorses.com.
Q: My 4-year-old mare has developed a habit of bobbing her head when I ask her to give to bit pressure. She doesn't do it all the time, and I think it's related to her being anxious or uncertain about what to do. I have had her teeth checked and she doesn't have any physical problems. I've worked on flexing her in both directions so she will relax, and she is pretty good at that. The head bobbing mostly happens if I ask for her to flex vertically, but a few times she's done it when we're standing still and there was no pressure on the bit at all. How can I get her to stop doing this?
Shannon, Somerville, Tennessee
A: I feel like your mare is bobbing her head because of the point at which you release her when asking for collection. In the beginning stages of teaching a horse to be collected, it is important to release as soon as she gives you her head. However, if you never ask her to hold her collection for longer, her first response will be to take her head away from you when you release. This teaches her to bob her head. This becomes a learned behavior, which is why she does it sometimes even when you don't pull on her head. The way that I would attempt to fix this problem is by trotting small circles with her head tipped to the inside and with vertical flexion. Keep asking her to be soft and collected for more than one stride, building on it each day. If she does it standing still on a loose rein, I would immediately make her move her feet and drive her up into her chin (creating vertical flexion) until she is happy to keep her feet still without throwing her head.
Q: I have a 5-year-old gelding that, while leading, tends to walk at a much faster pace than me. How can I teach him to respect the speed I choose to walk at and follow accordingly?
Joe, Las Cruces, New Mexico
A: There are two different approaches to correcting this problem. The first approach is to walk off leading the horse. As soon as he goes past you, chase his hind end away so that he learns each time he goes past you it is more work for him. By chase him, I mean use the lead line as a lunge line and circle him around you a few times at a trot. Horses are lazy by nature, so in time he will decide it is easier to walk behind. The second approach is to lead him off, but before he passes you, stop and back him up a step or two. This will slow down his mind, which will transfer to his feet, while also reinforcing that you want him to stay behind you.
Q: My gelding is very smart. Recently, he has taken to refusing to open his mouth to accept the bit. I have been riding in the same bit and bridle for a few years and he has his teeth checked regularly with no problems. I can't figure out any issues other than he has gotten wise to how to refuse me. He is not mean spirited, but is very stubborn. Any ideas on how to get him to relax his jaw other than my inserting my finger in the corner of his mouth?
Karly, Orange Beach, Alabama
A: In my mind, inserting a finger into the side of the horse's mouth is the proper way to bridle him. In my entire life, I have only had one horse that would grab a bridle out of my hands. I feel like it is safer and that the horse is more respectful if you do have to use your finger to open his mouth. As long as you put your finger at the corner of his mouth, there are no teeth to cut your fingers. If you do not use your fingers in the side of his mouth, you would likely be rubbing the bit into his teeth, which would be causing the horse discomfort.
Send in questions to firstname.lastname@example.org for next month's "Ask Our Expert" with cow-horse trainer Tom Neel.
If you'd like to submit a question, please email Assistant Editor Kate Bradley at email@example.com by February 25. Please include your full name, city and state in your inquiry. Depending on the volume of questions received, some questions may not be answered. Western Horseman retains the right to edit submissions for clarity.