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Training a Horse Who Likes to Go Inverted to Stretch Down

Submitted by member: Diana

I just recently bought a 9-year-old jumper that I am turning into a hunter. He likes to go a bit inverted, nose up in the air, and has a very hard/locked mouth (left being worse than right). It is a challenge to get him to go long and low with his nose down and out. Do you recommend a specific bit for a locked/hard jaw? What kind of exercise and technique can I use to get him to stretch down? I am riding him in a loose ring snaffle with a slow twist but I feel he needs more bit. Thank you very much.

Answer by Rob Gage

Loose rings can cause lip pinches and are not commonly seen in the hunter ring. Slow twist gives more “bite” and is unlikely to gain his trust to lower the neck and relax the jaw. Better choice might be Sprenger Nathe mouthpiece “D” snaffle, a.k.a. “dogbone mouthpiece,” or “Duo,” this bit is my favorite because it is flexible and horses relax and drop down. Also, a bungee chambon known as a “Neck Stretcher,” when used properly, can teach a horse to go long and low in addition to building top line muscles required to carry themselves in this frame.

As far as exercises: trotting on a loose rein (not on buckle but just slightly looser than light contact) in a circle over poles on the ground. You can make a circle about 60 feet in diameter with 4 poles (see diagram below), trotting the circle until he relaxes. Go both directions. Gradually shorten the reins to take light contact. Remember that it takes TWO to pull! Eventually, you can start adding figure 8’s over a pole, then a tiny X on two pieces of the circle: so X then pole, then X then pole.

The answer is NEVER more bit, but more engagement from behind. Connection always comes from the back to the front!


exercise over ground rails for your horse


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Robert Gage

Judge Rob Gage is a 3-time World Cup Grand Prix rider and won the Rolex Crown of Excellence (won more Grand Prix than any other rider in the US) in successive years, along with being the AGA rider of the year in back to back years. He was the number 1 ranked Grand Prix rider in the US for over 80 consecutive weeks. He is a large “R” rated USEF Judge and course designer.

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