So often professionals toss phrases and sayings around without any explanation – for example what do we mean by a “soft mouth”? I personally believe it’s hard to define everything one is trying to express during a lesson, when sometime’s there’s just too much going on all at once. So, over time, I will discuss and define some of the more common phrases I use and hear. I hope this helps some of you.
A horse with a “soft mouth” is responsive and not afraid of
the bit or pressure from the bit. A
horse with a soft mouth doesn’t chew and gnaw on the bit or overwork a roller
with his tongue. (Rollers in bits don’t
necessarily achieve what some riders want.
This is not to say that rollers aren’t a good thing with some
horses. Rollers are meant to help a horse
keep a wet mouth, not pacify a nervous horse!)
The horse’s mouth should be wet, not dry. The mouth should be softly closed, not
clamped shut or gaping and opening. He
should be soft in the poll and also soft on both sides of his jaw. And, the horse should easily and willingly
follow the rein around (this includes: up, back, and right and left).
A Western Pleasure horse should work off the bridle, driving
up to the bridle, then dropping of the bridle and carrying his own frame. A Hunter Pleasure horse should have light
contact. All horses should be light in
the bridle, relaxed in the neck and carrying themselves in the manner
appropriate to their work. For instance,
Western working horses have a shorter rein than pleasure horses because of the
line of communication between rider and horse needs to be quicker as required
by the demands of the class.
When a horse has an educated but soft mouth, the rein
becomes a cue and the contact with the bit can become very light. This is a lovely thing to achieve! (and speaking of soft mouths, here's a picture of our Rosie's First Gold - aka Tilly - 2011 Cdn Natl Champion Working Hunter). See you next week! JD