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Help! My horse leans, runs out, stops, "is naughty (!)" !

Gail Johnson- 19 October 2020
Always worth an updated re share as still a problem unfortunately :
A frequent query on the advice line is "i need a bit that is going to stop my horse:.....leaning, running out, running off when I want to stop, etc etc - help!!"  " Hes's the same in EVERY BIT and I have tried EVERY BIT ........what shall i do? ? ?.  As usual, there is never just one straightforward reply.  Many factors need to be taken into account to try to rule out the reason for the leaning and one of the most important is ; "does the current bit fit?" 

A lot of the bits I see are at least 1/2" too big and therefore sitting out to one side under rein tension.  This can result in, depending on how the noseband and bridle support the bit, the bit hanging out to the left rein even when you are on the right rein.  Sometimes it can even slide across the tongue quite harshly when a change of rein occurs and riders wonder why their horse throws its head.  I won't move on to recommend anything until I have worked through my process which includes this important factor and some customers can get quite frustrated "just recommend something!".  Erm, no; I do this job for many reasons, including that I am actually quite good at it so just have a little patience and send me the information I need. :-) 

The bit needs to sit centrally and needs assessing with and without rein tension as to whether it fits or not.  If you are not sure, feel free to send photos to me at and I will check it for you :-)  This will happen before I recommend anything.

What is your horse trying to tell you.....and are you listening?

Gail Johnson- 03 February 2020
I have had a few cases recently where owners have commented "oh it only takes him/her a few days to work a new bit out and then he/she goes back to the same habit" (whatever that might be); "he/she goes the same in every bit I try" (well he shouldn't if you are using different bits !), "he/she is a nightmare & is so naughty he doesn't even want the bridle on" (this one makes me especially sad).

Something people think I am a little bit mad I am sure with all of the questions I have to ask and information I have to gather but this is the best way I can help.  I often won't send a bit out until I am convinced you are using the right size or at least letting me help you find the right size as I have yet to meet the TB that needs a 6" loose ring even though there are many out there that are in something that size :-(  I also won't send a bit if I am sure you don't have a bitting issue and it is more that you need a behaviour expert, a dentist, a saddle fitter, a McTimoney, a physio etc etc

I think we all need to just stand back, look at what we are doing from the horse's point and view and really try to work things out: Why doesn't your horse want the bridle on - is it a new thing, first time it has happened , what happened in the last session, did you catch your horse with a full cheek when bridling up, or was the work too hard at this stage of training?  There are many questions we need to ask ourselves before we make such judgments as "he's naughty" etc etc.

Why does the horse show the same evasion when using very different bits; what is your horse trying to tell you?  And are you prepared to listen?

I am very much of the way that my horses are my friends too; my three at the moment are now all retired pets and the final retirement (HBH Woody) was when I finally listened to him ; when he saw the saddle arriving he went from being a horse who used to love his work and come over to meet me at the gate for his tack, to one who saw me with the saddle and started walking off (!) He just kept looking at me and one day I interpreted this as "will you just give up, I'm old, tired and my pelvis is now wonky & I don't have much topline anymore... stop trying to ride me!"  I must say that he has been a much happier horse since I listened and is happy to come meet me at the gate again knowing that generally the only things I try bother him with now are cuddles, carrots and food.

What the HBH herd doesn't know yet, is that there are only about 28 days until they all get a new brother :-) :-)