During our nice quiet conversation, she told me that her gelding had difficulty with a bit - any bit. She explained that she went out and purchased one of those long shanked, chain chin strap hackamores and tried riding him in it. Uh oh. She said it didn't go very well for either of them. I completely understood.
How knowledgeable of her to listen to her gelding and realize that something in his mouth caused him distress and how wonderful too, that she sought a solution that might help him. With limited options, she purchased the mechanical hackamore from a local tack shop. Her mind was in the right place, but her gelding told her that the mechanical hack wouldn't work either.
She brought a modified d-ring snaffle to her lesson. I took one look at that shiny aluminum bit and asked my assistant to bring over her sweet iron snaffle bridle. I explained to the student that racehorses deal with the worst bitting issues ever. She told me that he ran in a ring snaffle and I proceeded to explain how the ring snaffle works inside the horse's mouth. Eyebrows shot up and heads started to shake back and forth. It's no wonder he didn't win many races and she now understood why her gelding didn't want a bit in his mouth.
I asked her to bridle him with her gear. I wanted to see how bad he was before we continued. The gelding surprised me. He dropped his head nice and low and sucked her snaffle right in. She prepared her saddle, took him in the arena and got on. All of it smooth, no objections from her guy at all. It was obvious he enjoyed having a job to do.
They started out at a nice walk and I could see that she was trained to be very stiff in the saddle. Her position was correct, but hard, which offered no information to the horse through the reins or her seat. He responded to the lack of communication by doing what he was trained to do. He stuck his head straight up in the air, pointed his nose to the sky and pulled himself along on his forehand. She didn't get upset with this arrangement. She just tightened her reins up more and tried to pull his head down. He responded by leaning heavily against her hands, head up, nose out. The muscles under his neck bulged as he braced against her. The tug of war began and I knew who the winner would be.
They went around for a while trying to figure each other out. They did some trotting and a small bit of cantering, but the horse continued to lose his balance. I called her over and suggested that the easiest solution was to fix him and then begin working on her. She dismounted and we exchanged bridles.
I mounted and offered the gelding an opportunity to connect with me. He didn't understand. No worries. I just rubbed him and waited. When he couldn't stand still any longer, he moved off at a walk. I dropped the reins on his neck and sat relaxed, no tension in any muscle. His head stayed at wither level. He moved forward nicely, looking for direction from the reins. When I didn't pick them up, he discovered that he didn't have anything to lean against. Now he could walk along without falling on his front end. He experimented further and made a few more adjustments. Pretty soon, he was walking along comfortably, pushing himself forward from his hindquarters.
With balance established, I moved on to the bitting problem.