I do plan on introducing a bit to Z. I might have gone completely bridleless if I was 17 years old riding bareback at a gallop over open pasture but those days were never mine and I like more security in my old age.
The trainer had tried to introduce her to a bit, but it turned out she was having teeth issues (which I’ve since corrected -pulling of wolf teeth and a baby tooth that didn’t drop). I also didn’t like the way he was introducing the bit so it all worked out in the end.
I did get the bit in earlier in week so I know it and the bridle fit well. Howevever, Z was very resistant to the idea (hm I think I can thank the trainer for that) so I went back to basics which is using Linda Tellington-Jones mouthwork exercises.
The Mouthwork can be combined with the nostril TTouch and the ear TTouch. I would also recommend adding in Peggy Cummings Chin Rest, Cheek Delineation, and Cheek Press, as well as forward stretches. This work relaxes the head, jaw and throatlatch and makes the horse more comfortable with being handled in these areas. They would be helpful for the head shy horse, and preparing the horse for worming or dental work.
During the mouthwork, the handlers’ hand is rubbed across the front of the gums under the lip. Z’s nose gets a little pointy like they do when searching for hay on the ground (so cute!).
Here I use my finger pad to continue gently rubbing the gum. Z has started moving her jaw in response and opening her mouth.
You can work on the opposite side with just a feel. Use the pad of your fingers, not the end where the nail could poke the horses’ gum. Make sure your hands are clean from lotions or perfume, and that your fingernails are trimmed.
The lips can be lifted and manipulated gently by pulling it slightly outwards from the mouth.
I’m further encouraging the mouth with clicker training: when she opens, I click and then treat with a bit of carrot. This signals to her that opening the mouth is desired behavior.
Once she feels totally comfortable with me in her mouth, releasing her head down more and opening upon a request, I’ll add the bit.