Horsemanship for Women/Part 1/Lesson 2

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Horsemanship for Women by Theodore Hoe Mead
Part 1, Lesson 2: To Hold the bit lightly (Flexion de la mâchoire), using the Curb

LESSON II.

TO HOLD THE BIT LIGHTLY (FLEXION DE LA MÂCHOIRE), USING THE CURB.

Begin by assuring yourself that the horse has forgotten nothing of the previous lesson. Do not allow him to sidle up to you upon your movement of the whip towards him, nor to twist his nose towards you, but make him advance in a straight line.

Now, standing at the left of the horse's head, with your feet firmly planted a little way apart, take the left snaffle-rein in the left hand, and the left curb-rein in the right, at five or six inches from their respective bits, and having brought the head into the proper perpendicular position, pull the two hands apart with gentle but steady force. Hold your whip, meanwhile, tip downward in the right hand, to prevent him from running back, which can be done without relaxing your pull by tapping him with it upon the breast.

The object of this lesson, as well as of those which follow, is to overcome involuntary muscular contraction. In some cases, as probably in the present one, the contractions are simply nervous, and will cease with the mental cause; in others the muscles have grown into improper positions, so that time will be required to set them right.

Your object at present is to get the jaw relaxed, so that you can move it at pleasure without resistance, and

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FLEXION OF THE JAW—USING THE CURB.

this may take time and patience, for you must not be satisfied with anything less than complete success, or you will repent it later. At first, however, seize the slightest involuntary opening of the horse's mouth as an excuse to relax your hold, caress and praise him, then let him stand a half-minute with his head free, and begin again.

When he is submissive, and pleased with you, he will almost always show it by gently champing his bit; but do not be deceived by a nervous simulation which you will probably detect, and which consists in opening the mouth a very little and immediately gripping the bit again. You will have been completely successful when, by simply drawing on the curb-reins, the head is brought to the proper perpendicular position, and the bit, instead of being gripped, is held lightly in the mouth, or, to use the school term, when the horse is "light in hand."

This is the only lesson in the series in which it is possible (though not probable) that your unaided strength may be insufficient; if so, get some one to help you over the first resistance of the horse. With care and tact, however, you will in all probability require no assistance.