What to do when your horse sticks his nose out, bounces on his front end when he stops or sets for a barrel, and otherwise costs you extra time on the barrel pattern. Why does he do this?  And what can you do to get him back on his rear end? The habits of sticking his nose out and bouncing on his front end and not getting on his rear end could be caused by pain in his mouth or the wrong bit. Maybe your horse is sore somewhere?

When a horse does flex at the poll, the soft tissues of his tongue are crowded together at the throat. That increases the pressure of the enamel points on a sore tongue, which can result in the bad habits mentioned above. You see, the horse’s tongue is a large, strong, mobile structure. The space between the rows of teeth is relatively small. Therefore, a horse has great difficulty avoiding the sharp enamel points, especially on the back teeth. The back part of the tongue contains some small bones, which give in width and rigidity. Therefore, the first thing I would check on my horse would be his teeth.  Have your Veterinarian or Equine Dentist float his teeth and see if this will cure the problem. 

Every horse is an individual, so you may have the wrong bit.  One advantage of going to a clinic is that you can experiment with different bits without having to buy one of every type. Usually the barrel racing instructor will bring a variety of bits to the clinic for just this purpose.

Possibly your bit is hung too low in your horse’s mouth. When you pull back it causes pain and he sticks his nose out to try and get away from the pain. Maybe a tie-down would help. 

If you can’t go to a clinic, I suggest you find someone in your area who is a barrel horse trainer and ask for advice or go take a lesson. It may save a lot of frustration and wasted time on your part.

 Maybe your horse needs to go back to basics and learn to get his head down. You may also need to go and get some help from a professional trainer for this. 

 A bit that is good for position, keeping the horse collected in the turn, and for stopping is the correction bit. I would not use a draw gag bit. A draw gag has very little whoa and will elevate the head and point the nose like a bird dog. A combination bit, one with a bit and a rope or metal over the nose, may be the answer to your problems. Also, with a mullen mouth bit the horse’s face is dropped and the head is broken at the poll. So, I would try one of these. Make sure your bit is not pinching and use bit guards. 

 The thing that I want you to know is that, larger heavier mouthpieces on your bit are milder.  They are not nearly the threat to the horse as a smaller thinner bit. If a bit is too severe, and the horse gets hurt, the horse may react to the pain by running through the bridle.  Then when a lesser, milder bit is used the horse goes back to stopping on his rear end without sticking out his nose. So you may just need a change. 

 The proper bit can definitely make the difference in winning or losing. But remember, a set of good hands can make a bad horse better, but a set of bad hands can ruin a good horse fast! So, where bits are concerned, more is not always better.  And please, don’t jerk on the reins. 

Many horses won’t turn or stop, not because of the bit or his mouth, but because of a soreness problem. When the hocks or back is sore on a barrel horse, he won’t stop or turn very well. The same can be said of a front leg lameness also.  So, be sure to have your Veterinarian give him a check up. 

Hope your Spring starts off well and your arena has dried out some.


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