How to Teach your Young Horse to Accept the Bit
De-conditioning and positive reinforcement are the best methods to resort to when trying to get a horse to accept a bit. Horses, are naturally suspicious creatures, let's not forget that horses are prey and often tend to startle at the smallest things. Having a metal piece in their mouth may not be the most pleasant experience, but with patience, time and a bit of ''horse psychology'' you can get your horse to come to you to get that bit on in the same manner a dog comes to you to get to wear his leash.
The best way to start is by getting a horse accustomed to the bit early. No, you do not need to get your foal to wear it a young age, but it helps to get your foal used to be handled everywhere. You want to have that foal used to having its hooves raised, having its hair brushed, having its coat groomed and having its mouth touched. All these actions, if repeated routinely, will get your foal to be very collaborative once older.
Allow all these routines to happen frequently and make them pleasant. Always pass a treat after having those hooves lifted, praise with a nice pat after cleaning the nostrils, pass some honey on your fingers when handling the mouth. Gently massage the area where the bit will rest.Your foal should look forward to your gentle handling and praise.
Then months later, when you will have to perform these tasks, you will have a horse that has been preconditioned to all this and will be collaborative because he has learned to associate all these tasks with something positive. This includes placing that metal bar known as the ''bit''.
The bit is technically placed in the horse's mouth right into that space lacking teeth between the incisors and the molars. If you got your foal used to being handled in this area by putting a light pressure on it with your fingers, your foal will be less prone to startle once the bit is placed. In any case, it is normal for your horse to react to the bit the first times worn.
A trick of trade, to allow horses to accept the bit better, is to smother it in honey. Horses love the taste of honey and many will readily accept the bit because they associate it with something they appreciate. Don't be surprised if after a few times, your horse comes towards you as soon as he notices the bridle and bit!