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The Soft Jaw


Francois Baucher made famous the soft jaw, correctly tying the soft jaw to balance. Every good horseman in history understood this connection, but for most of history good horsemen did not read or write.  If you study the history of Baucher’s students, you will find expressed difficulty with his methods. We approach these issues from a technical standpoint instead of a logical standpoint; the logical conclusion is that it takes a skilled rider to ride in the correct balance to create a soft jaw.

The reason the soft jaw is under riding instead of training, is the seat of the rider had the biggest impact on a soft jaw, followed by mental braces in the horse, then the use of the bit on the jaw, and if all this is correct in a horsemanship, then you can train the horse to balance on the signal of a bit. The reality is, the soft jaw is out of the reach of most horsemen today.

Modern horsemanship has trained the horse to open his mouth regardless of his balance and most of the working of the jaw today is due to stress.

It is a mistake to think, as many do, that a horse, which slavers or foams at the mouth has a good mouth. To produce this soapy foam, a horse must contract his tongue and will not then be able to have his mouth free, at rest, and ready for the fingering of the rider.  A horse produces this foam by constantly turning his tongue or by rubbing it against his hard palate, by passing it over the bit, or by making it a ball in the back of his mouth” James Fillis

It is far easier to sell poor horsemanship that quality horsemanship. The above statement, which is true, eliminates about 90% of today’s upper level horsemanship.  When we make poor horsemanship the standard, then quality horsemanship becomes poor horsemanship.

I fell off Smokey on his second ride. Smokey’s solution was to quit going to the right.  It has been amazing how deep of a problem that has created in Smokey.  The industries response is to train a mechanical action to hide a mental issue.  We use operant conditioning to mechanically train every action that good horsemanship has defined. The underlying issue is we have just masked the symptom by changing the action.

“I have many times repeated that the great stumbling block of training is the folly of mistaking effects for the causes-the folly of attacking effects, instead of destroying their causes. This is true in the Haute E’cole “ Beudant

The soft jaw is the result of confidence and balance, training a horse to work his jaw does not produce confidence and balance.
 The below is the writing of Beudant, note the reference that flexions just make the jaw move, not the head. This statement eliminates about 90% of today’s horsemanship.  The misleading part of flexions is it is conditioning and the correct horse that produces the popular headsets, not training.