Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Head is " In the Bucket"

I did this post  a couple months back about changing up Maggie's bit, but at the time had not determined yet what I was going to change to, even if I was going to change.  I decided to start out the season just riding in the same old Myler snaffle I had started her in 3 years ago but it wasn't too many rides and  I started realizing I was not communicating effectively with her in the snaffle. She was fighting it, running through it, and generally ignoring it. I was having to really get  into her mouth in order to get a response, and even at that it wasn't much of a response. It was obvious that I was just creating more resistance in her.

In my work towards the goal of someday having a finished "bridle" horse in Maggie , I was losing ground in the lightness category. It was clearly time to do something different.


I wanted to make the right decision but the tricky part about changing bits in horses can often be as confusing and frustrating as finding a well fitting saddle. In the end, I knew I would just have to try something and see if it works.

I had a couple of issues to address;
1)Overly forward horse- needed to have the ability to rate without pulling on her mouth
2) Needed something that would allow me to communicate clearly for correct training response

Training skills I had in place with Maggie from the snaffle were:
1) Lateral flexion
2) Soft feel- break at poll
3) beginnings of longitudinal flexion
4) Response to leg and seat aids

For the sake of brevity here, I opted (after of lot of jaw knashing and discussions with a respected trainer) to move her up to the Myler Forward Tilt Ported Barrel with the short shank.  It's considered a level 1-2 in Myler's scaling system, but I have seen it also listed as a Level 2 , depending on what site you reference.

It had been years since I worked a horse in shank bit and quite frankly, it made more more nervous than long tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs . Shank bits can be bad in the wrong hands and I was afraid that my hands had become a little too careless after using a snaffle for all these years.. Comparitively, a rider can get away with a lot in a snaffle bit. I chose to attach the bit to a set of reins that had rein chains, for added feel and clarity.

The first two sessions we walked around in the arena and I didn't ask anything, just let her get used to the feel of it .  She seemed to be quite comfortable in it. Her mouth was quiet and she moved forward without any issues. On the third session I started asking for some turns. She was a little unsure at first but it became obvious to me very quickly that I barely had to pick up those reins for a response. When I asked for a stopped, I barely got the slack out and she was stopping with her front end lifted and her hind end under her.  I don't care who you are, that is an awesome feeling.  I found that when she dropped the inside shoulder on a circle, I could easily get her to pick up by a slight up squeeze on the inside rein and there was no resistance there like there had been in the snaffle.

We have since ridden on the trail with it and yesterday's ride confirmed for me that I had made the right choice.

She had her head "in the bucket" on a loose rein with only a slight squeeze on the reins. (Longitudinal flexion) She had lipstick (green foam on her lips) through out the entire ride and she was  dribbling drool bubbled... Yes, that is a good thing. It's indicative of a soft mouth.

At a trot, behind another horse, she was controllable again, and I was able to rate her when she was out front to a nice 8-9 mph trot. A pace easily maintained over many miles.

She still bobs her head up and down a bit as she has to learn where to position her head, as well as to develop the musculature to hold her head in the bucket ,  but what a positive change I have seen within such a short amount of time.

Less fighting, less resistance, a softer  more responsive horse... looks like we are back on the right track..

*Disclaimer- I am not recommending this product and I am not a professional trainer offering training advice. Please seek professional advice from a qualified trainer. This was simply an over view of my experience and what worked for me and my horses level of training. J. Kelner

( pathetic but apparently necessary these days)

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