Friday, March 14, 2014

A Bit Of A Difference

I've really had trouble composing this post which is why it has taken me so long. Cross country schooling on Monday was absolutely the best time I've had riding my horse XC ever. It is amazing what having reliable brakes can do! But, I have very mixed feelings right now about those brakes... because I finally broke down and tried a new bit.
Thanks to my sister for letting me borrow her trailer for the summer!
What I am struggling with is I sort of feel like a failure. We had such a great school! We didn't get into arguments in front of the jumps, I actually had adjustability in the canter!! I had 100 times more confidence than I've ever had XC schooling before but because I used a "harsher" bit it feels like I cheated.

Ed's Ears (FFI horse) on the way home. (He ended up getting adopted that day!)
But, but, but Loki was 100 times more relaxed than he has ever been XC schooling. I was able to walk him around on the buckle in between jumps--that has NEVER happened before. And it wasn't like he sucked back and got behind my leg. When I remembered to put my leg on he was right there, accepting the contact and moving forward. The only difference was he wasn't plowing through my hands and/or the jumps which is just not a fun feeling!

And another thing I discovered. When we didn't get in arguments running to a fence I was able to keep my hands light over the fence. Before Loki would see a jump and just charge for it like his tail was on fire. I would half-halt and he would charge harder and we would just argue back and forth so that basically half the time we would still be arguing over the fence which often resulted in me catching him in the mouth (or I would just throw the reins at him let him have his way and pray we made it over.) This whole time I thought my hands were just bad but what I discovered was that when I was able to half halt and actually get a response my hands really can be light!
Loki and Monty cooling out and getting ready to head back home.
Anyways, the bit we tried was a Myler combination bit. It has the leather noseband and not the rawhide and it was still the comfort snaffle mouthpiece. From what I understand it distributes pressure between the poll, nose and mouth instead of just all in the mouth. For whatever reason Loki just seemed to respond very well to it. I've read a lot of differing opinions on it but it is hard to ignore the evidence I felt in front of me which was how happy both Loki and I seemed after our school. It's definitely something I'm going to have to think about a lot. 

17 comments:

  1. Correct equipment makes all the difference! You have to find what works for you and your horse -- and while maybe a different rider could get a better result with a less "harsh" bit, the reality this is what works for you and you're the one riding him! I say embrace it and enjoy your awesome xc schools!!

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  2. Oh, really, don't feel bad. There's a reason those bigger bits exist. They're tools. If a tool is used correctly, thoughtfully, and does its job, then you've succeeded.

    Tristan used to bolt like a bat out of hell when galloping outside or going XC. He spent ~2 years in a kimberwicke and it made a world of difference. I still cherish the memory of the first time the curb chain kicked in: instant control again, without the see-sawing and fighting. And now he goes in a full cheek snaffle XC.

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    1. My goal is to eventually get him back to some kind of snaffle but you are right that feeling of having control was amazing!

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  3. Maybe he just likes that bit better! If it works, use it. You can always go back down and try the other bit later. Don't feel bad at all, you had an awesome time with your horse!!

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  4. Bits only as harsh as the hands, if you are hauling on a snaffle it is not a "gentle" bit anymore. If you are light on the myler then its a pretty darn good tool.

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    1. You are so right! Thanks for the reminder!

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  5. Thanks everybody for your kind comments. I am feeling much better about it! :)

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  6. I know that arena! Only when I was there there were tents next to it. I don't think you should feel bad about needing to switch bits. Plenty of people need a little extra braking on XC. That said, and I don't think you have this issue, but last summer I thought I was having trouble pulling up after XC jumps or show jumps in the open field, he was literally laying on my hands and I couldn't pull him up. Turns out I was stiff and braced when I asked for the down transition. Relaxing through the thighs during downwards made him immediately come back to me.

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  7. Glad you guys had a great school! :)

    I was really conflicted when we decided to bit Tucker up for jumping and I've been going through a similar thought process right now re: his trail bridle. In both scenarios, he's great in a snaffle the vast majority of the time...but there is the possibility of a moment when it would be Real Handy to have something more available, and you can't exactly freeze time and change bridles when that moment hits. So, what to do?

    I think it's okay to use the tool that facilitates the job. The trick is remembering that the job is training the horse over time, not just having brakes on this particular day -- but I get the feeling that you and your trainer have your eyes on the prize, right? So all is well. :)

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    1. We definitely would like to see him back in something milder at some point in the future.

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  8. Great job!!! I agree that a bit is only as gentle as the hands are... It just FEELS good to have such a great ride and when BOTH of you are relaxed then the bit was a good thing!

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  9. A bit is only as harsh as the hands on the end of the reins. Nothing wrong with using a stronger bit correctly especially when response is as positive as your experience with Loki.

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  10. Big bits were created for a reason. Cuna went in a pelham for a reason. Without it, he was a runaway freight train. With it, he was manageable and lovely. Use the bit and don't be down on yourself. It's far kinder to him to have a quick pressure/release than it is to haul on his face all the time with a snaffle.

    Maybe someday you can come back to the snaffle. Maybe the myler combo is his happy place. Either way, hooray for finding his bit on the first try!

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  11. Have you tired a Pelham? It has similar action but not as harsh. Might be worth a shot...straight bar rubber ones are great.

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    1. I haven't tried a pelham. I did try a rubber, mullen mouth snaffle and he hated that. He does seem to like the double jointed bits better. For some reason I've only ever seen the pelham with a single joint or with a straight bar? I'll have to ask my trainer about it.

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  12. I don't know much about Meyler bits but if Loki is happy with it then I don't think it's a bad thing!

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