By special request, today we will we attempt to define the strange jargon of the sub-species equestrian. These are people that start out like regular human beings, and are at some point transformed by the horses in their lives. Scientists are still unsure if it is from excessive inhalation of manure fumes, being pricked and scratched too many times by hay, or if it is a reaction to horse hair itself that causes the transformation to begin, but one thing is for sure… once the process is started, it is very, VERY hard to reverse. The strange vocabulary develops as the transformation progresses, leaving outsiders befuddled trying to follow conversations (and blogs) relating to horses. Are you among the confused? Here is a bit of a cheat sheet to some of the vocabulary found in Liam’s story.
All of these definitions are in my own words, and as the words are used by me in regards to my work with Liam. They are also simplified for ease of understanding (and so I don’t stay up late writing an entire book). I realize there may be other understandings of some of the words, or they may take on a different meaning when used in regard to a more advanced horse and rider. I’m not Webster, I’m just trying to help a little.
Pelham: A type of bit used with two reins. The snaffle rein attaches to the mouthpiece of the bit, and works directly on the horse’s mouth. The curb rein attaches to the shank that hangs below the mouthpiece, which gives leverage, tightening the curb chain under the horse’s chin, as well as pulling down on the crown piece of the bridle behind the horse’s ears. Here is Liam’s pelham, specifically it is a Happy Mouth (brand name, manufactured of apple-flavored plastic instead of metal) snaffle (single joint in the mouth piece).
Double-Jointed Snaffle Bit: This bit is much simpler than the pelham. The piece that lays in the horse’s mouth is similar to the snaffle pictured above, but it has two joints instead of one. This allows it to conform better to the shape of the horse’s mouth, and makes it a softer bit (the single jointed snaffle can start to have a nutcracker effect if too much pressure is used on the reins). On the other hand, some horse’s don’t like the way they wrap around the tongue. The rings on the sides of the mouth piece are known as “loose rings” because the spin freely, the reins attach to these and allow the horse a lot of freedom since no part of the rein or bit is fixed, there is lots of wiggle (not a technical term) to the feel of this bit. This bit is a Herm Sprenger brand bit, and is Liam’s usual dressage bit. It is known for being made of a particular type of metal, known as Aurigan, which is an alloy used in more expensive bits because it is supposed to have a sweet taste to it and encourages salivation (a good thing).
Round and Soft: These words describe the way I would like Liam to go, whether he is walking, trotting, or cantering.
Round means I feel like I am sitting on the top of an arch created by his body, his back legs supporting his body from up underneath it and not out behind it, his back raised up under me, and not flat or sagging. It is the equine equivalent of good posture, and when he carries himself this way he not only uses his muscles to support his frame, thus saving his joints from pounding wear and tear, but he also carries himself in the best balance to enable himself to perform athletic maneuvers comfortably, like small circles or changing directions.
Soft means that he is carrying the bit in his mouth and has a soft connection with my hands through the reins, as opposed to leaning on the bit and putting a million pounds of pressure on my hands, or avoiding the bit altogether by putting his head up in the air and giving me no connection to his mouth through the reins. It’s the equine equivalent of holding hands, a steady presence that can give instruction through a gentle squeeze; not gripping and jerking, but also not attempting to walk hand-in-hand without touching at all. It is possible to be soft by not round, harder to be round but not soft. Usually when soft is lost, so is the balance necessary for round.
Here is a picture that gives an idea what round and soft look like. His body looks like I am sitting on the top of a bouncy ball, lots of energy coiled under him and body shape like a rainbow (go up the back legs, over the back, and down the front legs). You can maybe tell it’s soft because his face is perpendicular to the ground, which it should be either vertical or just a touch in front of the vertical if he is properly carrying the bit, and by the way I am sitting you can tell he is not pulling too much on my hands.
Here is not soft and round. His head is up, avoiding contact on the reins (not holding my hand!), and his back is more flat looking, like a table top. He has a nice big stride, but he is more flattened out running than he is carrying himself. Imagine him trying to do a sharp turn from where he is in the picture above versus the picture below. Above, he looks like he could pivot around his back legs, below he would fall into the turn like a motorcycle, and probably trip himself.
Reaching Into Contact: Similar to soft, means he is holding my hand, versus avoiding contact, or like pulling his hand away when I go to hold it.
More to follow!
(Grandpa – Thanks for the great blog post idea! Hope this helps!)