Yesterday Julie let me try one of her favorite bits on Liam. She had suggested he was ready for a change since he is getting so much stronger and a little full of himself. After the two by four neck lesson, it became clear that it’s well past time. We are working on new and more difficult movements, and allowing him to really use the strength that he has been building up over the past few months. As we ask him to try new things, sometimes he resists, but mostly the work is coming a little too easy and he wants to tune me out as he discovers his new athletic abilities. It’s like he thinks he knows everything and doesn’t want my help anymore.
So the bit we are switching to is really not as bad as that build up maybe has you thinking. It is the Myler french link loose ring snaffle. His current bit is also a french link loose ring snaffle, but the Myler is just a teeny bit thinner, and it is curved to lay in his mouth differently. It is also a little looser where it attaches to the loose rings, so there is a little more play in it. All of these differences are really tiny, subtle things, but with the work we are doing, subtle is the name of the game!
Yesterday, our lesson in the new bit went well. At first, I didn’t even notice the difference. Actually, for a while I couldn’t tell. Julie kept asking, and I mumbled, “Um, maybe a little lighter?” in response, not sure if there was no difference or I just couldn’t feel it.
Then it happened. He was doing his newly discovered big, powerful trot, and getting really full of himself. He can hold it together easily now, and he stays light in my hands even as his stride gets bigger and bigger. But despite the light feeling, I know it is getting away from me. I half-halted to collect him for the corner, and he ran right through the half halt. I sat up and asked more firmly, this time for a transition down to walk, and he said “Whatever mom! This is fun!” So I put the brakes on, and made him halt and stand. He threw his head up in the air and braced against my hands, his favorite protest when he gets REALLY mad. I knew the routine. Next comes two by four neck if I’m not real careful. So I tried to get him to walk forward and he took a step backward. I tried to turn him, and he braced his neck. Two by four style. Then the most amazing thing happened, as he pulled against me the bit slid on the rings, and he couldn’t brace on it… and, he gave. Then he went to pull again, and the same thing happened. I just sat there, completely dumbfounded that it was so simple. There was just that tiny bit more wiggle room in this bit, and while that might annoy some horses, it was just what he needed. It only took him a minute to realize his trick was over, and he went right back to work.
It was incredible. He didn’t argue again, and we continued our ride peacefully. The best part was yet to come. When he went back to work, something changed. His back came up more, his front end lifted more, and his neck right above the withers really popped up. He felt different under me. There was more spring in his trot, but it was softer as well. His back swung more, even as he trotted with smaller steps. Then, just to see what would happen, I asked for a leg yield. This was what got us into the two by four neck episode the other day. Wonder of wonder, over he went. Straight through his body, front legs and back legs stepped sideways, off of a gentle asking of my leg. It was the first time I didn’t have to use my spur just to get ANY sort of response. So, something had clicked. He respected me more now, and came more correctly through his back. And I didn’t have to yank on him or fight with him or yell at him, I just sat there and let him figure out that he couldn’t pull on me anymore. If only all problems were solved so easily!
The best part is, there is a sale this weekend at the tack shop, so I got Liam his very own brand new Myler french link loose ring snaffle. Happy Valentine’s Day Liam!!