Previously, I mentioned how changing Cava’s bit to a baucher improved our rides dramatically. This remained a good bit for her until I woke up one day and realized that many of the things that were “difficult” with her stemmed from a lack of bit acceptance. While to anyone watching, she appeared to be moving beautifully uphill into soft, even contact and a perfect frame, I could feel that this was due to her natural conformation and movement rather than honestly working over her back and into the bit. In short, she was faking it.
- When I gave her the reins, her head/neck remained in the same place and the reins simply looped
- It was difficult to get her to stretch down and out in the walk or trot.
- If I got her to stretch down, she did, but she also curled in and ducked behind the contact
- The contact felt uneven, she would either be just the teeniest bit behind the contact (too light on the reins), or else braced against them
- She didn’t feel like she had a “rubber neck” that easily followed my hands left or right if I asked her to bend
In addition to the contact issues described above, she was also getting naughty about popping into the canter and running off whenever she felt like it. She has gained a healthy amount of weight and glows with health, and now the temperature is dropping and she is feeling good. More and more she was ignoring my attempts at a half-halt, which couldn’t really work without contact to ride her into anyways, and any attempts to ride her into the outside rein (inside flexion, leg yields, etc) resulted in her cantering off, or sometimes even bouncing around giving me mini-bucks.
I needed to change something so she was more comfortable taking contact, but also so that I had control over her growing naughty behaviors. First I switched to a KK double jointed loose ring snaffle. It was medium thickness, and in my mind, a good compromise. The loose rings would make it harder for her to grab it and run, but I thought the mouthpiece might be more inviting than the thinner stainless steel french link on her baucher.
I think the KK stayed on her bridle about 3 days before I ended that experiment. She would not take contact on that bit at all. I thought maybe the loose ring bothered her and she liked more stability, so I tried a plain eggbutt snaffle.
She hated it. I switched back to the baucher thinking maybe I just needed to do more circles and leg-yields and ride her differently into the contact, or be super careful with my hands. That experiment last about another 3 days, before I had a very bouncy ride and realized I had no control at all with that bit as she cantered off with me regardless of what I tried to get her to do.
Usually with a horse getting strong and running off, I wouldn’t want to switch to a milder bit, but in her case, I felt like I would have more control if I could get her to pull into the bit in a more honest way and accept some contact. So I pulled out my bit collection. I found a very fat, light weight french link, and figured either it would work, or I’d be going for a long, fast ride.
Today was the first day with it, and much to my delight, we actually didn’t canter at all! We did probably 100 walk/trot/walk transitions, and I got her to stretch down and out into the contact at the walk and trot. I re-installed my half halts once I had decent contact and good transitions working, and ended the ride on a very happy note! So far, so good!