In training horses it is sometimes funny how we have to back up once in a while, in order to move forward. What we want is forward motion, but sometimes we have to back up in our progression of training to get it. Does that make sense? Maybe when I explain it it will.
At the CDE in March I was advised by others, (big names, big guns, that know a lot more than I do!) to change bits... Time to move the little man up to a 'big boy' bit. Time to start using something with a straight bar mouthpiece and shanks.
In all honesty- I didn't want to switch bits. I understand sometimes the horses are ready to change and 'move up' but I had this nagging in my gut about changing to the fixed bar mouthpiece. I just didn't like the idea of it. Although I undertood the concept of it and that Kat getting his tongue over the bit was not a good thing, I just didn't like it. There had to be some middle ground somewhere. It just had to be there- but where is it?
Training is not about me though. It is not about what I want or what I am comfortable with or comfortable doing. It is actually not about me at all! It is however, ALL about what is best for each particular horse.
Some of you may remember a while back when I kept refusing to go back to ground driving and long line work. "I can put him to the cart, WHY do I need to back up to ground driving and long line work?" Yet when I did- huge changes happened and the improvements were really obvious and certainly beyond my expectations.
Then my friend that trains pretty much along the same lines that I have- told me that she spends more time ground driving and doing long line work than actually driving with the cart. WTH?
When I said Kat was getting bored with arena work, MiKael of Rising Rainbow Arabians suggested long line work to keep Kat supple, soft, bending, giving and really making him work. When he gets between the shafts, he will have less room to bend, and actually will have it easier and can get a bit lazy yet still move correctly.
Since my cart is undergoing yet more changes (getting a set of adjustable shafts made for it with the marathon shafts instead of the straight shafts) I have been without a cart, pretty much since the incident with the irrigation ditch 2 1/2 months ago. I have also been incredibly busy with L-I-F-E! and have had very little time to drive anyways... but over the past week I made another change and ground drove Kat again.
Back when my daughter Robin was small and still riding, we had taken her pony Pi to a show up at Westworld. She was showing English and we needed a bit. Pi was used to something with a curb chain and shanks so I had bought a pelham with the jointed mouthpiece and short, loose shanks. I still have it and dug it out to try on Kat.
He worked wonderfully in it.
I started out with the long lines snapped to the snaffle rings and run through the turrets. He looked and moved lousy. I stopped him and changed the settings- lines through the tugs and snapped to the curb rings- BINGO! Boy did that do the trick. He was breaking over at the poll, on the vertical, in the bridle and on the bit. He had lateral bend, balanced movement and little man was ROCKIN' IT! like nobody's business.
We did circles and serpentines on both a shorter rein and a longer rein. Big circles, little circles, wide sweepy turns, smaller tighter turns... Kat was just amazing to watch. He was fluid, his transtions were smooth and hardly noticeable as he moved from a working trot to a slow trot, back to working then to extended. He made it all look EFFORTLESS.
Sometimes when you back up and take the time to do a refresher course over the basics in your training- going back to your ground work- you find the small holes in your program and can fix them, closing them up. I am finding I have a better eye for seeing proper movement in ground driving and long line work than an actual 'feel' for it when riding.
I'm not sure if the bit issue was more of My issue and Kat was picking up on it or if he just didn't like the fixed mouthpiece, wasn't liking to work in it or maybe it was a combination of both- who knows really? Part of training is finding what works and going forward from there. Sometimes you just have to back up a step or two to get there.