As the readers here may know, Kat has been moving forward in training in such a bold way lately and I have been riding the wave of that excitement for the past couple of weeks. But then something I read caught my attention. It is an article on Carriagedriving.net, written by Heike Bean called Various bits and their effects. It cites information from Carol Lavell, John Lyons, Dr Deb Bennett and Ron Meredith. It is a good article and well worth the read. If anyone cannot get to it through the link, let me know. I will copy, paste and send it to you in an email.
In the article it is essentially stated that the use of a leverage bit, such as a curb bit, liverpool or such only gets two responses- slow or whoa. There is no way of getting any true lateral flexion by using a leverage bit. The non leverage bit- or snaffle bits are much nicer on the horses mouth and you can get lateral flexion as well as the standard flexion of the horse breaking over at the poll. Knowing I need to work on letting go with my hands, Kat getting his tongue over the bit and softening work... when I went out to work him last night I thought about all of this and decided I would change up the hardware.
I have been doing all of the long line work in his old harness. The harness saddle and the bridle with a loose ring snaffle. This bridle has no noseband, but instead it has an overcheck on it. Since these are not allowed in competition and taking it off would require either work or cutting it, I just set it as loose as it goes and snap it on the ring to keep it out of the way. His standard harness has no overcheck, but does have the noseband. I have been using either the butterfly bit or the pelham since the CDE back in March. Since he has been doing so well in the snaffle, I went with the half cheek snaffle. With not so good results.
Softening work at the walk seemed ok. I focused on ME and letting him go. Soft tugs or 'feathering' the reins to signal for turns and bending. Everything seemed fine until we started trotting. Kat seemed to build up, getting stronger and pick up speed going around to the left. My inside rein meant nothing unless I took a good strong hold and pulled. Hard. Not what I wanted to be doing to my pony or his mouth so we slowed things back down to a walk. Things seemed fine so we picked up a trot again. We were going the other direction and everything was normal. Or at least what has been normal for us. A few circles to the right and I asked for a serpentine.
Again he got incredibly strong on the left side, I found myself taking a hold of him again, and checking or half halting the right rein and then for a time he seemed ok. I let him move forward, I slowed him down by telling him 'easy' and we did our slow trot. We did a few up & down transitions, trot, stop, trot, stop- our halts were instant as usual and he stopped dead and square. A couple of times I had to pull on him and haul him to a stop, but then it was back to not having to do more than say the word whoa.
I really didn't like having to get after Kat like that. I feel bad for doing it, but if he was not responding, what do you do? Let him go cruising forward and smack into a fence? (Although he is smart and likely wouldn't do that, I hope, or at least wouldn't do it twice...) So I ended our workout with more walking and softening, bending, giving... working walk, extended walk on a loose rein, halt, walk, halt, walk... and all seemed good again.
I checked his mouth after removing the harness. No points or wolf teeth. Check. I lunged him beofre and watched him the whole time we worked- no lameness or soreness. Check. I checked his back afterwards. No soreness there. Check. So something is making him stiff or sore and he is ignoring me or resisting because of it. Check!
While feeding and filling waters, I texted a friend of mine. I knew as I described it, she may have some insight or answers, suggestions, tips and things to try if not a good solid explanation as to why, how or what the problem is. Bottom line- something is not right. He is resisting contact on the left, his butt is swinging out to the right as evidenced with dirt & grim on the inside of the shaft and something has got him evading contact.
While the bit is not too different, one of the factors about it is. The half cheek is a touch too wide and I noticed the one cheek is a bit loose in it's attachment. So we will again be backing up to the long lines and switching bridles and bits to find the golden combo that works for us. The right bit, the right amount of contact and the right responses. I hope it works because the ADT is the beginning of the month. The Grass Ridge CDE in Sonoita, has been cancelled due to family emergency so we are going to the ADT up north instead. I am a bit disappointed, I mean, I made my jacket, apron and a few other things... but we can still go compete at a different event and have fun.
Kat has been there before and it is at the same facility as last months Darby. Maybe this time he will get in the water while we are on course. Maybe... The person leading our Training Pony/Green Driver division has 8 points and has been to every event. We have only been to 2 and are sitting in 2nd with 4 points. There is another ADT in November after the horse show, so we will have to see how we do and where we end up. Either way- next year we will both be moving up to Training Pony division. There is more competition there and it is tough.