I had mentioned talking to Gary after the ADT and he had some insightful things to say and tips on how to improve our efforts. One of our biggest issues to date has been finding the right bit for Kat. Our dilemma has been ongoing for a while now and mostly since our first CDE back in March of 2012. I used the snaffle on him the whole time and there were moments it got pretty scary as if I had zero control over him. He just wasn't responding for crap. That's when Frank Luetz had commented that he was getting his tongue over the bit. When he did that = zero control. Duh! We stepped it up to a mullen mouth, loose cheek butterfly on recommendations from both Frank and Gary.
Then it seemed like the snaffle is too little control and the butterfly is too much for him. I had a half cheek snaffle I used on him at home a few times and through trial and error- it was pinching him and he was really being a twit because of it. Tossed that one in the box of no longer used....
Articles I had read likened the butterfly and Liverpool, similar to graduating the riding horse to a curb, as 'go or whoa' bits and the rigid mouthpiece kept the bit from giving light pressure on one side of the mouth because it is a fixed, rigid piece. I also didn't want to be cranking on my pony's jaw with the butterfly because it is a leverage bit and with the curb chain- it can be painful. Add in the fact that because he was a little intimidated by the bit- he never really reached down, accepting and picking up the bit like he should. Instead he was always really soft or so it seemed, because he was behind the bit and not moving like he should be. He was a tad fearful of it as it was a tad stronger when engaged.
After reading all of this, I got to thinking how we didn't seem to have all of these problems when we started out. If he could do it fine in a snaffle back then, when he didn't know much, why couldn't we do it now? So after giving him the summer off, I started him back at the beginning in the long lines with the snaffle. We walked a lot, did a lot of bending and circles. Stops, serpentines, more circles, some counter bending and everything I could think of that we used to do long before now. My friend Sharan had mentioned part of the tongue over the bit stuff, may be his response to me hanging onto him too much. I worked on asking for turns with one rein only. He was awesome in the snaffle again, but as I found out at the ADT- that lasted as long as we were at home.
Just before entering the dressage ring, he decided to be a total ass. In the ring, he was screaming the whole time And being an ass. My using one rein was a good thought, but I found myself hanging onto him and fighting it out just to keep him in the ring and on the rail. He was pushing thru the bit and likely had his tongue over it even though there were extra holes punched so it could be moved up a little to help prevent it. I had snapped the butterfly to the cart so I could switch it out before we did cones. I wanted a little more control when we added speed.
Although I was pushing Kat to run in the cones, he was again hesitant to do it. Part of it is due to him being a bit out of shape and heavy, part of it being the bit. When I talked to Gary and said one bit is not enough, the other is too much, he asked me which ring I have my reins on with the butterfly? The bottom one... This is the ring giving you more leverage and making the bit a tad more severe.
He suggested moving it up to the top ring where it would be as if it were a snaffle, removing the leverage action and making it more mild. DUH! I could have done this and Should have done this a long time ago. It's not like I don't know this stuff, I just got so wrapped up in everything and lost my mind...
I will be ground driving Kat this way for starters and trying it out before putting him to the cart and getting in. Gary was impressed with the scores and said again, "He's a nice pony. You guys just need to figure things out." Yeah. I do! For the sake of the pony's sanity and probably Gary's as well. lol
As for all of the screaming that was going on, Gary suggested using Vicks on him. DUH! Smearing a small dab just inside the nostrils on stallions, keeps them from smelling anything but Vicks Vapor Rub all day. He can see the other horses, he just can't smell them and it may be enough to shut him up. Not like I didn't know this one either and it's also not like I don't have a jar of the stuff somewhere in the depths of the tack compartment of the horse trailer... I need to clear it out and go thru it anyways, now there's another reason to do it before the next ADT.
Speaking of which, it is coming up and sure to be here before I know it. It will be down in Coolidge at Goree Farms, same place as the CDE and using a lot of the same hazards. I looked at the entry forms and the dressage test is different for this one. I barely had the last one memorized, I better get busy on this one.