Does anyone have a pony that drives better with an open bridle than with blinders? My ponies both drive with or without, but right now they both have new headstalls with blinders. I think one of them might do better without them. She is very jumpy with them on, even when I'm just harnessing her up she jerks her head around, pulls back and spooks. It gets better going down the road, but she stops the minute the headstall comes off.
I have heard people argue that it's a safety issue, that sooner or later if you drive without blinders you are going to regret it.
I don't know about that... sooner or later if you drive WITH blinders you will probably have a problem- there just won't be a bunch of people second guessing that the problem happened because your horse had blinders on.
I do drive with blinders currently, but my ponies' trainer did start them with open bridles before blinders were introduced. Last year one of my ponies lost sight in one eye and I have't driven her since- but if/when I do drive her again- I am thinking that I'd like to use an open bridle for her so to not limit what little vision she has left.
I think if horses are trained with open bridles and that's what they are used to, I don't think it's a safety issue. It also might depend on the kind of work you do.
If there is a reason why you are using blindered bridles now and you can't accomidate your mare's preference for open- you might want to let your pony spend a lot of time with a (old banged up) blindered bridle on just in her stall without a bit.
Really the only reason I'm using blinders is because I had a new harness made for her and the Amish guy put blinders on it. She had previously been driven with and without.
We just drive for fun and encounter lots of kids that want to pet the pony. She always jerks her head away from their hands with the blinders but she is not like this without them.
I've thought about cutting them off but really don't want to ruin the bridle. And that's a kind of permanent damage to the headstall.
The main reason we drive with blinkers is to prevent horses from reading our body language, reaction to movement of the whip. Horses are experts at reading body language, GUESSING what will happen next and moving to avoid something they GUESS will happen. Your doing things in sequence, gets horse KNOWING what happens next, so they HELP by not waiting for a signal to walk or do other things.
Their making choices, can have BAD results. You are slow getting into vehicle, horse waited the "alloted time" and walked off without you! Horse sees the whip move in your hand as you swat at a fly, takes off trotting or faster! He doesn't want to wait for whip touch!! And this is only Fun Driving stuff, not actual competition things.
If you are having new issues, you should consider changing how the blinkers fit the horse, style of blinkers, before just dumping blinkers all together!
Our horses are all trained in open bridles, but when we start hitching them, they need blinkers to prevent them guessing what will be asked next. Horses have all gone open or blinkered during training sessions on the long lines, so blinkers are not a "sudden" thing. They have gotten familiar with going on voice, whip touches, while wearing blinkers and open bridles, commands are the same, they just can't read the handler visually now.
For us blinkers are a SAFETY issue. Most folks are rather lax in FIRMLY enforcing obedience in behaviour to commands. For us, Whoa means STOP, STAND, DO NOT MOVE AN INCH!! Horse is ALWAYS corrected IMMEDIATELY for any movement. Our horses stop fast, stand well, when asked to Whoa, because we accept nothing less.
For other folks, Whoa can mean "slow down to stop, stand here, mostly without moving", which is not nearly the same thing. For the horse with the other folks, he is often allowed to MAKE CHOICES of his own in the obedience, response to people area. With no blinkers, handler body language, past experiences, horse is going to respond as he pleases, WHEN he feels like it because he is not corrected for it or doesn't understand the occassional correcting he does get!
So my suggestion, is to consider how blinkers fit the horse first. Maybe they could be opened wider to see ahead, athough still not see behind. Maybe need a wire inside to make the winker stays firm in holding the blinkers wide open. Blinkers should NOT be touching the eyeballs!! Next might be comfort, with the eye whiskers trimmed a little shorter because they are poking the blinkers. All the poking of whiskers may make horse blink a lot, so they are uncomfortable wearing the bridle. Maybe a different style blinker would make horse happier. There are Ds, Hatchet, the huge square blinkers, round, among other kinds of blinker styles available. We have mostly round blinkers because they fit our Breed best with their protruding brow bones. We also have some square, hatchet on older Zilco, and half-cup blinkers on special bridles. All have worked well for various horses or in special situations, so the horses go better for us.
Next is the setting of blinkers. Is the eyeball CENTERED in the middle of the blinker? Not high or low, because horse CAN see over them or catch flashes of things under the blinkers, might be enough to worry the horse. There is also the IMPORTANCE of using a full noseband that holds the CHEEKS of bridle firmly against the side of the skull. I see nosebands on cheek hangers, half noseband with no buckle under the jaw, neither which will keep the bridle cheeks ON THE SKULL, when you use the reins. Also no noseband on a driving bridle at all. Cheeks flex out, move around on the head with rein use, so again, horse can see behind the blinkers if the noseband is not holding cheeks in place on the skull.
Look at other parts of the bridle for horse comfort. Is the browband wide enough? I see a LOT of short browbands on wide headed horses. Our horses wear the normal Full-Size bridles, but need Over Sized browbands. Our small horses needed larger than average browbands to make them comfortable. Does your caveson/noseband stay in the correct location on his head? Should be a couple finger widths below the cheekbone, not just above the soft part of nose. Lots of nosebands don't stay up where needed. Is the throatlatch comfortable, but still keeping bridle firmly in place so it can't come off? Check for rusty or broken staples to poke horse, a knot in stitching that can be irritating horse.
Remove the excuses horse has for poor behaviour, so you can expect them to behave and correct them when they do not. Wearing blinkers is a learned behaviour with training. We can help horse accept it better by trying some different things to let them be more accepting.
I am among those who THOUGHT they knew best, wanted to be NICE so I drove my horse open bridled. We wrecked that day because she saw TOO MUCH and reacted badly to it. She never drove SAFELY again, even with blinkers. We tried to drive her again, but she spooked badly after a short distance at a walk, jumped to gallop for a runaway. I had a BIG bit on for "just in case", pulled her back down and held her so we kept control. Didn't ever hitch her again. Ruined her for future driving use by "thinking outside the box" and "kindness" where it wasn't needed. She drove FINE in a blinker bridle, no issues for years, before I wrecked her. I don't know any others who tried open bridle driving that also didn't eventually have a wreck happen. They were experienced drivers, experienced horses, but one day the horse saw "something" that cause a bad reaction.
You can try what you want at home with your equine, but blinkers are most commonly used in carriage driving for safety, have been a good tool over hundreds of years. Some pulling uses of equines need them open bridled, but the majority of driven equines go best with blinkers. Those blinkers may need tweaking for fit, comfort, TIME for equine to get used to wearing them. Old-time uses of open bridles on driven horses were possible because of their situation or location. Modern driving animals must meet and face things the old-time drivers never thought of. Blinkers help by removing the visual impact a bit. Horses are not DEAF, blinkers don't take that away, so they do not wear blinkers to prevent being scared of the vehicle hitched to them! Blinkers are an aid in driving by reducing the field of vision, which is why equines need to be obedient and accepting in ALL instances.
Do NOT put YOURSELF in the horse's place. You don't think and react like the horse will, to situations like blinker wearing. I look at blinker wearing as a training issue to gain acceptance with a well fitted, comfortable bridle.
Thank you so much. This will be a big help. I have thought the blinders were a bit too close to her eyes.
Can I stretch them out? How to use a wire? Any way to do this without having to buy a new headstall? Since it is fairly new maybe it will loosen a bit?
I can't remember if she did this with her old blinders, she was injured and had a year off and then straight to the new gear.
She goes down the road well, it's just when a hand approaches her that she throws such a fit. It's like she's head shy with the blinders, not without. So maybe it's just a training issue. Fwiw, she's half Arabian and very much a diva.
Winker stays are usually rounded leather pieces sewn on top of the blinkers, going to a strap between the ears for adjusting. You can get more width, just adjusting the setting between the ears. Often there is already a wire inside to hold them in position. You can loosen the buckle between the ears, so winkers have more room to widen, shape the wire to push blinkers outward. See how the change fits on horse. You have to be careful then when hanging the bridle so wire is not bent back and forth, or so wire setting is uneven on both blinkers or wire gets broken with all the bending.
Originally Posted by Remudamom
If there is no wire in the winker stays, you might have harness shop put one in, or try putting one in yourself. Wire needs to be a bit heavy heavy so it is stronger, holds things in place. You can open the round winker stay a couple stitches, see if wire will go inside. Then make a couple stitches after you have wire fitted in there, to keep wire inside and not poke the horse with the sharp end coming out.
Remember that any widening of the blinkers, means you have to give winker stays more width room by lengthening that buckle setting between the ears. If you don't have room to widen the setting as much as you want, you may need longer winker stays put on at a harness shop. We have one horse on the last hole of all his bridle settings, which means he needs another bridle that fits him better. You strive to have harness fitted in the center hole, so you can always shorten or lengthen a strap if needed.
Thank you goodhors for your detailed explanation of blinders and why we use them. I'm new to driving (not new to horses) and want to develop a very safe and thorough foundation not just on what to do but why we do it and this is a huge help to me. Also the explanation of fitting bridles and blinders properly was helpful too as I'm in the process of measuring both my mini geldings for harnesses and carts, they are experienced drivers, (I am not) and we will be working with a driving instructor until I feel very comfortable with everything.
So interesting and so very much to learn!
Something for the smaller headed equines, small EARED equines, is the addition of a "gullet strap" between the noseband and throatlatch. It seems to pull enough to prevent the crown piece from sliding forward and off the head. Minis, Welsh, Shetlands, fine headed horses, animals with heavy, thick manes, small ears, no throat length or thick throats, seem to be common in having bridle problems. Any mane growth changes the bridle fit on them, could make bridle looser fitting to come off easily. Many owners of such animals strongly recommend gullet strap use to prevent bridle problems from rubbing, shaking heads to sweaty, SLIPPERY heads while out driving.
I know I am always surprised at how FAST mane can regrow after clipping them almost bald! My horses grow more than 1/4 inch of mane a week, little animals are often even faster mane growers! Small tolerances for change on the smaller equines, without getting into fit problems.
You can purchase gullet straps from many harness sellers or make your own. Just needs to be a strap that can have loops on both ends when buckled shut, to run the throatlatch and noseband/cavesson thru. I made one from a Western leather curb strap, came with two keepers and it worked fine as a gullet strap. We dyed it black to match the harness. Black colored straps are pretty invisible under the jaw of an animal, when you use it. You just want to buckle the gullet strap tight enough that there is a bit of tension between the throatlatch and noseband to keep the bridle on better. More Safety stuff to keep you having fun!!
Thank you again goodhors, excellent suggestion and my bitless bridle for my fjord has the gullet strap so I know just what you are describing though I may have to get creative finding something small enough to work on the mini bridles. Yes they grow hair almost overnight and they tend to get itchy and rub on everything which makes me worry about them rubbing bridles right off if we stop to rest while out driving on a warm day.
I'm spending time now ground driving both my boys so that I get an opportunity to work on myself. They are both experienced drivers so thankfully they seem patient when I give the wrong cues or have to fumble around to get things where they should be. Its also very good exercise for me and my less than year old knee replacement :)
Do you have any suggestions on books/videos about driving, carts, harnesses, etc.? Or other ways I can increase my knowledge about driving?
Remudamom, I am pretty careful about how people approach my pony when he is working and therefore wearing blinders. I don't let just anyone touch his face, and I make sure they say something to him as they approach and approach in his line of vision so that people don't sneak up on him. Sure, he can hear them coming, but he may not realize he is about to be touched unless they say something directly to him. He's a smart boy and these precautions make all the difference in the world.
He is fine when experienced horse people approach him and stroke his face--it's just the non-horse people that approach too abruptly sometimes, or handle him too roughly, so I coach them on how to interact with him. It makes for a happier experience for everyone.