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  1. #41
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    I was fortunate to have Mindy Bower here on my place a couple of weeks ago, she worked with me and two of my horses. She lives in Colorado. Excellent, excellent couple of hours for me!

    My plans are definitely along the line of using these principles in the dressage and eventing world. I rode with Buck in 2011 and will again this fall, and will work with Mindy whenever possible.

    It's been really a great shift for me. I also just got Betty Staley's book/dvd "Bringing it all Together."
    We're spending our money on horses and bourbon. The rest we're just wasting.
    www.dleestudio.com


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  2. #42
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    Not so fast Aktill. Les Vogt, a clinician now, and still showing in Working Cow Horse, was/is a superb trainer of a finished bridle horse. You may dismiss Pat Parelli as nothing but carrot sticks and games, but before Linda merchandised him into something else, he also could bring a horse up through the levels to a finished bridle horse. Dennis Reis also has the ability to make up a finished bridle horse. Monty Roberts made his living as a very successful trainer of working cow horses way before he became a clinician. Both Clinton Anderson and Chris Cox have NEVER made any claims about riding in the Vaquero tradition, although both now show in Working Cow Horse. It is a long drawn out process to do it correctly, and you do NOT have to use a spade bit to make your horse into a finished bridle horse. The Vaqueros, who were mostly of Spanish descent, are long gone. However, they did hand down their skills, and in turn, those that received this info have again tried to keep it alive. I've seen, in my over 50 years of showing horses, almost all of the above mentioned cowboys show in the Working Cow Horse division. From Monty Roberts at the Cow Palace & Santa Barbara to Pat Parelli who made the finals with a MULE at the Snaffle Bit Futurity. There were a lot of good horsemen who showed both reined cow horses, as they used to be called, and hunters & jumpers too. Look up the names Clyde Kennedy, Jimmy Williams, & Barbara Worth. 3 horsemen who showed in the "bridle" and were very successful at it!


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  3. #43
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    While I certainly respect the athleticism of a working cow horse, there's no requirement for those horses to be even broke to rope off of, let alone to be horses to doctor outside off of or ride all day. Not the same as the working definition of a bridle horse.

    If you wanted to call them bridle horses in their respective competitive divisions, that's certainly your right, but that's not how I personally see the term.

    Again, not taking anything away from the working cow horse, but reined cow horse is actually a better term for the sport. It's reining with an element of cow work, not a complete showcase of what a working ranch horse needs to be able to do.

    Starting a horse early enough to make the futurity circuit makes it less likely he'd be a candiate to stay sound as a ranch horse all that long. That's why the old ranches waited until they were mature 5 or 6 yr olds to do all that much...can't ride a long circle on a 2 yr old and expect him to stay sound all that long.


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  4. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktill View Post
    While I certainly respect the athleticism of a working cow horse, there's no requirement for those horses to be even broke to rope off of, let alone to be horses to doctor outside off of or ride all day. Not the same as the working definition of a bridle horse.

    If you wanted to call them bridle horses in their respective competitive divisions, that's certainly your right, but that's not how I personally see the term.

    Again, not taking anything away from the working cow horse, but reined cow horse is actually a better term for the sport. It's reining with an element of cow work, not a complete showcase of what a working ranch horse needs to be able to do.

    Starting a horse early enough to make the futurity circuit makes it less likely he'd be a candiate to stay sound as a ranch horse all that long. That's why the old ranches waited until they were mature 5 or 6 yr olds to do all that much...can't ride a long circle on a 2 yr old and expect him to stay sound all that long.
    Thank you for putting this out there. Have you considered writing a book, or at least a blog? You've a lovely writing "voice."


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  5. #45
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    Awesome thread!

    atkill, I want to come take a riding lesson from you. I'll do second best: Ask questions here.

    I got it with respect to a signal bit-- the structure (which you explained well and some parts of the bit which are new to me), and the philosophy. I must say, I am a philosopher and a hand rider and a slacker, so I seem to *always* get a horse so broke to the bridle that everything is a signal bit. I can make a loose ring mullen mouth into a signal bit, yanno?

    So my question: What about getting them equally broke to the seat and leg? It seems to me that no one will progress past a snaffle (the way I use it) or a bosal until they have a clear idea what "buttons" they want to install on their horse that come from the body. Or, rather, you *start* a colt working toward these from the beginning; you don't do a bunch of stuff with a snaffle and then decide to teach him what your leg and sitting bones and shoulders mean.

    What keeps me awake at night is the possibility that I don't make horse Vaquero Broke to my leg and body. How do I learn that? Or what are the hallmarks of the bridle horse that relate to his brokeness to aids other than the hand?

    Quote Originally Posted by aktill View Post
    After all, find me a grazer bit horse that's moving like this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5M2GHf_wq6U
    ...as a bridle horse, let alone as the age this youngster is at this point.....
    These look pretty good though:
    https://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphot...93025508_n.jpg
    http://imgc.allpostersimages.com/ima...tle-c-1800.jpg
    http://rlv.zcache.com/vaquero_1164_p..._8byvr_512.jpg
    http://sphotos-a.xx.fbcdn.net/hphoto...65906609_n.jpg
    Philosophically speaking, I think you *could* get a grazing bit horse to move that well. To me, it depends more on what the horseman told the horse he wanted. If he said "1. Never drop your shoulders; and 2. Go off the rider's body" I think he could choose whatever bit he liked or needed to make those two points.

    And I wouldn't put much stock in any horse collection illustrated in 18th- or 19th-century oil paintings. There is a huge tradition of animal painting/portraiture that exaggerates things like the small heads and rollkur-like necks. Artists painted those because that's what good art looked like and also what patrons paid for.

    If you want to know more about this, read some of the discussions among cattle guys in The Breeders Gazette after the 1890s when photography became available. People interested in livestock shows as a means for teaching commercial cattlemen what good stock looked like were very critical of livestock painters who were stylish but inaccurate. I'm sure the same thing was true for horses. Incidentally, the cattle painters and horse painters tended to do the same thing: Huge, round body, tiny legs and refined head.

    Looking at photographs of some of the cattle born, say, 6 generations after those painted to be so pretty..... ain't no way the ancestors were that refined. So I don't think the equine subjects of those paintings actually looked like those exquisitely fed and trained good movers you see represented.
    Last edited by mvp; May. 28, 2013 at 01:59 AM.
    The armchair saddler
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  6. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Awesome thread!

    atkill, I want to come take a riding lesson from you. I'll do second best: Ask questions here.

    I got it with respect to a signal bit-- the structure (which you explained well and some parts of the bit which are new to me), and the philosophy. I must say, I am a philosopher and a hand rider and a slacker, so I seem to *always* get a horse so broke to the bridle that everything is a signal bit. I can make a loose ring mullen mouth into a signal bit, yanno?

    So my question: What about getting them equally broke to the seat and leg? It seems to me that no one will progress past a snaffle (the way I use it) or a bosal until they have a clear idea what "buttons" they want to install on their horse that come from the body. Or, rather, you *start* a colt working toward these from the beginning; you don't do a bunch of stuff with a snaffle and then decide to teach him what your leg and sitting bones and shoulders mean.

    What keeps me awake at night is the possibility that I don't make horse Vaquero Broke to my leg and body. How do I learn that? Or what are the hallmarks of the bridle horse that relate to his brokeness to aids other than the hand?



    Philosophically speaking, I think you *could* get a grazing bit horse to move that well. To me, it depends more on what the horseman told the horse he wanted. If he said "1. Never drop your shoulders; and 2. Go off the rider's body" I think he could choose whatever bit he liked or needed to make those two points.

    And I wouldn't put much stock in any horse collection illustrated in 18th- or 19th-century oil paintings. There is a huge tradition of animal painting/portraiture that exaggerates things like the small heads and rollkur-like necks. Artists painted those because that's what good art looked like and also what patrons paid for.

    If you want to know more about this, read some of the discussions among cattle guys in The Breeders Gazette after the 1890s when photography became available. People interested in livestock shows as a means for teaching commercial cattlemen what good stock looked like were very critical of livestock painters who were stylish but inaccurate. I'm sure the same thing was true for horses. Incidentally, the cattle painters and horse painters tended to do the same thing: Huge, round body, tiny legs and refined head.

    Looking at photographs of some of the cattle born, say, 6 generations after those painted to be so pretty..... ain't no way the ancestors were that refined. So I don't think the equine subjects of those paintings actually looked like those exquisitely fed and trained good movers you see represented.
    I will say, when you put more bit in the "very well trained" horse, you can see that as putting power steering there, no more working at turning that wheel.

    The difference is very clear if you ever ride with those big bits.
    I didn't like the difference, because it felt so super responsive, but the horses "in the bridle" to that point to me were extremely stiff otherwise.
    I think that the bit made them so, that is much to put in a horse's mouth and go do something with that horse, where the bit can't possibly just sit there inactive and only come into play when you ask something.
    Why? Because when you are doing more than dry work, all bets are off.

    To explain better what I mean, there are plenty of videos of horses in the bridle branding cattle and you can see how they here and there resist that much bit as they have to keep working as the work demands.

    My point, that is "a lot of bit" in there when you do more than dry work or very controlled cattle work, like in an arena.
    That is at least what we talked about with Don Dodge and he said that few could pull a fully in the bridle finished horse and get outside cattle work done without losing some of the fine tuning those bigger bits provide, that power steering.

    Again, the old in the bridle trained horses were not that flexible, some because that was not that wanted then, not to the extreme we train for today.

    One important point, a really good, experienced horseman with a feel for how the horse works for and under him will make any kind of training or gear work, eventually.
    The trouble, there are few humans like that and when you see one and have the educated eye to appreciate that, it is really wonderful to see.

    How can you tell if someone is that kind of horseman?
    They will have an utter respect for the horse, you won't see them hauling around on one, because they will already have the horse following their guidance before it ever comes to a need to haul around on it.
    This applies to any and all disciplines.

    It is hard for many to see that, because watching those kind of horsemen handle and ride horses is like watching paint dry, you don't get to see much happening, because it is not.
    You can admire how smooth the human and horse work.

    With that for a standard, I can say so many trainers in the public eye out there are ham handed, mostly are utterly ignorant of what level of real finesse can be out there.
    That is sad to see, because so many learn by watching their trainers work.
    If those had a light hand on a horse, so many more would learn that is possible.
    You don't have to bop horses around to get what you want from them.


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  7. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by californianinkansas View Post
    Thank you for putting this out there. Have you considered writing a book, or at least a blog? You've a lovely writing "voice."
    Thanks much, but I like threads like these because of the debate...keeps me honest


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  8. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by aktill View Post
    While I certainly respect the athleticism of a working cow horse, there's no requirement for those horses to be even broke to rope off of, let alone to be horses to doctor outside off of or ride all day. Not the same as the working definition of a bridle horse.

    If you wanted to call them bridle horses in their respective competitive divisions, that's certainly your right, but that's not how I personally see the term.

    Again, not taking anything away from the working cow horse, but reined cow horse is actually a better term for the sport. It's reining with an element of cow work, not a complete showcase of what a working ranch horse needs to be able to do.

    Starting a horse early enough to make the futurity circuit makes it less likely he'd be a candiate to stay sound as a ranch horse all that long. That's why the old ranches waited until they were mature 5 or 6 yr olds to do all that much...can't ride a long circle on a 2 yr old and expect him to stay sound all that long.
    Agree 150%!!!! I just bought a working/reined cowhorse to show in ranch versitility. He is a "ranch" horse that lived in a stall 24/7 and worked only in an arena. I am not sure what he would think of a full day of outside work but I hope to do it with him. He has a great mind it is just uneducated beyond an arena wall!

    At our last stock horse show the daughter of a lessor known clinician/bridle horseman/stockman came. Her "ranch" horse beat everyone! This horse, as far as I know, had never been an arena horse but worked on a ranch daily. I thought he was the softest, most responsive horse there. It was amazing to watch!!


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  9. #49
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    In my experience, it is really uncommon to see a bridle horse (by what I, and probably Aktill's, call a bridle horse) out working.
    They do exist. One fellow I know came to our branding with his bridle horse, and another time to help us move pairs from one pasture to another.
    His horse, in his later teens, had been turned out for a while. Consequently, he showed up to move pairs in a two rein (usually using the hackamore to keep the horse soft, supple and bending properly). And he showed up to brand, where things get faster, down-and-dirtier, in a bosal. Yes, that WAS a bridle horse, and it was so because his rider knew how to keep the horse laterally supple, and that if the horse is out of practice, you don't go hanging just the spade on him when things are likely to get a little western.
    Anyway, one of the reasons that there aren't too many 'real' bridle horses is that a lot of the riders don't know how to maintain the lateral softness and flexion in a curb bit- regardless of signal.
    A bridle horse will have been through a stage with a hackamore/bosal, because in using the bosal you necessarily teach the horse to respond on a feel. Once your horse is very well versed in working outside (branding, roping, sorting, cutting) and staying on a feel, you can go to a curb bit- precisely because you almost never have to actually USE the leverage to get your point across, or to make something happen.

    Aktill, I've been thinking about you using the spade and not going through a half-breed. I might have done the same (assuming I get past the bosal) if I didn't already have two really nice half-breed bits hanging on my wall.
    The signal on a spade is that the spoon of the spade touches the horse on the roof of his mouth, reminding him to raise the base of his neck and coil his loins in collection.
    If I can't get my horse to offer me collection in a snaffle and then a bosal, I have no business in a curb bit. (In my opinion.) So while I am looking forward to having/making a true bridle horse (though it may be years!), and using a spade bit, I don't think that having the palate signal is essential. However, having the horse respond in ALL of his work, on a feel, and having the horse able to carry himself properly in collection while maintaining lateral softness is essential.

    My other observation is that riding a horse usually in an arena, you can really progress pretty fast. Going out and moving a herd of cows, you can maintain things...but when you go out and have to GALLOP and then stop and turn, holding cattle, roping cattle...you find out just where you and your horse need a lot more work. I am fine in a bosal if we are inside, or moving cows, but getting one pair at a time, not so much!



  10. #50
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    Bosal questions for you guys:

    From Fillabeana's story: How do you use the shanked bit to talk to the horse about keeping a bend at all? That must come from your leg and body, right? Or do you put one finger on one rein or the other if you want to talk to one side of the horse's mouth with a bit that is stiff/stable side-to-side?

    Given that the last time in a horse's training that you can talk to one side of his face at a time is in the bosal, does that mean that horsemen go back to that often?

    I don't know any horse who is "done" learning to hold a bend. Every horse I have ridden sooner or later needs some reminder and for me, so far, that involves at least a little hand.

    Maybe this wasn't such a big deal to the vaqueros of old. I remember reading a good but old book on training the western horse and they really didn't care about bend. For example, they were happy if you rode a circle as an octagon-- straight sides and turns. If you don't need a horse to bend, I think you could do just fine graduating to a shanked, stable bit and perhaps staying there.
    The armchair saddler
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  11. #51
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    Bosal questions for you guys:

    From Fillabeana's story: How do you use the shanked bit to talk to the horse about keeping a bend at all? That must come from your leg and body, right? Or do you put one finger on one rein or the other if you want to talk to one side of the horse's mouth with a bit that is stiff/stable side-to-side?

    Given that the last time in a horse's training that you can talk to one side of his face at a time is in the bosal, does that mean that horsemen go back to that often?

    I don't know any horse who is "done" learning to hold a bend. Every horse I have ridden sooner or later needs some reminder and for me, so far, that involves at least a little hand.

    Maybe this wasn't such a big deal to the vaqueros of old. I remember reading a good but old book on training the western horse and they really didn't care about bend. For example, they were happy if you rode a circle as an octagon-- straight sides and turns. If you don't need a horse to bend, I think you could do just fine graduating to a shanked, stable bit and perhaps staying there.
    mvp, great post and I think it really pokes at exactly what does make a 'true' bridle horse: yes, the horse has, all along through its training, learned how to bend laterally, how to move properly through a turn by having the hindquarters step outward rather than keep a stiff neck and fall inward...how to bend by a signal from the riders leg rather than being pulled laterally by the snaffle and/or bosal rein.

    I think a lot of people riding a 'bridle horse' that isn't really a bridle horse...do turn by making straight lines and they think that is OK. Horses with a curb/spade bit hung on them, can't and/or don't bend laterally, and that is what some people think has to occur if the horse is really 'straight up in the bridle'. I agree completely that no horse is ever 'done' learning to bend laterally.

    People riding what I would consider a real bridle horse DO bend...they could go in and ride a very good 2nd level dressage test on their curb bit, with the horse supple and bending laterally.

    mvp, the bosal rein on a two-rein is precisely what a bridle horseman uses (reins-wise) to remind the horse to bend laterally. So yes, the good horsemen who find some lateral stiffness in their bridle horse do go back to the two-rein with a small bosal under the bridle, and address the lateral pull on the reins that way rather than two-handing their curb.


    Throughout the training, Buck is using his inside leg on a turn to ask the hindquarters to step outwards- this is what maintains a bend. (This might make a big trainwreck COTH mess, I realize, but once you really learn it you will note that any dressage horse moving through a turn properly IS doing this with his hindquarters). Anyway, Buck's horses will turn this way even with no hands on any reins. That clarity and way of moving is fostered throughout, so it is really built in and nothing new for the horse to bend and turn off your legs when the horse goes in a curb only for the first time.

    This concept of having the HQ move out on a bend can really blow your mind at first if you've been taught otherwise.
    Dr. Deb Bennett puts it really well here:
    http://www.equinestudies.org/lessons..._2008_pdf1.pdf
    I had to get a basic understanding of this before I could figure out why the heck Buck was instructing me to use my legs 'backwards' of what I had always been taught.
    But once I got mentally through this, I realized that a horse moving balanced through a turn was ALWAYS moving his HQ laterally on the turn- even the ones from dressage videos, with the horse moving properly with his HQ stepping outward on the bend, yet described as moving on two parallel railroad tracks.


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  12. #52
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    I got it with respect to a signal bit-- the structure (which you explained well and some parts of the bit which are new to me), and the philosophy. I must say, I am a philosopher and a hand rider and a slacker, so I seem to *always* get a horse so broke to the bridle that everything is a signal bit. I can make a loose ring mullen mouth into a signal bit, yanno?
    Well, I know what you're saying, but there's still a structural element that prevents snaffles or curbs from working the same way as bosals or spades.

    Snaffles offer a feeling of connection that's sometimes easier to feel certain things out in than a hackamore, for example, and I often ride out in one if I need to feel something I know I'm not getting in my lighter gear. However, riding pressure gear LIKE signal gear really isn't quite the same.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    So my question: What about getting them equally broke to the seat and leg?
    That's an easy answer with a lifetime's work behind it...you have to have as much respect for your body's aids as you do for your rein aids, and instill that same respect into the horse.

    Most people, myself included, tend to overemphasize the rein by orders of magnitude. If we need to make an adjustment, we use the rein. It's a human thing...people in general tend to think with their hands more than the rest of their body.

    Our horses, in turn, learn to hear us through the rein FAR more than the rest of our body. It's why most people are baffled by the thought of riding in release...how do you then steer?

    The responsibility comes from being willing reverse that tendency. ESPECIALLY if something goes wrong, the first tendency should be to stay centered and ask with your body, not clutch the rein. There's a fantastic photo out there showing Richard Caldwell caught in the moment where his horse has tripped and is threatening to fall on his face. You can see Richard actively reaching out to give his hackamore horse room to recover, where 99% of us would be clutching the rein back in a death grip.

    The rein's only job is to talk to the brace in the horse's body...that's it. It's not for turning or even for bend, in the end. The process of getting there is different, obviously, but you need to ride with that final goal in mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    It seems to me that no one will progress past a snaffle (the way I use it) or a bosal until they have a clear idea what "buttons" they want to install on their horse that come from the body.
    My opinion is if you ever think of the horse responding to buttons, you're basically doomed

    The horse should respond to what you're doing with your body. Think of your "aids" not as things you do to your horse, but as ways to adjust your horse's body to be in alignment with yours. Slip into your horse's back legs with your seat bones. Connect his shoulders to yours.

    Eventually, the back and forth will become natural to both parties. If there's any tension left in the equation, it won't happen.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Or, rather, you *start* a colt working toward these from the beginning; you don't do a bunch of stuff with a snaffle and then decide to teach him what your leg and sitting bones and shoulders mean.
    That's the clean way to do it, but not strictly required. Lots of us have horses that didn't get the cleanest start, but while they're going to require longer to get there, they're not hopeless.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    What keeps me awake at night is the possibility that I don't make horse Vaquero Broke to my leg and body.
    The above section might help, but in the mean time don't obsess about the destination, enjoy the journey. If you're not a working horseperson, then the point of following the vaquero progression is to embrace refinement without losing the concept of "tomorrow is fine".

    Have the goal to produce a bridle horse and tailor your teachings as such, but don't worry about the time element in particular. Nothing wrong with making an amazing snaffle bit horse.

    This is why I couldn't personally care less about the show world to any great degree. I don't mind who can produce a better horse quicker, because that's missing the point a bit.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    How do I learn that? Or what are the hallmarks of the bridle horse that relate to his brokeness to aids other than the hand?
    Softness. That's what most people miss. It's much easier to produce a light horse than it is to produce a soft, light horse.

    I differentiate the two as lightness being responsiveness, but softness being understanding and inner okayness.

    Trigger reined without softness isn't something that appeals to me personally.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Philosophically speaking, I think you *could* get a grazing bit horse to move that well. To me, it depends more on what the horseman told the horse he wanted. If he said "1. Never drop your shoulders; and 2. Go off the rider's body" I think he could choose whatever bit he liked or needed to make those two points.
    True. Signal tack is more horse-friendly though, and demands more responsibility from the rider. You can't cover up holes in your OWN horsemanship when you use it.

    I've been told by some I respect that there's no need at all to even go to the two rein from a functional perspective, but if you CAN make a bridle horse it says a lot about both you and your horse.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    And I wouldn't put much stock in any horse collection illustrated in 18th- or 19th-century oil paintings. Artists painted those because that's what good art looked like and also what patrons paid for.
    Very good points in those sections! Another curious historical tidbit is how some artists would intentionally paint a gapped mouth on their horses to IMPLY that the horse had a soft mouth, when it actually visually depicted the opposite lol
    Last edited by aktill; May. 29, 2013 at 09:06 AM.


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  13. #53
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bluey View Post
    I will say, when you put more bit in the "very well trained" horse, you can see that as putting power steering there, no more working at turning that wheel.
    The difference is very clear if you ever ride with those big bits.
    I didn't like the difference, because it felt so super responsive, but the horses "in the bridle" to that point to me were extremely stiff otherwise.
    I think that the bit made them so
    You're describing FANTASTICALLY the feeling of riding a light horse that isn't soft. Just because a horse is responsive doesn't mean it's okay on the inside.

    A spade or hackamore isn't going to make things better, it's going to make things CLEARER. Not only will the horse hear what you're wanting to say, it will also emphasize the things you didn't mean to.

    If you combine that with a horse who's been brought along to be responsive (light) before he's been taught to understand and accept his lessons (soft), Californio tack will highlight that like a laser.

    Most modern horsemanship emphasizes responsive at the cost of okay. The whole colt starting competition idea in particular is predicated on getting as much stuff done as quickly as possible, with lip service paid to the horse not completely exploding.

    Likewise, most "natural" trainers get so obsessed with soft that they actually cross over into dull. Get the horse dull and he won't turf the person who doesn't ride all that well or responsibly.

    To get both light and soft is to be worthy of others calling you a horseman.

    Where we somewhat part ways is that you say that is tough to impossible to take this tack and keep a horse soft, especially when the environment isn't controlled. That would be a reason for choosing something more forgiving.

    I, in turn, say that's WHY I choose this tack. Down to the choice of a straight cheek bit, I want the responsibility and the accountability. Especially given my two-rein horse's tendency to be naturally light (making him far HARDER to train to be soft), it's how I make sure I'm keeping him okay.



  14. #54
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Bosal questions for you guys:

    From Fillabeana's story: How do you use the shanked bit to talk to the horse about keeping a bend at all? That must come from your leg and body, right? Or do you put one finger on one rein or the other if you want to talk to one side of the horse's mouth with a bit that is stiff/stable side-to-side?

    Given that the last time in a horse's training that you can talk to one side of his face at a time is in the bosal, does that mean that horsemen go back to that often?

    I don't know any horse who is "done" learning to hold a bend. Every horse I have ridden sooner or later needs some reminder and for me, so far, that involves at least a little hand.

    Maybe this wasn't such a big deal to the vaqueros of old. I remember reading a good but old book on training the western horse and they really didn't care about bend. For example, they were happy if you rode a circle as an octagon-- straight sides and turns. If you don't need a horse to bend, I think you could do just fine graduating to a shanked, stable bit and perhaps staying there.
    I don't think today's overbending would have been considered correct years ago, but called rubbernecked horses.

    There is some happy medium from stiff up in the bridle horses some became to limber necks you can't barely ask to bend without the horse having learned to cheat on you and lose the connection from back to front and you don't have anything left but a stuck horse.

    A friend that trains roping horses had a terrible time with one such rubber neck horse he bought some years ago and said never again, such a horse just would revert in the hands of any but the best horsemen with a good seat and leg to cheating on less skilled riders, by not fault of the horse, that is how he seemed to have been started.
    It took some good riding to keep him together.

    The better trained horses, no matter how advanced or just being started are those that can be adjustable and stay honest, not evade your aids or run thru them.

    Those that start colts with a bosal learn in a hurry not to make either mistake, although some old bridle books will say that not all horses were good at the bosal stage, by lack of sensitivity or a less than educated start with one.
    Those they just didn't use a bosal on.

    For the past 40+ years and longer, we have started all horses, race or ranch horses, with our home made grass rope hackamore and then transition to a plain snaffle, as that gave us the best start for what we were doing.

    By the time we went to a grazing bit curb, the horses were already trained where the bit was the lesser of the aids and when training, back to the snaffle for that and when just working cattle outside on trained horses, the old grass rope nose bosal was best for us, having to ride thru the thick brush.

    For what I understood, the vaquero on the bridle tradition then went on to the bosalito with their lighter curbs and ultimately, not all but the best, to fancy spades.


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  15. #55
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fillabeana View Post
    In my experience, it is really uncommon to see a bridle horse (by what I, and probably Aktill's, call a bridle horse) out working.
    They do exist. One fellow I know came to our branding with his bridle horse, and another time to help us move pairs from one pasture to another.
    His horse, in his later teens, had been turned out for a while. Consequently, he showed up to move pairs in a two rein (usually using the hackamore to keep the horse soft, supple and bending properly). And he showed up to brand, where things get faster, down-and-dirtier, in a bosal. Yes, that WAS a bridle horse, and it was so because his rider knew how to keep the horse laterally supple, and that if the horse is out of practice, you don't go hanging just the spade on him when things are likely to get a little western.
    From what you're describing, that person was a real hand.

    What lots of people don't get is that link between what's appropriate for the situation and what's available. Doing as you describe is perfectly appropriate given a desire to protect the horses' mouth and training. I would guess most bridle horses spend a lot of time in the two rein while working, or even going back to the hackamore (especially in the winter, of when cleaning tack is tricky on a given day).

    There shouldn't be any stigma in going back and forth between "stages", but there seems to be. I gave up on a rediculous western dressage thread once where someone was arguing for curbs at intro since the older horses had forgotten how to work in snaffles and the riders didn't feel safe. That just shows how silly the whole concept is, but also the attitude some have towards tack.

    Going forward teaches you where the holes are in your foundation, and so has great value. Going back isn't a failure, but taking the time to fill in those holes.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fillabeana View Post
    Anyway, one of the reasons that there aren't too many 'real' bridle horses is that a lot of the riders don't know how to maintain the lateral softness and flexion in a curb bit- regardless of signal.
    A bridle horse will have been through a stage with a hackamore/bosal, because in using the bosal you necessarily teach the horse to respond on a feel. Once your horse is very well versed in working outside (branding, roping, sorting, cutting) and staying on a feel, you can go to a curb bit- precisely because you almost never have to actually USE the leverage to get your point across, or to make something happen.
    Lateral flexion is imperative to correct movement, and I'm a big believer in that. It's not created in the bridle though, as you state...it needs to be part of the foundation first.

    All leverage should do is dictate how far your hand should move. It really shouldn't have anything to do with multiplying force.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fillabeana View Post
    Aktill, I've been thinking about you using the spade and not going through a half-breed. I might have done the same (assuming I get past the bosal) if I didn't already have two really nice half-breed bits hanging on my wall.
    Nothing wrong with that! I went to a spade because I want to make a spade bit horse too, really.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fillabeana View Post
    The signal on a spade is that the spoon of the spade touches the horse on the roof of his mouth, reminding him to raise the base of his neck and coil his loins in collection.
    If I can't get my horse to offer me collection in a snaffle and then a bosal, I have no business in a curb bit. (In my opinion.) So while I am looking forward to having/making a true bridle horse (though it may be years!), and using a spade bit, I don't think that having the palate signal is essential. However, having the horse respond in ALL of his work, on a feel, and having the horse able to carry himself properly in collection while maintaining lateral softness is essential.
    By the time the spoon touches the roof of the mouth (if it even can, depending on the bit and curb strap adjustment), the horse has missed a bunch of pre signals. The value of the spade comes from balance and being able to carry the bit, as I've written about before. That's not possible in the half breed bits.

    Now you're certainly right to say that the spade won't create this if it's not there in the earlier stages, but there's something quite special about them even early on. Tough to say exactly, and I freely admit I might be delusional, but there's just something different about these bits.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fillabeana View Post
    My other observation is that riding a horse usually in an arena, you can really progress pretty fast. Going out and moving a herd of cows, you can maintain things...but when you go out and have to GALLOP and then stop and turn, holding cattle, roping cattle...you find out just where you and your horse need a lot more work. I am fine in a bosal if we are inside, or moving cows, but getting one pair at a time, not so much!
    Amen to that! I was pleased to see Buck talking about that in the 7 Clinics series, when he talked about being able to dial them up and down without bringing on a dose of the crazies.
    Last edited by aktill; May. 29, 2013 at 09:09 AM.



  16. #56
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    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    From Fillabeana's story: How do you use the shanked bit to talk to the horse about keeping a bend at all? That must come from your leg and body, right?
    A bridle bit has no ability to teach lateral flexion. It's a longitudinal tool.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Or do you put one finger on one rein or the other if you want to talk to one side of the horse's mouth with a bit that is stiff/stable side-to-side?
    That's called squaw reining by most, and it's not a great plan with bridle bits like spades in particular. If you look at the photos here: http://workingranchtv.com/article/14
    ...you'll see you can't really tip the bit very far before you'll catch the spoon on the side of the tooth arcade.
    http://www.pointernet.pds.hu/lovagla...o_the_past.pdf

    Not sure if this vid is public, but it's worth joining the group to watch: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v...7965991&type=1

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Given that the last time in a horse's training that you can talk to one side of his face at a time is in the bosal, does that mean that horsemen go back to that often?
    I don't know any horse who is "done" learning to hold a bend. Every horse I have ridden sooner or later needs some reminder and for me, so far, that involves at least a little hand.
    This is what the two rein does, and why it's such a shame that its a relatively unknown process these days.

    Quote Originally Posted by mvp View Post
    Maybe this wasn't such a big deal to the vaqueros of old. I remember reading a good but old book on training the western horse and they really didn't care about bend. For example, they were happy if you rode a circle as an octagon-- straight sides and turns. If you don't need a horse to bend, I think you could do just fine graduating to a shanked, stable bit and perhaps staying there.
    Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdunHRqflt0

    The rein is being used, but Bruce's hand rarely leaves the box over his saddle horn. When the horse turns,it turns with proper bend.


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  17. #57
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    atkill, I'm so appreciative of your participation on this thread - how did you come by your education? Were you a working horseman/woman? How long have you been working on/with your bridle horse? Do you have any pictures of yourself to share?
    My Mustang Adventures - my blog!
    Yoga for Equestrians
    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


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  18. #58
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    I like that Bruce Sandifer video! Horse looks very happy and it looks like a fun ride (minus the smoking, which actually made me chuckle, though)!
    My Mustang Adventures - my blog!
    Yoga for Equestrians
    "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


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  19. #59
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    atkill, I'm so appreciative of your participation on this thread
    Me, too
    I can't wait until I have the mental wherewithal to ask aktill about hooves, trimming and farriery. That'll be another (long, and wonderfully educational) thread on another day.

    From what you're describing, that person was a real hand.
    For real! One of this fellow's best qualities is that he is not afraid to 'look stupid' by asking questions of 'authorities', and he is not afraid to take the horse's answer as the most qualified input.


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  20. #60
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    Great thread. I appreciate the concept of bigger bits being a graduation, not a flunk out.


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