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Needing a bit (okay, more like a lot) of advice

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  • Needing a bit (okay, more like a lot) of advice

    My 7 year old mare is currently in a jointed uxeter kimberwick on the recommendation of my (soon to be ex) trainer. She's okay in this, meaning she's controllable and stops but she won't soften or flex nicely. In response to this my trainer has told me basically to a) just keep sawing on the bit and pull her head in or b) put her in an Arabian training martingale and use draw reins to get "that head set" (again, sawing on the bit to get her head in).

    This is a breed barn (Morgan) and their big emphasis is on pleasure classes, so that should give you all an inkling of where they're coming from. My mare was originally trained for driving and saddleseat. This barn then used her for saddleseat and hunter lessons before I bought her (and I will admit I got manipulated into buying her).

    Now, I'm leaving this barn ASAP because things were just not working out for us there, obviously. We are moving to a barn where they teach from a balanced seat perspective and offer instruction in both hunter/jumper and dressage. I've been riding there for months and love it. My riding has greatly improved, too.

    That is our odd little back story.

    What I have noticed is that walking and no rein contact = nice, relaxed working-through-the-back horse. Pick up the reins = head up, tense, fighting the bit. I know partly this is my fault from being inexperienced and being sold a very green horse. The question now is how do I work to remedy this until I can get her to the new barn?

    She's a very sweet, intelligent, precise mare who will do what I ask. I really want to work with her in a way that's best for her.

    Thanks in advance!

  • #2
    The dressage instruction should be just the ticket.

    You ultimately will want the horse to soften with soft equal contact in both reins and adding leg. Horses get soft with more leg, not hand. But I would suggest that until you get some dressage instruction with this horse you ride her on a loose rein and let her decompress from the sawing (disastrous! Stop that immediately!). Then you can introduce the concept of contact when she is fresh. For now, work on straight and forward and relaxed so she will be ready to go with your new trainer.

    I would ditch the kimberwick, you can't have constant soft contact in one because of the curb action. You can put her in a jointed or french link snaffle. It sounds like she will be controllable in one and you will need to switch at the dressage barn anyway, your current bit is not legal for dressage and "unconventional" for hunters.

    Good luck and good for you for recognizing that the old barn's training tactics are not proper or working for your horse.

    Comment


    • #3
      Simplify

      I second the recommendation of the french link snaffle. Dover has an inexpensive one with a copper link for under $40 that my sensitive mare is very comfortable & responsive in.

      While you're both getting used to the change in equipment, I'd suggest working on what we jokingly call a "safety circle". It should be a large enough circle that your horse can move forward comfortably but you don't have any level of stress about gaining speed down the long side. A good frame should actually come from your horse driving forward with their back end, relaxing/engaging their back and that carries through to their head carriage. Keep your reins still & relaxed, but not so long that you'll want to make a frantic grab for them if she gets quick-which is unsettling for both of you. Encourage her to bend with soft pressure from your inside leg and encourage a longer step with even pressure from your legs. Start at a walk and the instant she relaxes, drops her head or bends at all, tell her how fantastic she is. Start changing her expectation from "oh no, this might hurt" to "now is when I hear how beautiful I am". Once you can see her start to connect bend/drop head= praise you can try the same thing at a trot. Again, praise even the most tentative attempts to do what you're asking. If feel her getting forward, make a soft, quiet transition to a walk, and continue the exercise walking until you're both settled down and organized enough to trot again. Make sure you're fast to praise the desired behavior. If you get an aha moment, be ready to halt, hop off, treat and call it a day. I've had days where I've ridden my mare for less than 10 min. because she came out and showed she finally understood something we'd been working hard on. Definitely locks in the learning for her.

      Make your short term goal for your mare to try to grab the bridle out of your hands because she loves to be ridden & feels she knows how to win praise and treats. Good luck with your girl & your new trainer.

      Comment


      • #4
        ^ Ditto to both posts above. Also, remember to keep some support from your outside rein when doing your circle exercises. You don't want her to fall into the circle and she needs to be supported from both sides. We're working on "correct circles" right now with my gelding, and they've been so helpful in the progression of his training!

        Agree, stop see-sawing...ugh! Hate that!
        "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

        Comment


        • #5
          How long until the move? Can you just kind of stop doing anything until she's there and you have some good assistance?

          By "stop doing anything" I mean can you just WTC her in a snaffle safely, so you're keeping her worked and getting used to having something other than the kimberwicke in? Sort of "clean the slate" before she moves to the new place?

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            Firstly, thanks to all of you. I really appreciate the support and direction.

            I was never comfortable with the mouth-sawing and quit months ago, much to the annoyance of my trainer, I'm sure.

            And, in the best of news, the stall opened up early so I can move my mare this week! Very excited!!

            Comment


            • #7
              I would give her the last days off! Maybe some lunging and of course some free play time outside to get the extra energy out but I wouldn't ride per say before you can get real instruction.

              I wouldn't ditch the Kimberwick just yet, until you can be sure that she won't run with you without it. Avoid mouth-sawing of course but you could still work on your seat, hands and legs while using the kimberwick. You could also start by removing the chain if there is one and also change the positionning of your reins if they are attached to create leverage. Just put the reins as if it was a D-Bit. You'll then be able to make changes less drastically for you and your horse!

              One of my 'friend' made the mistake of changing her new horse's bit from its usual small dia. mullen mouth pelham to a big fat dia. loose ring...well let's just say she couldn't stop...at all. Not a nice first ride.
              ~ Enjoying some guac and boxed wine at the Blue Saddle inn. ~

              Originally posted by LauraKY
              I'm sorry, but this has "eau de hoarder" smell all over it.
              HORSING mobile training app

              Comment


              • #8
                French link for sure lots work at the walk and trot on maintaining a very nice subtle bend making sure to RELEASE as soon as she bends and softens. Lots of circles, serpentines, etc. You want to teach her that you're soft, when she's soft and vice versa. Soon I think you'll have a much softer horse. I'd also consider lunging in loose side reins with the french link so she can get a very stable "ride" Good luck!
                ~Over or Through~

                A Blog of Percy's Journey!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Have you had her teeth done by a REALLY GOOD dentist using a speculum and a good light to see the whole mouth? A bit seat can make them MUCH more comfortable too, as long as it's not over-done.

                  Once you've had her teeth done, I would start her in a loose chambon. It would help to teach her to give to poll pressure by dropping her head first so that she knows what the Chambon means. That will help teach her to stretch down without being harsh. It will reward her when she relaxes unlike draw reins or a martingale.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    One thing I found with taking my gelding from this kind of training to dressage is that contact FREAKED HIM OUT. He was so used to the idea that he was in trouble if I touched his mouth that he'd blow to pieces with contact.

                    A lot of gentle suppling work with soft, light hands that were kept wide worked with him. I also found that it worked best to make the changes from breed ring to dressage in small bits so he didn't get overwhelmed. IE, changing the legs/seat/hands one at a time. This cut down on a lot of our issues. My gelding still works in a running martingale, but it's fairly loose and only for really bad head tosses. I'm shutting him down with my seat most of the time now.
                    Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Instead of buying a new bit right away, can you give the mare some time off until you move? Maybe ride in a halter and lead rope? When you do move, ask the trainer if there are any "barn bits" that you can try out. My mare HATED the french link I bought for her, so when people recommend it, I have to say "try it out" lol.

                      Good luck, and it will make a world of difference for your mare to move to a barn with a better trainer!
                      "On the back of a horse I felt whole, complete, connected to that vital place in the center of me...and the chaos within me found balance."

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        First of all, get rid of that bit, or any thing like it. Put a plain snaffle in her mouth as you've got to encourage her to soften up.

                        Second, if all you've done (thanks to your excellent trainer) is saw on her mouth to get her head down, it's no wonder she tenses up when she feels pressure on those reins.

                        She is going to need some time to realize that the bit is not the devil and that she can relax and soften with it. I would take her out of draw reins, out of that bit, out of anything that connects to the bit besides your rein (note, single rein,, not double reins) and spend some times riding on a loose rein, with soft hands. Hold some mane if you've got trouble keeping your hands still. Don't worry about her frame of body, worry about her frame of mind. As long as she thinks that bit is a terrible thing (becauseall she knows is that it IS a terrible thing) she is going to be tense, and never move in a true frame.

                        I haven't read the other responses, but in sure its been mentioned that a frame comes from behind, not from the front.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Ainsley688 View Post
                          Instead of buying a new bit right away, can you give the mare some time off until you move? Maybe ride in a halter and lead rope? When you do move, ask the trainer if there are any "barn bits" that you can try out. My mare HATED the french link I bought for her, so when people recommend it, I have to say "try it out" lol.

                          Good luck, and it will make a world of difference for your mare to move to a barn with a better trainer!
                          This is similar to my suggestion, which would be to temporarily try a basic english hackamore, like http://www.smartpakequine.com/englis...x?cm_vc=Search

                          If she's comfortable with it, work on getting her to relax her neck and back muscles and just enjoy the riding time.
                          Lucy (Precious Star) - 1994 TB mare; happily reunited with her colt Touch the Stars

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            So, last night I rode my mare with a D-ring snaffle and a very loose rein. I wanted to see how she would respond. We had a great time! She went forward really well and seemed very happy. Normally I need to use a crop, but not last night. And I was pleasantly surprised to find out I wasn't using the reins as much for balance as I feared.

                            Just to clarify - I took her out of the draw reins last summer, after she tossed me a good one. She hasn't tossed me since then. I stopped the sawing a while ago as well. It just seemed to confuse her. The trainer would say to push her forward while pulling her head back/working the bit back-and-forth to get her "up into the bridle". That seemed completely counter-intuitive to me. I'm telling her to go faster and stop at the same time. Some other things went on and I think we both just became a huge ball of tension during our lessons. Not good on any account.

                            We're moving her tomorrow morning, a month sooner than expected, which I am *very* excited about. The training issues were just part of a long list of things.

                            Thanks everyone for your input and the support. I really needed to vent!!

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Have you tried the Jane Savoie connecting half halts? They work really well for my gelding.
                              Proud member of the Snort and Blow Clique

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Good for you for recognizing that things weren't going well and being conscious of the fact that you needed to change barns as well! I'm really looking forward to hearing positive updates on you and your mare. She's a lucky girl to have found you!
                                Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                                Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                                "Once you go off track, you never go back!"

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I haven't posted but I read the thread and it made me smile to see that you moved out of the kimberwicke those are about the worst bits for dressage or really any work on contact because you can't touch them without there being curb pressure, so you were right to think it was counter intuitive.
                                  RIP Don - 3/28/2004-8/15/2012

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    How many of you guys have seen the movie "Buck"?

                                    I love when he has a guy at the clinic hold the bit and Buck has the reins like he would while riding. He tells the guy "don't let go no matter what" and then yanks the reins. The guy tenses up to keep hold of the bit. He does this numerous times. Then, he moves suddenly like he is going to pull on the reins, but does NOT, and the guy tenses up anyways. It was a perfect example of how eventually a horse that constantly gets yanked on just expects that a slight change in contact is going to mean a yank, and tenses up.

                                    You don't get a soft horse by being hard on their mouth. This was the best way I've seen that demonstrated, and it has stuck with me since. I remember this when my gelding is proving to be a challenging ride, and I keep repeating that scene over in my head to remain soft, because yanking accomplishes nothing, and only takes you steps backwards.
                                    "If you think nobody cares about you, try missing a couple payments..."

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      You are getting a lot of good advice here.

                                      I would just like to add to not be afraid to go REALLY soft with her. She needs to learn to not fear the bridle or contact, but to accept it. A french link or even something super soft, like a real flexy rubber bit, Nathe, or HS Duo. I have used any of those on horses that were either backed off the bridle and behind the vertical, or who were terrified to take a contact and have had good results.

                                      Good luck!
                                      Amanda

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        This is an awesome bit and sits nicer in the mouth than a french link IMO:
                                        http://www.smartpakequine.com/herm-s...x?cm_vc=Search
                                        Boyle Heights Kid 1998 16.1h OTTB Dark Bay Gelding
                                        Tinner's Way x Sculpture by Hail to Reason
                                        "Once you go off track, you never go back!"

                                        Comment

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