Friday, October 1, 2010

The Strangest Thing...

<-- See this bit? This is a Korsteel JP Oval Mouth dee ring snaffle... basically, one of likely the "softest" bits you can put in a horse's mouth.

See this bit? -->

This is a Mikmar Pelham... otherwise, generally known as a "Whoa, Dammit!" bit.

What's the point of this mini-lesson on bits? Well, let me tell you a little story:

About 6 years ago, Star and I competed at the Circle J Regional Morgan Horse Show, and Star did pretty well - Reserve Champion Hunter, Reserve Champion Jumper (by default), Reserve Eq Over Fences. Can't really complain too much about that, right? Well, at one point in between classes, the judge saw me and called out, "Hey, you, #blah-blah-blah - tighten up your horse's noseband!" Star likes to hang her mouth open (no matter what bit), and basically, the judge was telling me that was affecting our placings. So I tighten up her noseband. And then I bought a figure-8. And for the past 6 years, I have almost NEVER ridden Star without a flash or figure-8 noseband on her to keep her mouth closed.

Let me tell you another story:

Star is fast. She likes to get fast to the jumps. And up until this year, really, we hadn't done a whole lot of jumping in the three years she has been in Georgia, and there was a whole year prior to that I didn't jump really at all, because I lived in Georgia, and she was still in Iowa. So I figured that Star being fast to the jumps was partly due to bad habits and partly due to inconsistency of work over fences, because she hasn't always been like this. In an effort to get Star to slow down a bit, I have progressed through many bits, ultimately using the "Whoa, dammit!" bit pictured above. And it didn't do a damn thing, really.

So now for the final story:

I'm at the barn a couple weeks ago, a day or two after the PWF schooling show, where things didn't go perfectly, but I accomplished what I intended. I had come to the determination that I was not going to be able to change Star's style (fast) in the month I had until Nationals, so I was just going to have to do what I could with what I had. Anyway, so I'm at the barn, and of course, I had forgotten all my "normal" tack at home: figure-8 bridle, rolly-ball spurs, flash noseband attachment (no, I do not use it at the same time as a figure-8), and the "Whoa, dammit!" bit. So I pull a regular bridle with no keep-your-mouth-closed strap, put my Happy Mouth loose ring elevator on it (thoroughly expecting Star to run through it, as she has done in the past), put a running martingale on Star, and put my long dressage spurs on myself. I had set a couple jumps with plenty of room to circle between them and before and after them, in an attempt to maintain a decent rhythm and pace.

And Star was perfect.

Well, holy shit. What changed?

So over the next several rides, I changed things one at a time, to see if it was the bit, the martingale, the spurs, or the jump set-up... and she was still perfect, and has stayed perfect. She lopes up to the jumps (solid 3' - 3'3" jumps) in a Happy Mouth snaffle.

It's the strangest thing... it turns out, for the past six years, my poor horse has just been pissed that I've been strapping her mouth shut. That's a mare for you, I guess.

Oh, and the first bit pictured? Yeah, that's what she jumped around in the other. Still perfect.

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