Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

In the Arena #64 - Sometimes I can be such a knucklehead...

As was the case with most things regarding Val and his tack when I first got him / it, how I initially adjusted everything was trial and error. We've had a number of errors. Saddle placement for instance - there are guidelines, but every horse is built differently. Val needs room for his shoulders but also has a bit of a roached back. He has no problem expressing himself - some mini bucks clued me in. For Val to be truly comfortable the saddle needs to be just so. Our first dressage girth let the saddle slip forward. More mini bucks. A timely mention of the Le Tixerant girth from Grey Horse Matters got us on the right track. Val's not too keen on anything but the largest setting for his cavesson. And loose ring snaffles were pinchy. Not good. It's french link eggbutt all the way for us.

While catching up on some reading over the weekend, I came across a suggestion that sometimes geldings and stallions can use to have their bit sit just a bit higher in their mouths. There was no explanation of why, and I couldn't for the life of me even tell you where I read it. All I know is when I tacked up today, that thought came to me. I checked out how the bit sat in the corners of Val's mouth. I could really only see one, maybe one and a half wrinkles, so I took up each side a notch.

We had a lovely ride. It was actually hot out - very sunny and still. There were no issues with geography. (!) Making good progress with our big walk, and responsiveness to my asking for it. Lots of trot work. Trot / walk, trot / halt transitions, half halting through the corners and some two point work. Nothing new, but some nice work.

I'll need a few more rides to confirm, but it seemed like Val really liked the adjustment. He was very responsive and did quite a bit of chewing / mouthing his bit. Turning was smoother, and the contact felt easier to maintain. Go figure... 

After a refreshing liniment rub down we grazed for a spell. Val tucked into some juicy green stuff while I thought about things. Like how come I could overlook such a simple adjustment. And how long Val may have been trying to tell me about it. Just like with the saddle, the girth, the needle hay... Bless our horses hearts for being so tolerant of us humans, who can be a little on the slow side. :)


  1. Oh yea on that adjustment :) I know, sometimes I feel so bad at 'missed requests' from my horse. Well, late is better than never :) Your ride sounded lovely

  2. Sometimes I marvel at how patient my horse is with me. When I first had her I bet every time she saw me coming withnthe bridle she rolled herveyes because I would so mangle her ears while putting it on! Then when I'd take it off I'd let it clank on hervteeth! Poor mare! But she never held a grudge. I am glad a few minor adjustments can make everything better for you and your horse. Does he have those little wolf teeth? I forget about them sometimes because I have a mare and then when I see those little teeth on my friend's gelding, they always surprise me! Oh Granny, I say, what pointy little teeth you have!!

  3. Our horses are really a very patient bunch aren't they. Seems they'll give us clues until we finally figure things out. I'm glad they haven't learned to hold a grudge against stupidity (mine of course).

    Glad the new bit position seems to be working out and that you had a great ride. I'm waiting for a Le Tixerant girth to come in the mail for Dusty's new saddle, she needed a smaller size since she's lost some pudginess around the middle. I love those girths.

  4. I totally understand your frustration. It almost seems like I have to get hit over the head with a 2x4 to figure out something is not working. And it makes me feel so awful doing the whole trial and error on the beast I love so much. It seems like there is no easy answer. I think it makes it even harder when I have my horses at home and don't get the input of other "horsey" folk or trainers. It does make me feel better I am not the only one, though I wish there were easier answers to these tack issues.

  5. i know what you mean about the trial and error! but good for you for keeping an eye out for these things. i know so many riders who are happy to blame the horse rather than see if there is something they can do differently to make him more comfortable. and when i think of all the years i didn't know any better about things like saddle fit, bitting, over-tight cavessons, martingales, proper shoeing, etc. i feel so bad for those horses. i've gotten better, but there is so much to know that i still feel hopelessly ignorant sometimes :-\

    i'm kind of a bit geek, though - i have a huge collection of bits and love to experiment with different fits for different horses, so i can really appreciate this post :-) for me, the biggest factor in determining the height of the bit in the mouth is not so much a particular number of wrinkles (my nemesis mr. morris is one of those 'one bit fit for all' people, ugh!) so much as the position of the corner of the mouth in relation to the premolars and, in boys, the canines.

    most of our big guys have giant heads and a nice long interdental space, so there's usually a lot of room (lengthwise) for a bit, but grady, for example, also has long, stretchy lips that put his corners (and the bit) closer to his premolars, so i have him in a mullen mouth to help keep a more consistent position, and i fit his bit low in his mouth, with no wrinkles.

    but we had another horse, a big dutch gelding, who had a giant head but a short muzzle and lips, so if the bit was fitted loosely it was always too near his canines. we ended up fitting him with a french link and shortened the headstall so he had a couple wrinkles. that seemed to center the bit better on his bars and he was more comfortable.

    i wonder if your guy has similar mouth conformation and maybe that's why he's more comfortable with the higher bit fit? just a random theory. but, whatever the reason, the important thing is that he's happy and comfortable :-)

  6. C..awesome re-memory! Love the way it went with the adjustment and the comments here are great reading...I always love to gleen!

    Well, I have made all the mistakes one can make with a senitive mare..I hope that she'll forgive me when I get the new saddle.
    She does appreciate the bitless , I listened to her ask for that but, I have had to bring out the "Waterford" again..she's taken to lunging ahead and can go right through my aides in the bitless..and grabs the straight Mullen mouth I have. So, she needs to listen to me for a time, then I will reward again, with bitless.
    It is always something!

    YES, to answer your question..I'VE touched one of the new "CROSSOVER" saddles from ANSUR...gorgeous craftsmenship and it's the "Endevor" Dressage saddle, I believe, made to look Western!COMPY!!!
    thanks by the by, for adding your ditty about your own horses actions when in a group. I am glad i ranted on about's really been bugging me that a group of NH folks can make me feel so terrible a rider.She's a TB horse that has the total will to win!

  7. One of my horses (my heart horse, Bridget, now deceased) really liked to have the bit sitting high in her mouth. My trainer AND my horse kept trying to tell me this but I kept protesting. She liked it when her french link D-ring was adjusted to where she had at least three wrinkles(!) at each corner. When I finally gave in and tried it Bridget was like "thank goodness she FINALLY got it." My trainer went with a straight forward "I told you so."

  8. I think we all go through the trial and error thing. And just when you think you have it figured out a horse comes along that defies everything we know.

    I saw that mention about bits being higher for geldings or stallions. don't remember where it was either but it did stick in my brain.

  9. So great that you noticed and listened!


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