Friday, October 12, 2012

Bridle Time!

Yay! Imogen and I have tackled and conquered yet another first for her - first bridling! Yes, you heard me right! Bit and everything! 
I posted a question this morning on my Facebook asking everyone for input on what to do with an incredibly earshy horse. Immy has undoubtedly been eared many times in her life, and while she allows me to touch her poll and stroke her ears now, she is not keen about letting anything else touch her ears. (Applying ear twitches regularly is a REALLY good way to turn your horse into a terrified, headshy mess. Just sayin'.) She has overcome SO many other fears with relative ease, but this one is deeply ingrained and will probably take a long time, if she ever fully gets over it. As for now, she just needs to learn that nothing I am going to do is going to hurt her, and that she can trust me to touch her ears without it ending up with them painfully twisted and yanked around. As for my information request, I had lots of of good ideas from lots of different folks, but what I ultimately decided to try first was a combination of things. Immy currently does not tolerate having a halter pulled over her ears without much head tossing and complaint (although you CAN get it done), so there was no way her first bridling was going to include pulling a headstall over her ears. The bit would get jerked around in her mouth, she'd get hurt or scared, and we'd have a huge mess on our hands. It was time to get creative.
There are a few criteria one should have squared away before bridling for the first time. One should be able to handle a horse's ears and head without the horse pulling away, one should be able to touch the horse's mouth and teach them to open up without them pulling away, and one should have taught the horse to lower his or her head on command. We are largely on track for all of these, with some hitches, but it was time to start playing with the idea regardless. I had no intention of actually getting a bridle on her today. But just as I had no intention of getting a surcingle strapped on as quickly as I did, she completely outdid herself and made it so easy that it just happened! 
I started with two things: a plain eggbutt snaffle, and a headstall with bit clips. As I had no delusions that today would be the day that I'd be pulling a bridle over her ears, I decided to do the "Tedi route" and put the headstall on without the bit, then see if I could then play with possibly adding the bit. Tedi was one of the school horses that I grew up on, and along with his many other silly quirks, he was violently earshy. In order to get a bridle on him, you had to unbuckle it, carefully maneuver it over his head, then put the bit in and rebuckle the bridle once it was in place. With Imogen, I first started with the headstall sand bit, and placed it on her with not much fuss or inquiry on her part. Gently, I clipped one side of the bit to the headstall, and offered up a cookie with the bit. She opened up, took in both, and actually lowered her head in response to the feel of the bit! I clipped it to the other side, and voila! Bit IN! 
She made it very clear that she had not ever worn one before. She mouthed, chewed, slobbered, mouthed, and chewed some more. She tried to halfheartedly spit it out, put her tongue over it, pulled her tongue back under it, and then finally picked it up properly and held it where it belonged. That is all pretty standard for first time bridling. By the end of it all, she was happily hold it still in her mouth without complaint, and removing it after our lunging session was just as easy. Awesome.
She was all dressed to the nines today.... I even switched up her saddle pad to a bigger, floppier one to add to the desensitization process. 
Is it just me or has she gone from a scrawny momma to a bit FAT? She is starting to muscle up and lose the mom-belly too, but I'm thinking she's getting a bit TOO round, if you know what I mean?
Anyway, nice blanket huh? I thought so too, until we started lunging... that's when all hell broke loose. Much to my dismay, the blanket started to slide sideways under the surcingle while she was trotting. I realized at the same time she did that the blanket wasn't going to stay put, and before I could slow her down, she sped up. She was unresponsive to my cues for walk or whoa, and kept on going in her biggest and most impressive trot. This, unfortunately, had the effect of making the blanket slip further and faster, until it was almost fully underneath her belly and barely hanging on. I tried to reel her in to no avail, resulting in her bouncing up on her hind legs and taking off again. Thankfully, a second reeling attempt was successful  and she stood quietly while I removed the offending blanket and continued on with just the surcingle. Slippery wool blanket + nice clean slick horse = bad news. No harm done, thankfully, and crisis averted - she went on to have a fantastic lunge session. Next time I will be sure to put on a blanket that I can safely strap to the surcingle!
Next up, I'll write about a few of our small technical difficulties with lunging - namely her high energy level and her desire to GO right off the bat, and her ending "whoa" and wanting to stop and turn and walk right to me as soon as she is done (I make them stay on the circle and walk to them instead of the other way around... just a personal preference). More on that later! Other than those minor things, she is doing AMAZINGLY!


  1. Woo hoo how awesome!

    I love reading about all the progress that you are having with her!

    So excited for you!

  2. I don't own a horse, hence my love of sharing your horsey world through your blog, but I really get the impression that she tries so hard and that she WANTS to work for you. It makes all the sense in the world that she'd kick up at having something around her ears, it's classical conditioning from the trauma she's suffered, but her trust in you is just absolute in everything you do together.

    I just read your Gogo post and remember posting something on this blog around the time that Immy came into your life that you two had perhaps found each other to help each other heal and move on. The bond you two are developing is a precious thing, and exactly what you both need and crave. x

  3. Yeah! You are so talented with horses :)

  4. Whoo-hoo! Go Immy! What a good girl (but only because of you).

  5. Is she 100% yours yet? I had a thought this morning... that maybe after you get her ready to be ridden, they might take her away and sell her for even more to someone else. After all, you've been adding value.

  6. No, she's not mine yet on paper - we are all scratching our heads over this as she was supposed to go back to her owner 2 months ago. The owner and I have a verbal agreement that she'll be mine whenever his lease his terminated, but his lease isn't terminated yet. The guy is totally AWOL.... he pays his bills but hasn't been seen for months. But they don't know I am working with her so I doubt they'd try to resell - the ET facility is not in the business of selling, they want them for their uteruses only

  7. Be careful of verbal agreements, then. Good luck.

  8. I'm not worried about the owner... just wondering about the leasor. Worst case scenario now is that the owner gets tired of waiting, charges the leasor 1k for not returning her, and the leasor then ships her off to Mexico for meat. But I won't let that go down.

  9. SO bizzare that the leasor keeps paying on her. You are 100% sure all the "bigness" is strictly fat? I know you answered that before, but it is all so weird...

  10. Yes, because she was just in flaming squirting screaming peeing heat last week... thank god!