Thursday, June 27, 2013

My Newly Minted XC Machine

It's official. O's calling is an an event horse. I CANNOT believe how good she was this past weekend!

It was assuredly her first time ever going out XC, I can 99.9% guarantee it. I've been obviously taking her out and giving her the ATV treatment (going over all sorts of terrain at all varying speeds) for the past two months, and have hopped or stepped her over every obstacle that I have come across. She's always been very, very game and very brave. There's no better way to get a green horse broke than to throw everything and the kitchen sink at them and let them figure it out in a low-key environment - that way, when the bigger and more important things are asked of them, they go, "oh ho hum, we do this all the time, this is whatever."

She loaded and unloaded like a lady, and stood tied to the trailer quietly munching her hay while we got ready:

I opted to ride in the Deltas because I wasn't sure how the footing was going to be, and didn't anticipate that we were really going to jump anything. Boy was I wrong!!

We tagged along with a trainer that I am friends with and her group of kids that were participating in the schooling show the following day (it was an open schooling in preparation for the show), and trotted and cantered around in the warmup while they also warmed up. I was quick to figure out that while I had been riding with no problems in the waterford before, I now had NO BRAKES at all. I could get her stopped, after 10 or 15 strides... but it took every ounce of strength I had. She was more than happy to walk along on the buckle, but when we trotted and cantered? Nope! I figured since I had steering and my backup emergency one-rein stop installed properly, we'd keep on with it and hopefully with some riding down she'd slow down a little more willingly. 

The girls hopped over some BN-N jumps, and then we came upon a little Starter jump. "Want to give it a go?" the trainer asked me, and I said, oh sure, why not. We walked over it the first time - it was small enough to step over, but big enough that it took an effort to step over it - and I decided that we'd jump all the little things that were small enough to be stepped over should worse come to worse. We set up, came at it at a trot, and she cracked her back like it was 4' tall. We headed to the next one, and she slowed to a walk to look at it, but stepped right over it. We re-approached, and she did the same thing, cracked her back over it like it was huge. This mare is REALLY going to make sure I perfect my releases, because if I don't give her enough freedom in her neck, she pitches a royal fit with her head on the landing side of the jump. I was quick to adjust, and she was much happier for it. 

After that, she was a superstar. She jumped EVERYTHING I pointed her at, trotted and cantered around through the woods to and away from the herd without fuss, didn't complain when we were out of their sight, didn't look at anything, didn't fuss, didn't hesitate anywhere. She went over ditches, bank, trotted through the water complex, went up and down hills, everything! She got a *little* tired at the end, and the last fence we went to she was a little slow to pick up the trot - she gave me some hesitation and a very small 'don't wanna go' attitude when I put my leg on, so after we made it over I called it quits. My only problem was that my brakes were completely nonfunctional. We trotted everything with ease, but the only fence I cantered to I struggled to keep her under control (we went back to trotting and keeping it simple after that). But more than once after a fence, she bore down on the bit and off she went. She was never out of control, but I just had no ability to stop her without some serious strength and a long runway. More than once, I had to one-rein stop her, simply because she literally just was NOT going to stop otherwise! 

I shall have to do some musing on bits. Anything with leverage I can almost guarantee will be out - she knows full well how to curl her neck in and avoid the contact, much like Gogo did when I had anything with leverage on her (even just a short-shank hackamore was too much leverage for her). Something with a different mouthpiece is a possibility - maybe a slow twist. Somebody even suggested a gag, and while I feel like that is A LOT of bit for a horse going around the tiny jumps, I also have to remember that a) a gag would afford me the action of a simple snaffle with the snaffle rein, and have the gag rein as a backup in case we forget to stop, and b) this is a horse in re-training, not a horse in training. I would NEVER put a young horse in a big bit like that - I hate to do it period - but when a horse is strong-willed like this little redhead is, and she decides she wants to go faster now and screw you if you want me to slow down, sometimes it takes a little 'excuse me, are you listening' to wake them up. It takes time and re-training to get them listening to half-halts out on XC, where things are fast and exciting. I am NOT a bigger better bit kind of person - I always ride mine in the kindest snaffles that I can - but once in awhile I need to reach into my bag of tricks. 

Funnily enough, the first year I had Gogo out on XC I had to use a d-ring Mikmar on her because I literally COULD NOT stop her sometimes (same thing, eager horse wants to GO and screw you mom!). I actually couldn't ride her out in wide open spaces for a long time because she would just put her head between her knees and take off bucking towards the nearest group of horses. I thought for SURE she'd never make an eventing horse after our first show, I had to kick and pull around the entire course and barely made it over ANYTHING! She of course grew up, matured, became a properly behaved critter, and was happy to do her gallops in a big fat mullen mouth Happy Mouth by the end of her career. It just takes time with these tricky ones!

To be honest, I don't even own any stronger bits... the meanest thing I have is my waterford. The rest are snaffles! If anyone has any particular ideas for the strong-willed and strong-mouthed horse in re-training, fire away!

If I were made of more money than I am I would have to pick the golden wings gag as my next step up:

Alas, shelling out a hundred smacks on a bit that may or may not work is not really in the cards for me at the moment. The econo-version with bit guards is probably a better option (runs more like $30). I USED to have one, but alas, it ran off with my ex-girlfriend. Isn't that always the way?


  1. How fun! Im dealing with similar run away issues. I can stop, it just takes a while. Ugh. I was thinking gag too! Good luck! Cant wait to hear how it goes!

  2. I had these gag cheek pieces from Bit of Britain:

    And used just what was basically an eggbutt snaffle gag bit with two reins on my TB who was so strong to the jumps I couldn't slow him down in anything else. After only a few times resorting to the gag rein, he was an angel who really only needed the snaffle rein. The gag was just a back up! I really liked it.

    Maybe your trainer friend has bits you can try? Good luck!

  3. Have you tried a Kimberwicke? That was the magic bit for Saga when we were foxhunting. One half-halt and he'd remember his manners - anything less and I'd be holding his head up allll day. Yikes!

  4. Andrea, I have a slow twist snaffle I'd be happy to send you if you want to give it a try. I don't remember the size offhand...probably either 4 3/4 or 5"? I'll measure tonight, and it's yours if you want it!

  5. Have you thought about using the deepen seat, O-R-S, and then back to teach a consistent whoa? That's a pretty common training method to sit deep, then ask for whoa, then one rein stop, and then back as soon as you get the stop. If you're consistent with this you can generally get them stopping with the pick up of rein, not one rein stop, but the key is to be consistent with the backing after the stop. It's also a really good way to teach them to get their hind ends under themselves for the whoa. I just wanted to throw that out there instead of upping the bit.

  6. Lazyjapps, above all else I am a dressage rider, so I am well versed in putting a good half-halt on a horse. The stop-back thing is a little counterintuitive in a dressage horse as they learn to throw it in reverse when you stop - good for reiners but bad for dressage horses :) This mare is learning to respond and respect the aids but she's a tough cookie who has gotten away with some murder in her past. A trail rider decided to "teach" her sliding stops, which basically just meant hauling on her face until she stopped, so she developed an aversion to the contact and an iron mouth as a result. My end goal is a snaffle-mouthed horse who responds to the lightest of aids but it will be a process to get there!

    1. I get where you're coming from, but it's more about setting them up for the stop. In the end when you're polishing you don't back up as long as they're stopping with their HQ. It's only good for reiners on the first run down, after that you want perfect roll backs.

      My background is gaming, and while running like hell on 4 hooves is awesome, the first thing I teach all my horses is whoa. I want to be able to stop and have complete control of my horse even if we're in the zone in the middle of a pattern. Ideally they would do this when I rock back, relax and say whoa. I also teach my back with a deep seat and a pulsing leg, so then when I'm just asking for a whoa it's a deep seat and no leg they know to stand. I'm a snaffle person too, to be more specific a Level 1 Myler Comfort D-ring person.

      No matter what, I think you're doing an excellent job with your mares. Keep up the good work!

  7. Davsgirl, YES! I would love to try that!

    1. Ok, cool!! [I didn't measure it like I said I would, oops!] Email me at jennifer @ jcryanebco . com with your address & I'll get it on it's way to you! :)

  8. Andrea, I have an interesting Mylar bit I got for my old event guy, but never got to use. It is milder than a traditional twist, but may be helpful. Let me know if you'd want to try and I can ship it. Something like this, no hooks