And the funky, once-a-week bridle? After a day or two of looking at it, I couldn't stand it. It too got a thorough cleaning and conditioning.
After recommissioning the crap bridle, I realized that my tack was looking pretty grungy. Speedy's easy on his stuff, but as I've written at least 4 bazillion times, Izzy is not. He's gross.
Last weekend, I dismantled Izzy's day to day bridle and dropped the bit into a bucket of water to soak. I scrubbed the crud off each piece of his bridle, and then wiped it dry. I set it aside and then gave Speedy's bridle an equally thorough cleaning.
Once both bridles were clean and dry, I gave each one a quick massage with some Higher Standards Leather Balm and then reattached my bits and reins. I hung both bridles neatly and took a moment to admire the look and feel of a clean bridle. Then I saddled up the big brown sweat machine and got the bridle dirty again.
And the funky, once-a-week bridle? After a day or two of looking at it, I couldn't stand it. It too got a thorough cleaning and conditioning.
Like all of you, I have ten of everything. How many pads and pairs of reins does one girl need? A lot, apparently. For years, and I mean that literally, I hunted for a bridle that not only fit Speedy well, but also looked and felt nice. As a result, I have a large pile of rejected bridles, none of which look or feel like anything special.
A few weeks ago, I was complaining about what an annoyance it is to switch out Izzy's bit each week. I finally decided to make the job somewhat easier by at least attaching some reins to the second bit so that I don't have to unhook everything. Tracy, from Fly On Over, joked that she hates switching bits so much that she just buys a new bridle instead.
Palm to face. Why didn't I think of that? No, really, I am not being sarcastic. Why did I not think of using a second bridle? As mentioned, I have a whole pile of discarded bridles from which to choose. So I did.
There is nothing I like about this bridle. The noseband is hung over the crown piece by sliding it through keepers which is the most inconvenient system of all time. Give me a monocrown any day of the week. It has a crank noseband which is okay on a larger horse, but it overwhelmed Speedy's lovely face. The leather is also cheap and crappy. Here's what it looked like on Speedy. I am sure he's horribly embarrassed by this photo. I know I am!
It actually fit Sydney (the OTTB gelding I had before Izzy) pretty well even though I still hated it.
On Izzy, the throat latch is too small; I have it on the last hole at the bottom. The browband is also a bit snug, but it's not pinching his ears. I am missing a keeper on the crank of the noseband so the leather flaps around a bit. Basically, this bridle is a mess. It doesn't fit Izzy very well, but it will do for a once a week bridle.
At least the cheek pieces are long enough. That's about the only part of this bridle that actually fits him. Well, that and the crank. For now, it's a much easier way to use the legal bit. In fact, I rode him in the "new" bridle and legal bit on Saturday. He's not relaxing and swinging his back like I'd like, but he has made huge progress over the past few weeks.
Bit by bit, right?!
As much as I tried to talk myself out of it, I rode with the dressage legal bit on Sunday. With Speedy having that gash on his foot, I was able to ride Izzy nearly every day last week. Even though one or two of our rides didn't go so well, I felt that his energy level was normal enough that I should try the legal bit again.
It was a hard sell though. As much as I say I want to get him working in the bit, doing it is tough. I don't want to use it after a challenging ride - I don't want him to have any excuses to be naughtier, and I find myself making excuses after a good ride. If he's going well, why would I want to mess it up by putting him in a bit that he doesn't understand?
Suck it up buttercup was what I finally told myself. I switched out the bits knowing that I really need to stick to my once a week plan. If you're new here, there's a lot of history in that decision. About a year ago, Izzy began to flat out refuse to take his eggbutt lozenge snaffle. It began to be a knock down, drag out fight to bridle him. And once bridled, he was nearly out of control.
I began searching for a bit that would work, even trying out a double bridle before I finally figured out it was the tongue pressure he was fighting. Once I got him in a bit with tongue relief (a ported correction bit), I had no more issues with bridling him. While he isn't going great in the legal bit (yet!), at least he takes it readily each time I try it.
Since my lesson with Chemaine Hurtado a few weeks ago, I've been really focusing on being as effective as possible with my seat while using less hands. With the legal bit, I did the same. Unless I absolutely had to slow him down, I tried to leave my hands alone. At first, Izzy's head was pretty high and his back was hollow, but as he figured out that I just wanted a steady rhythm, his head started to come down on its own.
While I never got a great connection at the trot, the canter work was pretty decent, and he begged to stretch down at the walk. I've learned that when he starts doing something correct at the walk, I start to see it in other gaits as well.
I was also relieved that the frantic chomping of the bit from the week before never showed up. I know he was more relaxed this week, but was it because the bit was more familiar, or was he simply in a better mood? Who knows?
One last thing ... one reason I balk at switching out my bit is that I have to do three things: 1) raise and lower my headstall; 2) take the bit off the headstall; and 3) switch out my reins. All of that takes more minutes than I like to "waste," so I did something about it. I hooked an extra set of reins to the legal bit which makes switching bits a whole lot faster.
Back to the regular bit this week, but I am sticking to my once a week plan!
This is yet another post about Izzy's bits. And yes, I am still talking about trying to transition him to a dressage legal bit. It's not going very well.
However, putting him in a legal bit on Saturday revealed how much progress he has made in the last few months. Most of the time, I finish a ride and think, yeah ... still not there. We do have great rides though, and truly, our "bad" rides are now the wow that was pretty good rides of a year ago.
Lately, I've been getting some of the best connection we've ever had. Instead of dealing with jackassery, it's been about how solid can I keep the connection? How steady in the bridle can he be? How clean can that transition go?
I finally felt that we were at a place to try out the dressage legal bit again. If you haven't been following this saga, here are the two bits I am talking about. The one on the left is working great, but it's not show legal. The one on the right is.
After a couple of really nice rides in a row, I switched out the steady eddy bit for the legal one. For an hour and five minutes, I know because I time my rides, Izzy chomped and ground that bit to pieces. He simply could not focus or relax.
While that all sounds terrible, and believe me, it was quite frustrating, he told me a few things. First, he was much improved over the last time I tried it. For that trial, I had zero control and ultimately had to get off. He was a runaway freight train. This time, he was tense as holy hell, but I never lost control. That's a win. And progress.
The second thing he told me was that different is very scary. That means different needs to become familiar. Over the summer, Dale Myler, the creator of both bits, suggested I ride in the legal bit once a week to see where Izzy was in his training. Izzy was such a loose cannon though that I couldn't do it. Now that he's under control. I am going to have to force myself to use the bit weekly so that different becomes familiar.
Like I said - disappointing, but very interesting.
I bought my Custom Revolution saddle more than 6 years ago. While it was used, there were absolutely zero wear marks. It was in pristine condition. Sadly, that is no longer the case.
I like to think I take good care of my tack. My saddle is stored on a saddle stand that is padded with wool, I keep it covered at all times, and I clean and condition it regularly.
On the other hand, it gets used a lot. For a number of years, I rode two horses a day, six to seven days a week. Over the past year, it's been ridden in just once a day ... usually.
On top of the heavy use, it lives in one of the hottest and driest places on the planet. We don't call it Bakersfield for nothing. That's a joke. The city was really named after Colonel Baker. But come on, it's a funny name for a city that literally bakes all summer long.
Over the past year, I've been seeing wear marks begin to appear here and there. The pommel's leather has separated, the stitching that holds my knee rolls in place is falling apart, and my billet straps are starting to look worn.
The tear in the seat is brand new; it's the wear mark that worries me the most. As luck would have it, I showed the tear to Tracy, one of the volunteers at the most recent Tehachapi show. She quickly called over a friend of hers, Terry Zambrana, who happens to be a Trilogy Saddle Rep.
Terry gave the saddle a quick look and immediately reassured me that my saddle wasn't going to fall apart that day. Yes, the saddle is showing its age, but she thought I could get more miles out of it yet. I appreciated her willingness to offer a solution that didn't include a new saddle.
She estimated that it would cost around $500 for the repair, but in her opinion, that was too pricey for a saddle with this much use on it. She suggested that instead of getting it fixed, I ought to simply get a seat cover to protect the area from further wear while I start saving for a new saddle. Outside of the endurance world, I had never heard of a seat cover.
I didn't know it, but Tracy makes custom seat covers. Now how lucky was I to chat about my saddle with the one person at the show who had a solution for me? In between tests, Tracy and Terry procured a demo to try on my saddle. After a few measurements here and there, they came up with a plan for the size I would need.
Tracy makes her seat covers from a very smooth deerskin leather. Each cover is custom made for your saddle and costs $50. Tracy delivered it to me a day or two after I ordered it.
My first ride on it was just a 30 minute walk around the neighborhood, but as soon as I sat down, I completely forgot about it. Since then, I've put several regular rides on it, including lots of sitting trot and canter work. I can't even tell it's there. I think my problem might be solved.
If you'd like to talk to Tracy about a seat cover, let me know, and I'll pass on her contact information. If it it works, it's cheaper than a new saddle!
You all know how much I enjoy learning about bits. I've written about this a ton already, especially as it relates to finding a bit that works for Izzy. Once I finally realized that Izzy can't/won't do tongue pressure, it was simply a matter of finding a bit that gave him the tongue relief he needed while still giving me control.
The Myler Bitting System proved to be the right system for Izzy, and Speedy too. Their book has been an invaluable resource, and one I recommend everyone should have.
A few days ago, a friend, who knows how into bits I am, shared this informative website with me about bits and bitting. While I am pretty stuck on the Myler Bitting System, I figured it couldn't hurt to see what these folks had to say.
Gavin Chaplin, the website host, has put together "a website to provide information and tutorials on all things equine!" The part that I checked out was the video tutorials with Bomber Nel, a bit specialist originally from South Africa.
It's easy to recognize a good philosophy when you see it echoed by different experts. Bomber Nel and the Mylers are singing the same song. "Bomber's" philosophy is this: Pressure = Resistance. And Resistance = Lack of Control.
With that philosophy in mind, Bomber has created a line of bits very similar to what the Mylers have developed. When designing his bits, he addresses every possible resistance a horse might have by changing the mouth pieces to accommodate each horse's preference.
Gavin Chaplin's website, GavSays.com, has a series of videos featuring Bomber, but this one was my favorite. Check it out.
Speedy and I are headed to our biggest show of the summer on Friday. I have a blog post coming. In the meantime, I am trying to clean up a few things before the show. The leg yield and the change of lead are two of those things.
We've worked on the leg yield twice now, and I am getting nowhere. I can keep the shoulder from falling out, but that little booger (sorry, Speedy, you know I love you) will. Not. Step. Over. I finally nailed him with the whip which got a reaction, but I don't want to yell at him every time I want a bit of a lateral step. I've got one more ride at home to work on it, but that 7.0 might just be out of our reach.
On a good note, the change of lead through trot is now working for us. I left it alone for a few days and didn't ask for it until Sunday. I schooled it exactly as we had during our lesson last week, and got a balanced change of lead the first time I asked. After having had a come to Jesus moment about the leg yield, I thought it was a good idea to reward Speedy for the effort, so I hopped off and fed him his mints.
Besides cleaning up a few of the movements at First Level, I also gave my show pad a good once over. While it came out of the wash okay, I realized that it's not looking as perky as it once was. Unfortunately, I can't find that pad for sale anywhere. I have at least three brand new Union Hill Dressage pads, but I've always felt they were too big for Speedy's smaller fame.
While it's not a perfect fit, I think I can get away with it. The spine length is fine, it's just the drop that's a bit too boxy and long. I think my eye is just so used to seeing Speedy in a smaller pad. This pad is only about an inch or so longer, so it's not that much bigger on him.
I have two other nice fitting pads that are monogrammed, but since US Equestrian changed the rule about pads, I am not sure if my monogram is legal or not. Here's what the rule book states. You tell me what you think.
While in the competition ring and during awards ceremonies, a logo/monogram or name may appear on either or both sides of a saddle cloth in an area not exceeding 200 cm2 (26.632 sq. inches). Only the following logos or names are permitted: breed logos (for horses registered with that breed); a national flag (for citizens of that country); USEF or USDF names/logos. Professionals of any age may have a business or product name/logo of their official sponsor. Amateurs may not have a business or product name/logo unless they own the business. Competition award pads and stable name pads are permitted. No other advertisement or publicity is permitted on saddle cloths or horses. BOD 8/29/16 Effective 12/1/16 BOD 11/7/16 Effective 12/1/16
(I added the bold formatting.) The rule is confusing. On the one hand a logo or monogram is permitted, but in the next sentence they stipulate which logos are permitted but they don't add any comments about monograms.
Am I better off going with a pad that is slightly big on him, or do I risk using the monogrammed pads? And while I am at it, do I beat him into the leg yield, or do I just take the 6.0? Just kidding!
Izzy is the first horse that I've owned that has not been happy in any old bit. I've had quite a few horses, at least ten, and they've all been easy to bit up. Izzy is the first to have an opinion.
Here's a quick recap:
I can see why he didn't like it. When I moved my reins up, it caused the bit to roll backwards in his mouth. With the reins connected to the bottom spot, the bit hangs more vertically in his mouth.
Out of the blue, I saw a Myler Bitting Assistant thing pop up on my Facebook feed. You simply fill out the small questionnaire, and one of the Myler brothers will call or email you (your choice) with advice on which bit would be best for your horse.
Of course I filled out the form and sent it off. While I feel like I have a pretty good feel for the Myler Bitting System, I was eager to hear what they might say. I received an answer the next morning. Dale Myler wrote, "with the 33 mouthpiece in the Kimberwick cheek, you only ride the bottom rein. My suggestion would be to stay in the 33, and once a week go to your 33WL bit to see where you're at."
Aha! Well that made a lot of sense especially regarding the rein placement. I won't even bother trying to move it to the snaffle rein setting again. I've been wanting to try out my legal dressage bit (pictured above), but I've been worried that I won't have the control I need. Changing the bit once a week to see where we are is an excellent suggestion.
I know I am getting closer and closer to that legal bit. And if nothing else, I am getting an excellent education in bits!
I feel like I keep writing the same thing over and over: Izzy is amazing, Izzy is awesome, Izzy is the best horse ever.
I am not sure when it started, but some time last year, things started to go south. Izzy got heavier and heavier in the bridle until he was simply running away with me. He ignored all of my aids until bolting, spooking, and running around like a giraffe were his normal.
Over the summer, I had the saddle fitter check out my saddle, the chiropractor did some body work, and I had Izzy's hocks injected. None of it made a difference. By the fall, I was genuinely considering selling him. Nothing I was doing was helping him to relax or feel comfortable in his work.
Then he refused to take the bit for bridling. My trainer suggested we change bits, so I switched him to the Myler Correction bit and things started to improve almost immediately. After that we moved him into the double bridle which worked like magic, until it didn't. He had a major meltdown about that, so I went back to the correction bit.
Throughout the late fall into winter, the jackassery began to fade, and we actually started to make some real progress. At the beginning of this year, I moved him into a Myler ported bit which is almost dressage legal. Since then, Izzy has done nothing but be fantastic.
Now, rather than simply get control of a freight train, we are schooling movements from Training through Second Level. We have a decent stretchy trot, we can maintain the canter lead on a single loop, and he can even do a pretty nice little turn on the haunches!
I have a dressage legal bit ready to go, but since I don't have any shows lined up just yet, I am going to wait a bit longer before we transition to it. While he is super fabulous, he still has an occasional brain fart. The ported bit gives me the control I need, so that his shenanigans don't get out of hand.
I've always been creative with my bit selection, but after working with my big brown horse, I am an even firmer believer in adding a bit check when trying to figure out why a horse won't work for you.
Sunday was one of those rare, perfect days here in Bakersfield. It was warm while still being cool. The sun was bright and cheerful, but there was a lovely breeze that kept the temperature perfectly comfortable. When we have days like that, I always like to say that if we had more of them, none of us would be able to afford to live here.
Izzy is worse than a teenaged boy when it comes to funk and gunk. He quite often sweats through his pads which leaves the equine version of ring around the collar. So after a weekend of very good rides, I decided that my schooling whites needed a good cleaning. The weather was perfect for line drying saddle pads, or in my case, "patio chair" drying.
We have a newish washing machine though, so I didn't want to gunk it up with Izzy's prodigious funk, so I used the shop vac first. Not only were the pads crusty brown underneath - I swear I groom him first, but they were also matted with hair.
After a super duty wash cycle and a double rinse, the pads came out mostly white. While they might not sparkle, they sure do smell nice after drying in the breeze. I love riding with a crisp, clean pad. Too bad my leg boots, bridle, and horse won't be as clean as the pads.