From Endurance to Dressage
On Friday, I wrote about Izzy's bitting journey. I tried out the dressage legal bit by the way, and I had some very interesting results. Before I share that though, I want to talk about tongue tension.
Is that really a thing? Who knew? Over the weekend, I was flipping through the Mylers' book, The Level Best for Your Horse, when I stumbled on an article in the appendix. As a side note, I've said this oh, at least 47 times already, but this book is totally worth having in your equine reference library. You can get it here. Anyway, the article was written by Dr. Joyce Harman, DVM, MRCVS and is entitled "Anatomy and Physiology of the Mouth as it Relates to Bits."
The point of the article is to explain how the bit affects the horse's mouth which is directly tied to the front of the horse's body. According to Dr. Harman, some of the muscles of the tongue connect to the horse's hyoid apparatus. That's the thing that always gets broken in the human neck when a person is strangled. From the hyoid bone there are two major muscles that connect to the horse's front end. One attaches to the sternum and the other to the inside of the shoulder.
What this means is that there is a direct connection from the horse's tongue to the horse's sternum and shoulder (via the hyoid). If there is tension in the tongue, there will be tension in the sternum which means the horse can't lift his back.
Dr. Harman goes on to explain that there are other muscles that connect the hyoid bones to the jaw and poll. The jaw houses an important nerve center for proprioception, that thing that tells a horse where his feet are without him needing to look at them. We have the same system - we know where our limbs are without needing to see them. It's how we do things like a drive a car. Tension in the tongue affects that nerve center which affects a horse's coordination system.
What all of this means is that when a horse's tongue is free and soft, he will move much more freely with better coordination and balance. Izzy is the first horse I've owned with such a sensitive tongue. With that said, it's difficult to move to a bit with minimal tongue pressure as tongue pressure helps the rider keep control. As Izzy gets more and more broke though, I am seeing him move better as I transition him into bits with less tongue pressure.
I am really excited to keep trying out the low extra wide ported barrel bit!
Occasionally, my husband convinces me to do stuff that doesn't involve the horses.
Last Monday, we drove over to the coast with the dogs to get out of the heat. There is nothing more fun than watching your dogs rip around in sheer joy!
I joked about us being "those people" - the kind who do everything for their dogs. Seriously. We drove specifically to a dog friendly beach. There aren't that many on California's central coast. We ate lunch at a dog friendly joint on the pier. We finished the day by stopping at our favorite dog friendly winery for some tasting. They hand out doggie treats! Plus the wine is really good.
Dog friendly gets tiring though. It's a lot of work wrangling two large dogs through crowds, especially when one is still a juvenile and both are wet and sandy. They're both so friendly though (and actually well behaved) that they make friends wherever they go. Nobody kicked us out, and everyone invited us back!
Real life. It's worth it.
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 got turned on to Roeckl riding gloves a few years ago when a friend gifted me a pair that didn't fit her. I know they're pricey, but they are so worth it. Since that first pair, I haven't even considered riding in anything else.
I started with a plain black pair, but when those wore out, I bought a cute black pair with brown detailing. In the meantime, I also bought a white pair for showing. When the black and brown pair wore out, I moved on to the navy with white piping. Those have been my favorite, hands down.
My navy Roeckls have been showing some serious wear though, and I am even starting to get some thin holes on the palm side. It's been time for a new pair for a while. The problem with Roeckls is that while they are AMAZING, they also cost the same as a month's supply of LMF feed. Or what it costs to trim Speedy's feet. Or half the cost of a local show entry.
Yeah. They're aren't something I like to buy frequently. A second problem was that Riding Warehouse (the cheapest place for everything) doesn't carry them in the color I want - navy with white piping. Until now! Yep, that's right. I sent the lovely ladies over at RW an email and asked if they might pretty please think about adding some new colors to their Roeckl line up. I can't say I was surprised when I got a follow up email saying they would work on it. That's just how they are.
Over the weekend, the two-tone navy blue gloves and the cute black with red piping ($49.95) were added to Riding Warehouse's Roeckl collection. Guess what's now on its way to Bakersfield?
As I loaded Speedy up for a show the other weekend, I realized that my trailer's running lights weren't working. I check them every single time I load up, so I know they were working on our last haul which was to Sacramento for the Western States Horse Expo. But there we were, horse loaded with a ride time coming and no trailer lights.
The truck lights were working and so were the trailer brake lights, but that was it. I gave the plug an extra little push, pulled it out and stuck it back in, pulled it out and blew on it, and then nothing. I suddenly remembered that I have a second plug socket down by my bumper, so I plugged the cord in down there and was relieved to see my lights pop on.
I had to use a twist tie thing to secure my cord as it was a little sketchy to have the cord hanging so far down over the tailgate, but it got us safely to Tehachapi and back. I let a week go by without dealing with it, but by this past Friday, I knew I had to get it taken care of.
Since the lights worked when plugged into the bumper's socket, I figured I simply had a bad connection from the truck bed. The ranch owner suggested I use some sandpaper to clean off the plug's pins which might have some corrosion, inhibiting a connection. After consulting my pal Google, I grabbed some sandpaper and a flathead screwdriver.
Both the trailer plug and the truck socket looked clean and corrosion free, but I wrapped the sandpaper around the screwdriver and carefully rubbed each pin in the plug anyway. I then pushed the sandpaper down into the trailer plug hoping to rub off any dust or corrosion that had built up in there.
When I plugged in the trailer lights, I gave a little woot! woot! when I saw a happy red glow coming from my running lights. And just because I am cautious, I unplugged them and gave them an even more rigorous sanding. A couple of my wheel well lights have had the covers knocked off (ahem, Speedy G, I wonder who was responsible for THAT?!), so in the name of thoroughness, I even went and bought replacement covers.
I really hate fixing vehicle stuff, but since it's my trailer, and I am the one hauling all over the state of California, it's my responsibility to do it safely. While I detest doing repairs myself, it does make me feel empowered to walk away from a job well done.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read