Last year at this time, he didn't know how to canter with a rider on his back. If we got a canter, it was almost always accidental and on the incorrect lead. It was also rather wild and wooly. We can now get the correct lead, and he knows what I am asking for. The issue isn't getting a canter departure, it's getting a soft canter departure. There's a difference.
Last year at this time, we couldn't make a turn because he would crab or bolt sideways. He can turn now, and he definitely knows what I want, but now he won't turn softly.
He used to balk when he didn't want to work. So much so that I could whale on his sides with a full-on pony club kick, and he'd just pin his ears. The whip and spurs solved that. Now, he might think about it, but he goes forward.
Yesterday, after a quick phone call to Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer of Symphony Dressage Stables, I tried a couple of things she suggested. First, I swapped out his bit for something a bit tougher, and then we hacked around the neighborhood until we got to the old golf course.
The mouth piece is a correctional ported barrel (MB41PB). Myler offers a few different versions of this mouthpiece, but they all serve the same purpose. Myler describes the function of this bit: ... allows the rider to isolate one side of the bit to lift a shoulder and also to reward the horse with a "comfort zone" when relaxed at the poll. A good bit for collection and stopping. Works well for spoiled horses, horses which run through the bit and those which drop a shoulder.
Yep. This is the right bit for now. Izzy does all of those things.
I've seen a lot of Myler demos, so I know how they like to introduce a horse to their bits. I let him just wear it for a few minutes and then I led him over to the grass and offered him a moment to lower his head and graze. When he seemed okay with the bit, I applied gentle pressure to each rein individually until he lowered his head. And that was his introduction.
Without making this too long, he definitely noticed he was in a different bit. He started out by bouncing his head, but I kept my hands low and fairly fixed against my saddle pad. Each time he giraffed his neck, he brought his head back down by himself. For the entire ride, I kept my hands super quiet and rode almost entirely with my seat and legs.
He got very tense and anxious in his regular spots, but the bit grabbing and head flinging were not an issue. When we got to the golf course, we walked for a few minutes and then picked up a lovely trot and rolled right into a happy and relaxed canter.
He was soft in my hands and willing to bend and turn. I am not sure the bit was the magic bullet, but the bit combined with some fun helped give me a pleasant ride. I know the good stuff is in there, I just need to convince Izzy that short, fun rides are much better than hour long rides that do nothing but torture us both.
Chemaine will be here both Saturday and Sunday, so I can't wait to hear what she thinks.