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!
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 the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%