So this month I have had my fair share of tears…..no tantrums I’m pleased to say, but it has really got me thinking of the how important it is to be mindful of the rider, which is something that isn’t always top of the list when it comes to bit and bridle selection.
Horses are our therapy
For most of us our riding and horses are our outlet, sanity, and therapy from the normal drudge that life can send us, especially in the recent strangeness that Covid 19 dropped upon us.
For some it is a life line for a myriad of tragic circumstances, health issues or personal issues.
I can speak from experience as when I lost my husband tragically in an accident, had 3 small children, and a dairy farm, I had little time or energy to do much else other than spend a little time with my beloved horse Sunny, who I sobbed on many times and never had to speak a word.
Relief and remorse
The recent tears of my clients, I am happy to say are of joy in the main but also relief, and sometimes remorse that they have not understood what the horse has been trying to demonstrate or convey that they are unhappy with the bit.
Many are stoic, by carrying on putting up with discomfort, and in some cases pain in conjunction with other factors the reactions become more dramatic, and their responses are more misunderstood.
Then they are bestowed with the label of unwilling, naughty or bloody minded.
Train by repetition
Another implication of a bitting issue is that it will affect the horses physicality and his way of going. We tend to train by repetition so if the horse comes out each day, leaning on the bit, head high and hollow, or bent more predominantly to one side and stiff….. so the muscles build to only strengthen the incorrectness. In this situation no amount of training, repetitive treatments and saddle adjustments are going to improve things for the horse, until the bit is chosen specifically for the horse, his facial conformation, level of training and indeed, the riders experience, level of confidence and feel.
Trust your instincts
The most common comment from my tearful clients is
‘If only I done something sooner’ …
‘I knew that something wasn’t right with the bit!’
‘…but he’s so good in every other way it’s not like him!’
When the horse’s temperament starts to change through anxiety, or temper, this takes the partnership to a different level of distrust and displeasure of both.
That is so sad when it reaches that stage, and for what can be a quite simple change, to dissolves the evasion issues and restore harmony.
Personally, I think horses prefer an easy life and respond to what they are given. They are not machines, they will have expression to something that is uncomfortable with a physical, and mental response, in a similar way that we would if our shoe is too tight, or we have a pressure or pain sensation that is reoccurring.
Mentally, a constant low-grade discomfort can be just as waring as a full-on short-term pain.
I am always telling horse owners to trust their instincts about their own horses. You know your horse better than anyone you may not be the most knowledgeable equestrian, but you do know when your horse is content, anxious, or out of sorts and there has been a change in temperament.
So, if nothing else, rule the bit out of the equation of problems, be satisfied you have eliminated it as an existing or potential problem. Don’t be frustrated or miserable with your riding experiences if there is a possibility a simple bit change could make the difference.
Make sure if you look for a bitting consultant or fitter they have good mileage in their field of knowledge…
and a large box of tissues!!!