Tuesday, September 25, 2007

More on Monkey Horse (Long and Rambling)

So, today we practiced for our test tomorrow. We did a pleasure pattern, and Marilyn was sure to tell us that if the horse acted up, that was ok, she was looking at how we did as riders in asking the horse to do what we wanted, and making him do it if he didn't want to.

It was interesting. Part of the pattern was to lope in two circles, one in either direction. Now, I haven't done a lot of loping in circles with Monkey. He's still maintaining the battle to go back to the barn, or the herd, at the trot, so we haven't worked much at the lope.

Did I mention that today was also our first day with spurs? Since Monkey has decided to ignore my leg pressure and heel pressure on things like sidepassing and 180 degree turns, I went out and bought a pair of these:



Notice, if you will, that rather than a rowel, they have a ball. That's because I want him to respond to the dull pressure, not the poking. That way, when he's further along in his training, I can lose the spurs and still get the response.

Unfortunately, Monkey Horse didn't understand that there is virtually no way I can actually hurt him with these spurs. (No, really. Before I ever left the house with them, I sat in my chair and kicked myself in my own thighs and calves with them. I kicked the crap out of myself, and it didn't hurt except at the hardest, and I was really kicking.) He felt the metal, the first time I touched him with them, and I thought we were gonna have a rodeo. That long leggy sucker hunkered down like a freakin cat ready to jump either way, kind of skittered to one side, and then tried to take off running.

He eased up on it though, and good thing, or I never would have been able to get through the pattern.

He also sidepassed both ways today, which is an improvement, since he's been choosing a direction and only going that way before now.

Tomorrow, I'll go early and saddle up, and ride him in the big round pen, so that we can work that lope and burn off a lot of energy before the test.

Marilyn recommended another bit change, she says he's hauling on my arms, I say he's helping me develop fantastic biceps. Hey, it's still a major improvement over what he was doing. Maybe the new bit will make him that much better.

This one is out of the school's bit library, so I'll be putting it on my headstall, and giving back the headstall and bit loaned to me by one of the other students. Get that done tonight, and we'll see how he does tomorrow.

I still feel really good about how well he's doing, but I'm reminded every day how much I want to get him going on neck reining good. I neglected it for a while until I had to ride him one day with only one rein tied across, and was forced to ride one handed unless I was turning him.

I was reminded in a very obvious way that I learned to ride with one hand, neck reining, and riding with two hands is a very new thing to me. Once I dropped my left arm back by my thigh like I'm used to riding it, the ride smoothed out, I didn't have to work at it, and my body fell back into the rhythms that were established for it in my earliest years. A lot less work on me, so we've been doing more work on neck reining as a break between the newer things.

He grasps the concept, he's just not very good at following it if it's not the direction he wants to go, which is something that we're still working on.

13 comments:

horse prof said...

Changing your bit can help a lot in the short run, but what happens when he's leaning a lot on this new bit? If he's had as little training as it sounds like he's had, it's might be a better idea to go back to basics with a simple loose ring snaffle than to kick him up a notch. Not to be negative at all... but just something to think about. It sounds like you're doing a good job with him though!

Anonymous said...

Farmgirl, I'm just wondering... what's the general concensus in your area about the bosal as opposed to bits?

In my own case, I've read a lot about the bosal and even own one. In Duke's case (saddlebred x) a seemingly normal bit which is normally geared to QH mouths is too wide for him, but being a QH-type guy, I don't know much about racking horse bits. And any time Duke has a bit in his mouth, he's always wallowing it around and never seems to relax with it. Last Saturday, I asked a barrel racing aquaintance about this bit issue... she advised me to try a racking horse bit, but also advised that those are outside her expertise.

Just today, I got the bosal w/McCarty reins out and put it on him and just kind felt him out with it... I was standing on the ground. Duke did real nice for me, just that much, and he actually responded nicer to the bosal than he does for either a bit or a rope halter. But that's just me and Duke and I can't really say what he'll do if I just mount up.

mustanger

Farmgirl said...

Horse Prof- I'm trying to get him to soften up and respond better to this bit, and then take him back to something a little more natural. I had him on an eggbutt snaffle last, and he was making great improvements, but my instructor told me to try the small twist for a while. He's a stubborn boy and when he gets to fighting I have to muscle him around any way you slice it, yet.
What my instructor hopes to accomplish with the small twist (which is a loose ring) is to keep him from pulling on it as bad, and to teach him that the less he pulls, the more pleasant it is. Right now we're still in the "hey, thats new, what can I do with it" phase, so it's hard to tell yet how effective it's going to be, but he does flex more at the poll when we're backing with this bit.

Mustanger--

I've ridden horses that did better with a hack than a bit, myself. The quarter horse bits you're using are probably 4 1/2" to 5" wide. There may be racking bits that are narrower than that, but I don't know. One question that needs to be addressed is what kind of bit you need for him. Does he direct-rein or does he neck rein? Does he soften his face when you pick up your reins or does he pull on your hands? Softening his face would be bending at the poll and tipping his chin towards his chest when you collect him.
If he direct-reins you need a snaffle bit, so that you can apply a cue to one side of his mouth at a time without giving the confusing and conflicting cues on the other side that a solid bit would give.
The only way to teach him to carry the bit is to have him carry it. Put him in a round pen or small corral and bridle him, take the reins off the bit or tie them (loosely!) to the saddle horn or cinch rigging, and work him like you were lunging him. If you don't have a properly sized corral or a round pen you can leave his halter on underneath the bridle and lunge him. Let him learn how to carry the bit when he doesn't have anything pulling on it.
As for how he'll do with the bosal when you're in the saddle... well, all you can do is try it. If he's known for getting nervous about new things, I'd have someone with some more experience try it first.
Bosals and Hackamores are for horses that neck rein, though, so if he's not neck reining well, you'll want to stick with a bit.
Thinking about it, Monkey will chew on his bit. He flexes the snaffle with his tongue so that he can just barely get it between two teeth and just chews on it. It's not uncommon, and if your bit is adjusted properly he can't do much more than chew on the edges, but its a habit for some horses. If it seems that Duke is just playing with his bit for the sake of wallowing it around and entertaining himself, you might try a bit with a roller on it, to give him something to play with.
I know this is extremely general but without knowing your horse and riding him myself I can't make any more specific recommendations. All I can say is... you can never have too many bits around. Even if you don't use them on this horse, you might on the next. Or your friend might need one...

Anonymous said...

"I know this is extremely general but without knowing your horse and riding him myself I can't make any more specific recommendations."

Right. I understand that.

"The quarter horse bits you're using are probably 4 1/2" to 5" wide."

That's the ones. Back when Duke was a three year old, I thought the 4.5" mullen mouth colt bit would fit him and it was still too wide. I wound up going right back to the 5" ring snaffle... even though it was too wide, it was beating that colt bit. The other bits I had then are also solid... I figured they're too advanced.

"One question that needs to be addressed is what kind of bit you need for him. Does he direct-rein or does he neck rein? Does he soften his face when you pick up your reins or does he pull on your hands?"

I think Duke hasn't been trained far enough to neck rein yet. He does tend to soften his face though. Mostly, ever since I got him as a three year old, he's responded to a light touch.

"The only way to teach him to carry the bit is to have him carry it. Put him in a round pen or small corral and bridle him, take the reins off the bit or tie them (loosely!) to the saddle horn or cinch rigging, and work him like you were lunging him."

Right... the only way to get experience at anything is to do it. The most round pen I could get here was 40'; most seem to prefer 50'. A few years ago, I had a friend who rode Duke a couple of times a week as she had time... we'd tack him up with that over-wide snaffle bit and tie the reins loosely to the horn and lunge him (no line). We even let him just move around in the pen on his own and get used to it... no tension in the reins. I don't think Duke understood why we weren't more hands-on those times. He was still real calm though.

"As for how he'll do with the bosal when you're in the saddle... well, all you can do is try it. If he's known for getting nervous about new things, I'd have someone with some more experience try it first."

Well, he has his moments when his saddlebred side shows. I was thinking of getting a friend to try him out with the bosal first anyway.

"Bosals and Hackamores are for horses that neck rein, though, so if he's not neck reining well, you'll want to stick with a bit."

Which brings it back to why I was pondering bits.

"...but its a habit for some horses. If it seems that Duke is just playing with his bit for the sake of wallowing it around and entertaining himself, you might try a bit with a roller on it, to give him something to play with."

I've been wanting to buy a couple or three more bits with rollers with that in mind. Like you said, can't have too many bits.

But now, here's another reason I'd need to get him bitted... I've been wanting to get him going in harness too. I have the lightweight driving harness; just no snaffle that's narrow enough to actually fit him right. (The harness set came with the same old chrome-plated junk every starter bridle comes with.)

Thanks for getting back to me again.

How'd the test go?

mustanger... again.

Farmgirl said...

Mustanger--

When you say that the bit is too wide, does it hang out when there's no pressure on the bit? And how far? As long as it's not sticking way out you should be fine.

If nothing else, you could try a pony bit. They tend to be narrower and lighter-weight, so they might work better.

Anonymous said...

"When you say that the bit is too wide, does it hang out when there's no pressure on the bit? And how far? As long as it's not sticking way out you should be fine."

It seemed to me there was about an inch... maybe a little more... worth of sideways slop. That showed up in a solid bit. When I tried the snaffle- same width- I'd adjust the headstall so the bit would look right (not pinching) from the side but the mouth seemed like it had so much room it was still hanging loose. I could be missing something since that was my first time to try fitting a snaffle. I tried that same 5" snaffle on that mustang mare I had... her mouth was wider and it seemed to fit her a lot better than Duke.

"If nothing else, you could try a pony bit. They tend to be narrower and lighter-weight, so they might work better."

I don't know. The pony size bits I've seen seemed to be geared to Shetlands and they appear narrower than Duke's mouth. I think you might have just given me another idea though. Now I'm wondering if a "cob" size might apply, but I haven't noticed a bit listed that way around here.

mustanger

Farmgirl said...

Standard bits are generally 4 1/2" to 5".

Pony bits are 3 1/2" to 4 1/2"

Buy online if you can't find one local.

A snaffle should be fitted to the horse so that it rests in the space between the tushes and the molars (tushes being the pointy teeth between the incisors and molars on a male horse) just like any other bit. They seem like they're looser because they have that flex, but they should fit into the corners of the mouth comfortably.

Horse prof said...

"I'm trying to get him to soften up and respond better to this bit, and then take him back to something a little more natural"
That sounds great, sometimes that's just what you need to do. When you were talking about moving him into a little more bit, I was picturing some sort of leverage bit. I also don't have much of a preference between different cheek pieces on a snaffle. Personally tend to use a loose cheek, but I think they all work well.

" He's a stubborn boy and when he gets to fighting I have to muscle him around any way you slice it, yet. " An exercise that works really well for me in a situation like this is doing a lot of one-rein stops. This prevents the horse from bracing while teaching them that pressure means stop. You have so much better leverage one rein at a time.

"Bosals and Hackamores are for horses that neck rein"
I couln't disagree with this statement more. I ride reined cow horse and a bosal is where you teach them to neck rein. Actually a two-rein is where you really teach them to neck rein, but same basic idea. Here's the cow work at a reined cow horse event working in the hackamore. Definetely two handed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TT-tPneaPuc

Sorry, couldn't find a better video than that right now, but you get the idea.

Reading about what you do, I do think you're doing a good job with him. Hope I don't sound otherwise.

horse prof said...

I also found a link to the NRCHA (National Reined Cow Horse Association) rule book. Riders are required to use two hands in the hackamore except in the herd work.

http://www.nrcha.com/rulebookDisplay.aspx?rcid=6&rsid=13

So there's that too....

Horse prof

Anonymous said...

Farmgirl, I was at the 4H horse show yesterday... I got to talking with another barrel racer I've been aquainted with for a long time. I mentioned your recommending trying a pony bit and she said she has several at her barn and she's not using pony bits. She said I could borrow one of her's and try it on Duke.

""Bosals and Hackamores are for horses that neck rein"
I couln't disagree with this statement more. I ride reined cow horse and a bosal is where you teach them to neck rein. Actually a two-rein is where you really teach them to neck rein, but same basic idea. Here's the cow work at a reined cow horse event working in the hackamore. Definetely two handed."

horse prof, This is what I've been reading for some time. I've read that just the bosal and then transitioning to the bit with double reins takes a long time. One article I read said if you're not pressed for time, use the bosal and take your time. That same article said if you're pressed for time heading to the futurity, then use the snaffle bit. Personally, I'd rather take the extra time since I'm not headed to competition on purpose. But I'd also rather use the best communication for the horse. It seems the jury is out as to which way's actually better.

mustanger

Farmgirl said...

Horse prof- I appreciate the input, actually. On the hacks and bosals- the horses you're citing have been worked in hackamores by experts, probably since they first had a saddle on. Unfortunately not every horse is as sensitive as those fabulous examples.
For the average rider, I recommend a bit for more control.
Then you've got the horses that just aren't sensitive to a hackamore or bosal, who will run right through it.
I agree that if you're training a horse from scratch and have the time to spend on it, a hackamore or bosal is a better way to go, but it's not always viable, and horses who are used to a bit have a tendency to run through the hack, in my experience.
*shrug* It's a case-by-case situation, like so many other things in the equestrian world.

Horse Prof said...

Couldn't agree more with you two. Personally, I start all my horses in a snaffle. When they're working well in the snaffle, I move them up to the bosal. When the bosal is coming well, I switch to the two-rein, then from there to straight up in the bridle. I also would much rather start a horse myself than get on that someone else has screwed up!

I don't like to start a horse in the bosal because I don't think you can get a lot of the nuances with it that you can with a snaffle. I want my horse pretty dang broke to the snaffle before I move them up.

Mustanger,
" One article I read said if you're not pressed for time, use the bosal and take your time. That same article said if you're pressed for time heading to the futurity, then use the snaffle bit."
I'm with you, I'd much rather take my time getting a horse started, especially if you want to ever ride him again after the futurity. What reined cow horse people typically do is start in the snaffle, move to the bosal, then to the two-rein, then straight up in the bridle. These people show their 3yo futurity horses in the snaffle - hence Snaffle Bit Futurity.

Reiners, who show their futurity horses in a leverage bit tend to rush things a bit and move from the snaffle to an argentine snaffle to the bridle. They do get their horses pretty dang broke in that bit though.

Also, you seem to be worried about the width of the bit in your horse's mouth. Once I get my colts going well in the snaffle, I move them up to a 6" snaffle (regular sized quarter horses). I like the extra width because it gives the horse a little extra signal before their head gets pulled to the side. The bit sliding through their mouth works as a "pre-signal" and it really seems they don't need to be pulled on quite as much. I don't use that on real green colts though, I like have a little quicker response with them.

Farmgirl,
You need to put up a new horse post so we can move this conversation to the front of the blog... we're starting to get buried!

Horse Prof

Horse Prof said...

Mustanger,
Didn't really answer this in my 10-page commentary I just wrote, so I thought I'd add a little more.
"But I'd also rather use the best communication for the horse. It seems the jury is out as to which way's actually better."

I don't think the jury is ever going to come to a definite decision about this one... too many backgrounds and histories.

Personally, I think it really depends on what kind of a rider you are, how you use your hands, and what you're trying to accomplish with your horse as to what type of bit works best for you. When I start a horse, I aim for them to be able to be a spade bit horse one day. Does that mean that they can't still be ridden in and respond well to a snaffle? No, not at all.

A spade is not for everyone by any means, and I think I would be a cruel person if I told everyone to ride their horse in a spade. I don't even think every horse could be a good spade bit horse. But I still like them for several reasons, mostly because there are many, many signals before the port ever touches the roof of the horse's mough. These pre-signals help keep the horse light. If you ride your horse in a snaffle forever, they will eventually become dull with the snaffle because there are not layers of nuance. You're either pulling, or you're not. With a spade, your horse often responds to the braces being lifted off the bars of his mouth, about a 1/2" move of your hand (or less). A spade also encourages a horse to keep their head in position without contact on the reins.

So there's my two cents worth, if you have questions about specific types of bits, I'd love to discuss what the pros and cons are of them (in my opinion anyway).