Cash-man Cash-man Cash-man….you are my problem child….okay not really. He’s just a horse that really makes me think outside the box. Our latest adventure has been learning turn on the forehand.
Since the ground has been a mix between soup and a skating ring depending on the day, I’ve really slowed down what I’ve been doing with him and I realized he has a fairly large gap in his training. He really isn’t proficient at all on anything leg yield especially turn on the forehand and turn on the haunches.
Well I worked with him on the ground until he understood the basic aids for turn on the forehand in a halter. The problems started when I got in the saddle. The instant I would give half halts on the reins to stop his forward momentum it felt like we hit a brick wall. He would ignore my aids I would tap harder on his side. He would go forward, I would say no and he would stop and we would repeat and repeat and repeat. He could not understand that from the saddle I was asking for over not forward even when I was only tapping with one leg. I eventually got a tiny try from him. Praised him and ended the session with some easy walk trot and some nibbles of grass.
So I started over the next day. I started on the ground in a halter again and he got it perfect first time up….It was here that I began to have suspicions of where my problem with him was but I wasn’t quite sure so I asked him to come over to the mounting block and I jumped on bareback in a halter. I walked him around a bit before stopping him and asking him again. He went to move forward I gave a slight pull on the halter and BAM his haunches moved over and he didn’t go forward…..Now I really had an idea what was going on…. So with lots of praise we did good steps both left and right on turn on the forehand in a halter with me on his back.
Following my suspicions I jumped off and ran to grab my bridle. I quickly returned and put it on him over the halter and started on the ground again but this time instead of using the halter I bridged the reins over his neck and took contact on the bit. I asked for turn on the haunches. He went to move forward. I gave a half halt on the reins and suddenly we hit that brick wall again. He leaned into the bridle and planted his feet or pushed through my aids and walked in a circle around me. I brought him to a halt and asked again. I got one step of sideways before he went forward and when I put pressure on the reins there was the damn brick wall.
I knew exactly what the problem was. For ages and ages Cash and I have always fought over contact on the reins. I have tried multiple bits and I’ve changed how many wrinkles were in his mouth from none to 3 and everything in-between.I’ve tried thin bits and big fat ones… nice simple single break snaffle’s to kimberwicks. The kimberwick was almost a disaster. He hated it and any bit like it and so the best one I’ve found has been a bradoon KK ultra by Herm Springer…but it still isn’t perfect.We would have good days where he seemed quiet but most of the time if there is any contact on the bit he truly gets extremely frustrated and leans and just plain fights the bit.
Cash is a very hard-headed horse and in anything that elects even a modicum of a pain response he fights it. I’ve seen him do it with horses. If a horse bites or kicks him he moves closer to them as if to say “HA you think THAT will make me move….oh oh you’re funny…please try it again” He has always been this way even when he was a baby so it really shouldn’t surprise me now that I’m having issues with bits. Inevitably a bit will elect a pain response. If I put too much pressure on the reins it will put pressure on the bars of the mouth or the palate and cause pain, it’s the simple fact of any bit no matter how kind or severe. When we put something in a horse mouth eventually you will cause pain if you ride with any contact on the reins. That is why we always strive for quiet, calm, following hands in our riding. In this way we will cause the least discomfort to the horse.
*sigh* So I foresee for the near future at least, some investments in bitless bridles. I’m not sure I would quite trust it out on the trail, but if it makes Cash more happy in the arena and opens him up to understanding then I will hands down try it! Once he understands what I’m asking then I will slowly reintegrate the bit back into arena/dressage work so we can compete. To bad bitless still hasn’t been approved for shows.
Any who the point of this article is…Don’t be afraid to look for the true root cause of issues with a horse. For Cash at the moment our biggest issues is the bit but it also goes for saddle fit to as well as injuries. Sometimes it’s something we don’t even think about. If a horse is resisting I’d say 99% of the time there is something impeding their ability to understand whether it be confusing aids, a wrong fitting saddle or even a bit. Horses are extremely will creatures that truly want to please because like every other creature, including humans, they just want love and praise and to know they did right. So if you seem to be having recurring or escalating problems with your horses. check your tack, Check your saddle fit. Don’t be afraid to call a vet out to check that there is no injuries that have been overlooked.
Now it’s time for me to go shopping!!!! Muh hahahahahahah….
Until next time my friends!