Mouthy Monday on Tuesday
This letter made me feel just great. It's wonderful to know somebody on the other side of the tracks heard me.
My only suggestion to Beth is, next, get rid of the twist completely and try a smooth snaffle.
Thanks for making my day Beth and please call me Mugs...I'm finally shed of the "Mugly."
First off I know this is an extremely late reply to your post on cavessons in FHOTD, but I’m a college student and finals are coming up, so I’m sure you can understand why it’s late. I’ve been a long time reader of your blog , but I've never posted before, but your post about cavessons caused an epiphany of sorts for me. I also used to read FHOTD, but I could no longer stand the mob like mentality of FHOTD. So I switched to you, and your ideas always leave me assessing my own riding/training. FYI this is a rather long e-mail, sorry!
Before I begin, I’ll give you a little background on myself and my horses, which happen to be half-Arabians *insert comment about Arabians here*. I ride just about every discipline, but my main focus is Saddleseat and the hunters * add another comment about saddleseat*. I own two horses, one is a National Show Horse(Arabian x saddlebred)aka Jack, he’s the hunter. The other is my Saddleseat mount, an Arabian x hackney mare, a very opinionated mare at that, but her work ethic is unbeatable, she will go for hours if you ask her too. She’s also the one I always have trouble with when it comes to hardness in the mouth, which I formally attributed to her being a Saddleseat horse, those double-bridles are a lot of hard-ware in their mouth. The national show horse is a wimp and I ride him in a slow twist snaffle, and he’s pretty soft compared to her. Bonnie, the mare, I have to ride in a hard twist snaffle, both are always ridden in cavessons. I’ve ridden my way up from 4-H, up to the Arabian circuit and have done pretty well considering. I’m a ‘do it yourself’ kind of girl, at shows I do all the grooming, feeding, and saddling, I won’t pay someone to do what I can do myself. Call me frugal if you want, but that’s the way I was raised. But most importantly for our purposes, I do all the training, which at first, was much to the annoyance of my barn owner, but now she ask me to ride horses for her. So that makes me feel pretty confident that I’m not totally screwing up my horses. At the barn I keep them at, it was highly suggested *cough*forced*cough* to me to use a cavesson, all the time, every single ride, and those suckers are cinched up tight too. I never questioned their uses and their purpose until now.
A few days after I read your post about cavessons I went out to the barn and no one was there, so that little hamster in my brain started to run. As I was getting out my mare, magically, one neuron fired to another and I thought “hey why don’t I try riding Bonnie without a cavesson?” As I tacked her up, I couldn’t help but think about what a crazy idea this was, there was no way I would be able to ride the entire time without a cavessons, it would just be one big pissing match. Since I thought I was already in for a fight, I decided to put her in a slow-twist copper snaffle instead of her usual sharp twist, what can I say I’m a glutton for punishment. As I walked her out to the arena I sighed as I swung my butt up into the western saddle, grumbling “this is going to be fun” to myself. I wondered why I ever thought to try this. I mean, I like Mugly ideas, but she only rides quarter horses, not Arabians! They’re totally different! All of these reasons of why it wouldn't work ran through my head. So I gathered by reins, geared up for the ensuring fight, and waited for her to bust through my hands and stick her nose out. But to my complete and utter shock, she gave to my hands and went off quietly, soft and willing in my hands.
I’m pretty sure I had to scrape my jaw off the arena floor; my mare hadn’t been this soft since those first months of training. Being the pessimist that I am, I figured that she would only be soft at a walk, so I pushed her into a trot, and I got the same lightness and ease as I got at the walk. I didn’t get it; she was soft in my hands, she didn’t gape her mouth, she wasn’t evading my legs or hands, she happily moved off my legs and seat, she was being perfect.
I just could understand it, was this really my horse? The heavy, touchy mare was gone; instead I had a happy, soft horse. I pressed my outside leg into her for the canter, which normally is freight train time for us, but this time she just flowed into it. I was doing lead changes, stops, pivots, side-passing, backing, anything I could think of to see if it was just a fluke. But it wasn’t, my mare was soft; she was soft in a slow twist snaffle, which is something she hadn’t been in two years. My gelding was the exactly same way, soft and happy.
A little side note, but I tried this idea on a mare who has a habit of flipping over when she feels trapped, which is often, I'm crazy I know. She's heavy in the mouth as my own mare, and when she feels trapped watch out! Its like a nuclear explosion. So I removed the cavesson, but a simple snaffle on, again wondering if I was headed for an early grave, but again it was like someone had sprinkled her with fairy dust, she was fine. She didn't feel panicked or trapped, I amazed me to think that something as simple as removing a cavesson could fix the problem of flipping, that a a good crack on her butt! She's been fine ever since I loosened/removed the cavesson. So Mugly I though you should know that you saved a good horse from going to an auction, and most likely the slaughter house.
So long story short, it worked, it really worked. (Sorry it was so long!) To be honest I kind of laughed when I read your article, and thought to myself “yeah right, come ride MY horse, she’ll show you!” Well I guess she showed me! Thank you for opening my eyes to what my horses have been trying to tell me, they don’t need all that hardware to perform. It wasn’t my horses being nasty and hard just because, they where looking for an escape from the pressure of the cavesson. Looking back I was just being lazy. I won’t say that I won’t every ride with a cavesson again, because, well that’s a lie, I simply apart of the world I ride in. But now I know that I really don’t need it, and that my horse doesn’t need to either. You got a person who shows Arabians to change their mind about cavessons, whats the world coming too?!
So here’s to you Mugs, thank you for showing me that just because everyone else thinks something works or is right, doesn’t mean it is.
The picture is of my two horses, the bay is the mare, the paint is the gelding