Saturday, June 16, 2012

Big Girl Bridle


Reddunappy said...

Impressive, how long have you been working on it?

Carla said...

What is the purpose of that kind of bit? I'm coming from a H/J background so it looks pretty severe to me. Based on your past posts though, it seems like you are a very thoughtful rider who is constantly evaluating herself. So I'd be interested to hear where your horse started (in her "little girl bridle") and how she moved up to that bit.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering the same thing as Carla. I've ridden in severe bits before, but only after the horse earned it. Is this more standard in Western disciplines?
I obviously don't know your horse or how she rides, I'm just curious.

whisper_the_wind said...

I have only ever seen one horse trained enough to wear one. You should be proud you girl is ready for the honor. I hope she wears it well.

mugwump said...

Reddunappy-8 years

Carla - Training to wear a spade has nothing to do with severity. It takes years (horse and rider) to develop the softness to be able to use one properly. It's a Spanish tradition well worth reading up on.

Anonymous- Decorative? I read up on riding styles I don't understand before I become critical.

Anon #2 - Horses don't earn their way to a spade by misbehaving, they learn their way to it through years of careful preparation.

Whisper-It went beautifully.

mugwump said...

I added a video that might help...
Madonna is in the 2 rein. She is wearing a 3/8 inch hackamore under the bridle. I ride with two sets of reins,primarily the hackamore at first, going back and forth until she waorks completely in the bit.
It could take 1 or two years before she goes totally over to the bit alone.
She was started in a ring snaffle (two years), went to the hackamore (bosal) for the next six or seven years (don't remember) and now to the two rein.

MichelleL said...

Thank you for the video. I had no idea what sort of training it takes to get into a spade bit. Congratulations to you and Madonna.

pony said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pony said...

I think some readers may need more clarification about the bit. I may not be 100% accurate, but this is what I think is happening (I admittedly did not watch the video so hopefully this is not redundant):

Madonna (the horse) has two bridles on. She has a thin bosal on underneath a bridle with a spade bit on it.

The bosal is similar to a hackamore, they are at least both bitless. Mugs said above that she has been riding Madonna in a bosal for six or seven years, which is the traditional vaquero way of training a horse.

The spade is the next step in the training method, and Mugs is showing us above that she is now using a "two rein" - the bosal underneath the spade. She will gradually decrease the use of the bosal to totally using the spade bit over the next two years or so, so the transition period from bosal to spade is pretty slow.

The spade is actually pretty comfortable for the horse and there is generally a pretty forgiving pre-signal for the horse before the bit is engaged. I have ridden in a spade with a large spoon on a well trained horse, and it was definitely fun. I imagine in the bit Mugs has, riding Madonna will be very easy and probably super fun!

Yay! I had to delete my above comment to add more info!

Joyce Reynolds-Ward said...

Yay! I liked the thoughtful look on her face as she was balancing it. You've still got her in the two rein, right?

(I so want to experience the feel of a bridle horse--if Mocha's tongue hadn't been injured when she was younger, I might have tried it with her). Congrats! What's she thinking about it?

Becky said...

Mugs did a post about spade bits (amongst others) before:

She wrote more, but here's a small excerpt from the spade bit category:

"All of the needed communication with the horse needed to come from tiny little adjustments in the reins, so the rope would stay neatly coiled, easy to get at, and keep every body safe in the mean time.

Small, tiny movements and pressures from the reins have to be taught, they can't be forced.This is where the spade bit came in.

The spade is considered a signal bit.The long (scary) tapering port, the spoon, roller and copper braces were all designed to encourage the horse to pick up his bit and carry it.

The seven or eight years needed to prepare a spade bit horse are intended to create a horse that NEVER gets yanked on."

Becky said...

Also.... are those your $90 reins?

And I don't know where you got that bridle from, but I'm kind of in love with it.

Reddunappy said...

Awesome video.

A bridle horse is the epitome of western horsemanship!! I get goosebumps watching them work!!!

Comgrats on getting this far with her mugwump!!!!!

mugwump said...

Becky - nope...I don't want to talk about the cost of romals...
the bridle is an honest to God antique, made for a spade bit horse.

Heidi the Hick said...

This is fascinating!!!

I'm trying to explain to my students how bits work, and there is so much misunderstanding. Curb bits look harsh, but I'm telling them that there's a level of training to go with it, and that it's meant to not be yanked on.

I've never actually seen a bridle like yours.

Love the video!! I have so much left to learn with my horses, and it's both comforting and inspiring to watch that video while he talks about the art of creating a well trained bridle horse... And that they're never really finished... Wow. Just wow. Keep us up to date with your progress!!

mugwump said...

Heidi - It's very slow...

Muriel said...

Congratulations! It takes lots of work from horse and rider to developp the sensibility!

But lots of food for thought, I see reiners riding their 4 yrs old in Derby in a Cathedral bit (fairly similar than a spade bit).

For English riding people ^-^, reining prospect 2 yeras old horses are first ridden for 1 year in a snaffle bit, then when they are 3 yrs old the year of the futurity, they are moved up to a curb bit, usually a correctional.

Afterwards they are moved to cathedral or other mouthpieces for finished horses.
It is considered bad practise to have a 2yrs old in a curb bit. However it happens more often than it should ...

I am wondering how soft a horse must become in a bosal before transitioning to a Spade bit, and how light the rider hands must become???

Is there some obvious transitioning points both for rider and horse??

MalteseLizzieMcGee said...

The horse in the video looks amazing. I can't imagine how much work it takes to get a horse (and rider) up to that level of skill

mugwump said...

Muriel - A cathedral bit is NOTHING like a spade. A spade is a signal bit. The horse responds to the feel through the reins.
A leverage bit operates off the lever action between the curb strap, the shanks and the mouthpiece.
Reining is an event. The bits are the riders choice.
A bridle horse is a style of riding,a finished bridle horse can compete in any event.

mugwump said...

Clarification - A cathedral bit is a leverage bit, a spade is a signal bit.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the video! I had no idea that it was a special kind of bit, but it makes sense when its explained. I was just assuming it was a more severe bit, I enjoy learning these things!

Heidi the Hick said...

Is it the chains attaching the reins to the bit that give the signal? I could read up on it but I like your explanations.

I would expect this would be a slow training process.

I'm ridiculously slow but I don't consider myself a trainer (at least not in terms of training other people's horses).

I just love it that there's always something to learn!

Carla said...

Oooh...burn. I did not agree with the noseband thing on Fugly either (I read your blog more for the inspiring stories than for training tips), but I did learn something new from the explanation and discussion in this comment thread. Mugs, you'll have to post a video showing us your bridle horse in action!

Holly said...

here is another vid of a 2 rein horse

Val said...


I love to hear about training that takes time and patience. The present culture in the United States needs more of this.

I watched the video and found it very interesting. When the cowboy takes on the reins, the bit does not even visibly move in the horse's mouth. I love how this bit is characterized as a signal bit. Those words say it all.

Anonymous said...

Madonna looks pretty pleased with herself in those pictures!

Darn cute pony you got there.

maryka said...

Ooh that is Maddona is it,nice to have seen her photo & the video at the bottom was very interesting.Don't think Ben & I will ever get close to using something that has such finesse.Mind you I spent 65 yrs riding English, 15 of which I've been Riding Ben English. Sadly I still can't claim to be doing Western riding but the old boy just loves the freedom of a long rein instead of the push & hold style routine which I was always trying to escape from.He is one clever pony though as the last two days have been trying to come down from trot to walk by using my weight & then following fast up into trot again using my weight.He got it really well until the mares started to have a hooly in the next field whereupon we had to use legs again as he lost his concentration.I love your blog & the information you give us & though I can't claim to ride really well I enjoy my boy & it does inspire me.Thanks Mugs

mugwump said...

Thanks Maryka!

TBMare said...

I have sort of a bit obsession, but was totally unaware of the spade's place in the world. Thank you so much for sharing and for the extremely helpful video.

Can you explain (or do you have a diagram?) of how the spoon behaves in the mouth?

Can you describe the methods of cuing the reins to send the signals to the bit? Its so subtle, its really hard to tell in the video.

I'm assuming the chains provide a set weight which allows the vibration from the rein to travel more clearly to the bit. Is that correct?

I am totally fascinated!

And to all the haters who look at a piece of equipment and judge: a pair of spurs that look like the most terrible things on earth can be the kindest, most whisper soft signal in the world on the right pair of legs, and that rubber coated snaffle bit in your pony's mouth will break their jaw when you tie them with it out of ignorance. Ignorance is the problem, not the tools.

Clancy said...

I have been thinking a lot about this post over the last few days. My initial reaction to the bit was disbelief that anyone would put something like that in a horse’s mouth.

Your mare looks very relaxed in the photos, and that is testament to the care you have taken with her training and the relationship you have with her. I was saddened by what I saw in the video though; I watched it several times and all I see is a tense and miserable horse – tail clamped, ears back a lot… Not relaxed. Sure it is quiet and doing everything that is asked, but I don’t see happy and confident there.

I respect what people say about ‘it’s not the bit, it’s the hands’ and I guess it is possible to use one of these bits without hurting the horse. I respect that these bits are intended to signal to the horse first and are only intended to be used on highly trained horses by very soft-handed riders. But what are the consequences to the horse if they don’t listen to the signal? Am I right in thinking these bits have great potential to cause pain and damage if used improperly? I find it deeply disquieting that the mark of a good rider is being able to use an implement that can potentially cause serious pain. Even if the point is not to use it, the threat and potential are still there.

And then there is the other issue of what message implements like this send to other riders. Do people see that these should only be used by highly skilled horses and riders, or do they see these bits ‘control’ the horse?

Overall I find the arguments for the use of these bits as unconvincing as the arguments for the use of double bridles and nose-bands in English riding or indeed any bit, or of the pesoa, or spurs or any number of other ‘training aids’. Everyone says they are fine if used correctly and few proponents talk of the consequences to the horse and the potential for great suffering if they are not used correctly.

I wish the prestige went the other way, and use of anything other than a cordeo was seen as the mark of poor horsemanship, and the greatest respect was for people who are able to ride without the use of bits, cordeo, spurs or whip. More and more videos on youtube are showing this is possible. J and no, I can’t ride with a cordeo yet, but I aspire to it.

Clancy said...

Let me ask my question a different way. If implements with as much potential to do serious harm were being marketed as suitable for training young children, would we be saying 'ignorance is the problem' or would we be advocating to outlaw these and for use of implements with less potential for harm? And if we would advocate for greater safety for our children, why don't we do the same for our horses?

deedee said...

Clancy, i looked at the video after reading your comments and did not see the tense horses you describe. There are many fine tools in any profession that used by amatuers equals misuse. I am one who feels spanking kids should not be outlawed. And some people will misuse it. But those people will misuse more than spanking in their child rearing practices. Are we going to outlaw parenthood because some people do it wrong? The beauty of a Bridle Horse is the high level of training in softness and communications of both the horse And the rider. your concern for horses well being is appreciated, also.

mugwump said...

Sorry Clancy - you're so far off when reading the horse in the video, I can't go any farther with this conversation.

I see a horse listening intently to his rider. His ears were not back in distress, not even a little. The only time they flattened was on cattle,a normal response during cattle work.

I see a horse using his tail normally, clamped, swishing, waving, flagged, all normal use while being ridden.

I guess I do need to point out, I'm sharing a riding method that is the base of the training I do. Which is what this blog is about. I'm not asking for approval, I'm sharing a choice already made.

I am very, very tired of the "would you put it on a child," discussion.

I would not put a snaffle bit on a child, or a saddle, or a cordeo around his/her neck.

I am comfortable with the choices I make for my horses and will challenge anybody who tries to imply they are not happy, healthy and well cared for.

I will also put any of my horses in any phase of their training, be it snaffle, hackamore, 2 rein or bridle, against yours, sorting, cutting or gathering cattle, down the trail or arena work. The arena work can include lateral work, lead changes, collection, transitions, you name it, we'll go for it. My young horse will be a lot rougher than my older run, but he'll be happy to try anything, without anticipation or anxiety.

We can go head to head and be judged for the horses respect for their rider, happiness in their job, ability to do their job and degree of training. Fair enough?

I would love to hear more about the cordero, maybe in a mouthy monday post, although now that my back is up, it will be harder to be interested in hearing what you have to say.

I've never been one to warm up to some one who calls me cruel.

Bif said...

OK, can I just say in a tangential fashion that the side picture of Madonna has another horse's hind limb in a distracting location? I did a double take... Madonna's a GIRL.

That silliness aside, I laud you in your ability to turn out a bridle horse. I will never have the finesse or ability to do that.

As for severity and signal, and the potential for harm... well, it *is* a double edged sword(in that ignorant and inept people might pick up the razor in their monkey paws), but it does allow for an amazing degree of control and communication that opponents don't understand.

The closest example I've experienced was riding a saddleseat mare. Long story short, my college team had an invitational which we fielded a team to the saddleseat division and had been practicing on non-park trained horses, and rarely in actual park saddles ~ so I was happy to go to my friend's hometown and ride one of her trainer's horses.

The bit that went in that little mare's mouth made me cringe. I have good hands, but this was a different discipline and dramatically different balance point, and I was super conscious of my hands and her mouth...

It was incredible. The connection to her, the slightest tension of your fingers brought about an instant response, and never did the mare evade the contact or seem unhappy, much less uncomfortable. It was unbelievable, flying, with control at practically a hairsbreadth of movement.

Is it what I am comfortable riding all the time? No. But I get it, and admire those with the skill and temperament to use these sophisticated methods. Their horses are truly blessed.

mugwump said...

Bif - I agree, that photo needs some serious photoshop work, but I liked the shot, in spite of the "danglies."

Clancy said...

Mugs, I'm sorry you took my comments so amiss. I wasn't saying you are cruel, I said how comfortable your horse looked standing there was a testament to your training. I meant it. I don't doubt your care oand and concern for your horses, but I do think we see things quite differently.

LOL, there would be no point challenging me with respect to riding, you would get very bored very quickly I suspect, I am strictly a quiet plodder down trails and often walk on my own feet with my horses because I enjoy hanging out with them like that just as much as riding.

:) I have been working on a story about my experiences with one of my horses for Mouthy Monday. Not about riding but about how horse and person can give each other a second chance to get a relatinship back on track.

Anonymous said...

Dumb question alert!

So a finished bridle horse are they working primarily off of rein cues?

Are seat and leg cues still used?

Half Dozen Farm said...

I just want to say that Martin Black is my hero, and Mugs, you're no slouch either.
I would love to someday stand in the general vicinity of a finished bridle horse! (it's becoming a lost art)
The Alvord Ranch Clinic is on my bucket list!

Half Dozen Farm said...

I just want to say that Martin Black is my hero, and Mugs, you're no slouch either.
I would love to someday stand in the general vicinity of a finished bridle horse! (it's becoming a lost art)
The Alvord Ranch Clinic is on my bucket list!

KD said...

I love how soft Madonna looks carrying that bit...congratulations Janet. Looking forward to hearing about you showing her in it. I'm guessing not many folks have taken the time it takes to do that.

Jill said...

i very much like the rein then chain then bit link up. The horse is getting a very gentle message. I do shudder at the thought of it in harsh hands though.

slightly off-topic...Mugs, is that an Impact Gel saddle pad you have on Madonna?

mugwump said...

Jill - Nope, just a hard seat cutter.

wyofaith said...

Mugwump, I thought the point of this blog was an honest discussion of differing veiws? However when Clancy asked some questions, wrote his/her veiwpoint in what I thought was a pretty non confrontational way, you slammed him/her pretty hard. What's up?

Bif said...


This was Mugs showing us her mare has moved up to the next step of her training, the start of the highest finesse possible. She was taking a moment of justifiable pride in her horse's accomplishments, and Mugs' judgement, patience and training that were able to get Madonna here.

This was not her covering how different methods of bitting, or bitless, or whatever form of communication one chooses to use. That's been done before, and I'm sure will be covered again.

The difference between this, and for example the Westfall bridleless video love, is that these horse can achieve perfection. As nice as Westfall's video is it is NOT flawless. There are plenty of times one could tell both rider and horse would be more precise with equipment.

These horses are expected to work cattle well. They are taught to seek their reward in pleasing the rider. Disobedience or carelessness could get man or horse injured or killed; but these horses learn to carry themselves with grace and joy for their jobs.

Also, regarding the video horse being miserable: a horse's ears, half back, listening to the rider, is where they should be. A horse's ears reflect where his gaze is going... they are seeing more all around them than when ears are pricked forward.

These horses learn such subtlety that is not easily grasped by those of us who "just ride". NO idea of the bit on the horse in this video, but watch his intensity, his enjoyment of the job, the rider's IMPECCABLE position and hands. I may not agree with this video's sport, but I can surely admire the skill and work put in to this beautiful creature.
Few if any of us could ride with this independent of a seat; this horse took six or seven years under saddle before his first public event.

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