Ch-ch-changes ... in tack

After the show, I've been thinking about how my last lesson with Nancy and our crappy show performance are related. So far, here are my points:
  • I need to maintain a connection on BOTH reins at all times in BOTH directions. There is an outside rein, but you need the inside, too. 
  • Keeping steady contact is directly related to keeping my shoulders down and back, my elbows in against my sides and my core engaged with every single step.
  • My legs both need to be on my horse and stretched down long. No more of this curling up and back, or slowly trying to come up into the fetal position. Additionally no more heels into my horse's side. Turns out, he hates that.
  • The right shoulder needs to move over AND forward. It's okay to move the reins to get that, but you have to keep your weight on that side and your torso stretched up. 
After brainstorming things for awhile, I've decided to be a little pro-active with the contact thing. Guinness is obviously excessively sensitive to changes in contact. As I'm not a good enough rider yet to have perfect (or even good?) contact, I need to find a way to lessen his reactions. At this point, it's nearly impossible to fix anything once he throws a fit. All I can do is put my hands low and go into "damage control" mode. It doesn't really help either of us.

I decided that a change in noseband and bitting is needed. First, I switched back to my eggbutt double jointed lozenge snaffle. It's a bit Pig has always been happy in. The only reason I changed it to a loose ring was to try to give him some extra play in the bit to see if that would encourage him to mouth it more, and chomp and tense less. I think it's done that, but at the expense of magnifying every mistake I make. The eggbutt is more stable in the mouth, and that's what we need right now. As for the noseband, check this out:
He looks better in chestnut tack than I thought he would... 

Yep! It's the infamous Micklem bridle that everyone has been trying out recently. This one belongs to a fellow boarder generous enough to let me try it out for a bit. The change in Pig wasn't exactly "miraculous," but overall it was a positive effect. He was much less reactive to changes in contact. In fact, I was finally able to focus on my shoulder and leg position instead of constantly worrying about whether my hands were causing him to object. It was a big enough change that I'm completely willing to give it a try. Only? I'm too cheap to shell out $200 for the thing. Hell no. That's more than I'd ever consider spending on a bridle.


Anyway, I'm not willing to give up on the obvious comfort the Micklem gave Pig. So, how does a girl compromise her cheap, cheap, cheapness and her horse's obvious preferences? Well, she takes a close look at tack design and uses her brain ... 
Left: Micklem | Right: Drop

Yep, on closer inspection the Micklem noseband is really just an elaborate drop. Sure, the Micklem is all one piece, has nice ear cutouts, holds the bit stable at the top, and more easily contains the drop crown strap, but really it's pretty much just a drop. And a nice quality drop noseband is totally in my budget. So I bought it. This one, actually.

I've literally never thought of trying a drop noseband on my horse before. In fact, I didn't really understand why you would use one as opposed to a flash. In the last week, I've really looked at them and studied what trainers say about them. Apparently, a drop is more effective at keeping the mouth closed than a flash, and is less likely to put pressure on the developing teeth of a young horse, and so more common in use with young horses. While Pig has had his teeth done very recently, and doesn't have any dental issues contributing to our problems (you can bet I've checked!), I think the drop's other purpose is suited directly to him. The drop is also capable of holding the bit steadier than a flash, and without as much tension on the horse's mouth. In order to get a flash to really hold the bit, you have to strap it down to a degree that I can't get behind. Because of the hinge on a drop, the bit is gently held up in the horse's mouth. This lessens the amount the bit can move, and makes it much gentler on the mouth. Hopefully that translates to a happier chestnut horse! 

I just checked the tracking on my package. It's currently sitting on my porch. Can I leave the office yet?


  1. A friend of mine just found a micklem on ebay for $125. Good deals are out there if you keep an eye out! :) I'm glad the change made a difference.

    1. I know they're out there! Honestly, I want to stay with a bridle as close to "normal" as possible. If I ever do make a move to a double, I don't want a change in the entire headstall to be an issue.

  2. Hmm ... Interesting. I had to finally add a flash to Speedy's bridle as he won't keep his mouth closed even though i've tried several bits, etc. Like you, I HATE how tight the flash needs to be to be effective. I'll be interested in seeing how the drop nose band works.


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