Thursday, 19 January 2012

Bit by bit - the key to Amelie's mouth

Well that's all my horses back in work properly now. Amelie is further ahead as she had been kept ticking over. Garth and Tara are working gently until they get their fitness levels back up. It is great turning them out onto the hill fields that I have here everyday, as it means that their fitness levels don't drop back to nothing if they do get a holiday. Walking up and down the slopes for a few hours every day keeps up a pretty good basic fitness level even if the horses aren't in full work.
Thankfully last weekend the wind finally died down here for a bit and we enjoyed a couple of beautiful still, frosty days. Luckily it has also been dry so it isn't particularly icy, therefore some of riders from the yard took advantage of this and got out for a couple of good hacks in the sunshine.

Some of the horses head out on a beautiful frosty day.
Some of the girls had lessons with trainer David Harland here on Saturday so I took the opportunity to join in one lesson with Amelie who was ready for a gentle session. She worked around the other two horses and then David put some poles out for us while the other two gave their horses a breather. Ams was feeling pretty fresh so we did a bit of slow trotting into poles then some small jumps just to remind her to stay steady into them and not get too excited and rush. She finished up working in a relaxed frame and settled well to the job in hand.

Finding the key
I am still finding it frustrating though, that I don't yet have the key to her mouth - she can still be incredibly fussy and resistant at times and I am not sure why. I am going to go down the route of trying some new things until I find a combination that she finds more acceptable. So with that in mind I have a Micklem bridle coming. I have used one of these before on another horse with great results, unfortunately the one I had was too small to fit any of my other horses so Amelie has her own shiny new one on the way - I knew my Christmas money would come in handy. I have also hired a couple of bits to try including the intriguing Peewee bit.

One of those lightbulb moments
I had a bit of a lightbulb moment on her the other day when I wondered if it was pressure on the sides of her face she is objecting too, so I took off her noseband. The bridle she has on at the moment is a very good one but it does have a thick padded noseband which means when the bit is used the cheekpieces must put pressure on this band and therefore on her teeth. I am starting to think that perhaps she hates the pressure of both the noseband and the bit pressing against the sides of her face against her teeth. When I took the noseband off there was a pretty instant 60-70% change for the better in her - until she got her tongue over the bit and I stopped. The Micklem is cleverly designed with a drop noseband system but no other pressure on the sides of the face and the Peewee bit is supposed to sit off the sides of the face as well. So here's hoping that I am on the right track theory wise.

The cleverly designed Micklem Multibridle
After lots of research it seems like a combination that's worth trying. The other thing in favour of the Peewee is that it has a very thin mouthpiece and Ams has quite a fleshy tongue so that should suit her too.
I have her in a comfort Myler at the moment and although it is the best bit I have tried so far, it is certainly far from perfect for her.

A pee wee - the bit sits lower in the mouth and sits off the sides of the face

I should add that I have also tried her in a hackamore and there was no discernible difference which again leads me to think that she is objecting to pressure against the sides of her teeth. I have also had her teeth done, back checked and saddle checked and fitted. I am pretty certain that this is not a pain thing because interestingly if you put draw reins on her, not to haul her head down, but to show her how to go long and low you can easily ride her incredibly lightly, just with one finger on the buckle end of them and she happily goes in a lovely, low swinging trot. There is no fighting, tension or arguing with them - which I would expect there to be if she was in pain - in fact I would expect quite a violent reaction - just the opposite of what she gives.

Anyone else been there and got this t-shirt?
If anyone else has been through this with a horse of theirs I would love to hear if you found the perfect solution and what it was.

Last night I headed off for a lesson at Balcormo with my good friend - show jumper and trainer Sandra Low Mitchell, she is helping me get Amelie to take her time jumping so that she learns to make a good shape rather than rush and flatten out. She does this by reminding me that I have to stay as still and quiet as I can and under no circumstances must I give her any signals to jump - just to keep her ticking into the fence in a good rhythm. I discussed what I was going to try with Amelie in detail and Sandra agrees that this seems a good combination of bridle and bit to try as finding something that the mare is happier with is the key to progress now.

Ams working at home - this is the frame she starts in - I try to do at least 15 minutes in a long very low frame once she has relaxed.
Must keep up the New Year diet!
Two notes to self though on looking at this picture above - it's time to haul all the jumps in under cover and have a painting session. May as well get it done before spring because there are much more exciting things to be doing once the warm weather is here. Secondly I MUST keep up with the New Year's diet so I don't look so much of a wee fat puddock on a horse!

Looking down towards our farm at the weekend.

Omagh and grey boy Garth, snoozing in the winter sunshine with ShirexTB Reuben (black) and ex racer Jerry.


  1. I have the t-shirt. It's what led me to discover my favorite bit for those sensitive mouths with either a short mouth...low palate...fleshy tongue...or a combination.

    I use the Herm Sprenger french link snaffle. I fit it so there's a 1/4" on either side of the bit, so if you hold the bit steady, there's no reason it should irritate the sides of the horse's mouth.

    It comes as a loose ring, a D, or a bradoon, and different sizes in each (don't ask me why). It's Sprenger's proprietary "Aurigan" metal, which I've found most horses love.

    I've been intrigued by both the Micklem and the Peewee but have never found occasion to try either, since every horse I have (and many client horses) goes well in the HS french link. Sensitive horses and particularly OTTBs seem to love it.

    I'll be following your updates!

  2. Hi and thanks for your comment - I will have a look at the Herm Sprenger FL. I have to say that my Micklem bridle arrived and today after only using it a couple of times with the Myler bit that she is used to my mare went the best that she has ever gone and was happy to actually take the contact without backing off it or flinging her head around. So I am hoping that this could be a bit of a breakthrough for us :)