On the Bit

Happy Easter, it was indeed 🙂

Friday, I had the day off for the holiday, but I certainly didn’t take it easy.  This was to be my first lesson with Margie on Bentley.  I really wanted to try Bentley in a snaffle bit for our lesson.  Historically, I have always done lessons in proper breeches, saddle and bridle, although for fun rides… i have even gone as far as riding in trackpants and sneakers.  For me its a sign of respect to the coach.  But this posed a problem, as Bentley has never had a bit in his mouth.  We have been riding for 3 months in a Nurtural bitless bridle.  He was very headshy when we got him, just getting the bitless on him was often a struggle.  My plan was always to introduce the bit once he was comfortable with the bridling process.

But how do I go about introducing the bit?  Typically I would search for articles online, but it was sort of a spur of the moment decision.  I started by putting my fingers in his mouth, asking him to open for me.  When he was comfortable with that, I put the bit up to his lips.  He decided it was NOT going to happen, raised his head and avoided me like I was trying to put a cactus in his mouth.  New plan.  I earned his trust back by feeding him his favourite treats… mints.  Then I put only the bit in my hand (so he couldn’t see the bridle) and put a mint underneath it.  He was interested and eventually worked the mint out around the bit.  I did this a second time, but quickly pulled the bit into his mouth as he accepted the mint, holding the cheekpieces tight to the sides.  Success!  Oh wait no… the bridle was underneath his jaw (since i was hiding it from the bit and treats)… I had no way of getting it up over his ears.  I tried twisting the bit around in his mouth to get it around, but it was still backwards, and eventually the bit dropped out… I think i needed extra hands.  I thought I was doomed, considering he must now know my trick, but I was able to get the bit in again.  Still, my bridle was underneath, inside out and upside down.  So instead, I held the cheekpieces below his jaw with one hand (as he chomped and waggled his tongue) and dismantled the bridle with the other.  I rebuilt the bridle around his head somehow… I honestly cant tell you how my fingers worked this magic, but after the entire 20 minute process, Bentley had a bit and was happily munching on his beet pulp reward.

On Saturday, I also chose to put him in a bit, expecting it would take again 20 minutes, but surprisingly, it only took a few seconds.  We still used the mint, but he opened his mouth, I didn’t hide the bridle, and just slipped it over his ears.  I almost think he wanted the bit in his mouth, maybe it still tasted good from the day before.  It was even easier than putting on the bitless. I was so surprised by this reaction!

As for riding in the bit, what a dream come true!  I was very nervous at first, not sure if he would be afraid of it and toss his head, bolt, buck or whatever.  None of the above happened, in fact he was so wonderfully behaved.  I’m attributing it to a number of factors, one being the respect of the bit itself, two being I was extra soft with my hands gradually taking contact as I saw he was comfortable, and three, it was our lesson, so I had an extra voice reminding me of all the things I needed to change.  Not far into our lesson, he was relaxed and slow in the trot, we were doing beautiful figure 8s, and he was even stretching out, seeking contact with my hands.  He was being very dressagey, I guess that’s the trakehner coming through, its nice to see his two sides!

He was doing well again on Saturday and we took video.  It was not quite as good as our lesson, I didn’t have a coach to impress at the time.

What I was very pleased with was how easily he took obstacles.  Trot poles, trotting and cantering over raised pole, over a log, garbage blowing around his legs, and finishing the video walking up the “stairs” on the cross country course – didn’t even hesitate, was so easy!  Plus, hes just so darn pretty to watch.

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