Monday, January 15, 2018

off season check-ins: bits + other miscellany

Happy Monday, y'all! I've spent a lot of time in the past couple weeks trying to be empowering about riding in the winter, and not letting any excuses get between me and my dreams etc. Which like, is great. This attitude has helped me stay on a fairly regular schedule.

But it's still winter. It's still cold. And we're still basically just traipsing around the dusty, small indoor - trying to get back to where we were before Charlie's untimely splint surgery. Which is fine, ya know? That's kinda what off season is all about anyway, right?

Another advantage to the off season? It's the perfect opportunity to introduce new tack or gear changes, or experiment a little bit. Especially if this involves a little low key fun shopping, amiright?

experimenting with bits again! this one has a new mouth piece, but the same loose ring cheek piece that seems to work for Charlie on the flat
So let's talk about some of the small changes and new introductions I've made in Charlieland over the past couple months!

In no particular order:

1) Over the past year and change, I've experimented more with Charlie's bits than I ever really did with Isabel. Once I found the Sprenger KK Ultras for Izzy, that's just what we went with - both over fences and on the flat.

Charlie's needed a little more thought. He's a sensitive horse, but not the softest mouth. Esp in the early days he would lean very heavily, and even to this day our brakes can be dull. He's a green horse tho - still learning about contact - so I'm not very inclined to put anything in his mouth that doesn't feel like a pleasant place to go.

big fat heavy silver d-ring: not particularly magical for charlie
Things I've tried:

- Big fat heavy silver single jointed d-ring snaffle, at the recommendation of a dressage clinician. Verdict? Not much difference shown, tho the d-ring cheek piece allowed more leaning than I wanted.

- Myler correction bit: I wrote a whole post on this bit, here. Short story is: This is a LOT of bit. It was hugely influential in how Charlie went - to the point where it was almost overwhelming for him. Very easy for him to suddenly feel claustrophobic in this bit, and I had to be very careful not to box him in. BUT it also allowed me to access more of him, and influence his balance in ways not fully possible for me without the bit. And - the biggie - those breakthroughs carried over when we switched back to our normal snaffle. I think I rode in this bit maybe three times over the course of 2-3 months, and it was a useful tool used sparingly.

myler correction bit: a useful tool used sparingly
- Sprenger KK Ultra loose ring double jointed snaffles. These are carry-overs from Isabel. Just as with her, the fatter aurigan bit went on Charlie's jump bridle and the narrower silver bit went on his dressage bridle. The plain snaffle eventually proved to be insufficient for Charlie's gusto over fences, so I switched to another KK Ultra - same mouth piece but now with a three ring elevator cheek piece.

After making that change, I switched the fatter aurigan bit to Charlie's dressage bridle, which he actually seemed to like a little better. That's been our go-to situation through the end of last year's competition season.

my two Sprenger KKs: the one hanging straight down is a standard loose ring made in the aurigan alloy, and the one i'm holding up is in a plain silver (i think) and is technically a bradoon snaffle, therefore with smaller rings. the aurigan bit is slightly thicker than the bradoon bit -- only barely, but possibly enough to make a difference.
My dressage trainer has at times wondered if something different might prove more palatable (lol puns) to Charlie, tho. Not that the KK isn't working well for us, but just a general curiosity of whether there's a better option out there. 

So I've kinda vaguely been keeping an eye out for another Myler - but this time their lowest level, simplest comfort snaffle. This is another double jointed loose ring bit -- but the joint functions differently than a typical snaffle by not being fully able to bend or collapse. The middle ring holds the bit's shape as a general "U" even as the pieces are allowed to rotate and move independently.

the new bit: Myler loose ring comfort snaffle, picked up from eBay
One finally popped up on eBay at a good price, so I nabbed it and Charlie's been wearing it for a couple weeks now. Honestly? I haven't really noticed a true difference. There are times where I really like it, and times where I've felt like it's not sufficient in the brakes department. However both of those feelings could also have been caused by environmental factors so I'm not ready to attribute them to the bit itself.

Basically, needs more experimentation, I think. But I don't *dislike* it so far. We'll see. It's staying on the bridle for now. Have any of you used Myler bits? Had any similar experiences to me with the two I've tried so far? Or does your horse seem kinda like Charlie, where he kinda goes more or less the same in most bits, with just very subtle differences?

photo of my favorite pair of spurs: simple little nubs. 
Anyway. Bits aren't the only difference lately in Charlieland. Leading us to item #2 on my list of updates: Spurs!!!

You may remember last February where I wrote about ditching carrying a whip or crop with Charlie and picking up a pair of spurs instead. The idea there was that Charlie was no stranger to either whips or crops, and it's likely based on what I know from his track history that he and former trainers had some throwdowns that included possibly excessive use of said whip/crop.

Long story short, Charlie knows what those tools are. Has a history of fighting against them. And would basically give me this attitude of "Bring it on!" when I'd try to apply them as aids, especially during his 'dinosaur in tar pit' moments. This was.... not productive or fun or even very safe haha. Spurs, however, were new to him and would allow me to get in and get out when needed, without a lot of fuss.

pictured: charlie reacting to the crop almost exactly one year ago. it's a tough life, buddy!
Over time tho, Charlie has grown more accustomed to the spurs. And when we went through a recent sour patch caused by a pinching saddle, he would take out his irritation by reacting very badly to any spur. Much like he used to do with a whip or crop. So I decided to ditch the spurs (allowing me to really boot him when he needed a boot), and picked up a crop again.

We've spent a lot of time building trust over aids, expectations, and corrections appropriately sized to the indiscretions over the past year. So, so far, Charlie has accepted the reintroduction of the crop to our rides, especially if I'm really consistent in its application.

But as I learned in one of Charlie's earliest jumping lessons, when we were first starting to really struggle with his dinosaur in tar pit routine, there must be a clear, firm line on acceptable horsey behaviors while riding. And I need to be prepared to apply every tool in my tool box to help Charlie understand that. So far, so good!

i picked up the Smartpak blanket insulator on sale after hearing good things about it from Kristen at Stampy & The Brain
Obviously we also updated Charlie's saddle situation in light of said sour patch and subsequent nasty behavior haha... But I already told you about that gorgeous luxurious custom Hulsebos dressage saddle <3

So that about sums up all the changes in riding gear thus far into the off season. I tend to be a real creature of habit and routine, and somewhat change averse, but these small adjustments have been fun to play with.

Other recent additions are more along the management side of things - like #3, the above insulating water bucket cover. I only picked it up at the very tail end of our recent extreme cold snap so we haven't had a real true test of how effective it is yet.

Kristen gave it solid review tho, and so far the commentary from barn staff is: it isn't a cure-all, but it does help. And when ice does form in extremely cold temperatures, it doesn't form as thickly and is therefore easier to break up. So the general feeling from those who would care the most is that it's a positive addition.

hey it's a picture of my horse's shoulder in mid January, after being clipped for about a month now and blanketed almost full time. so far, no rubs! 
A more glowing review has to come in for new item #4: the new style of shoulder guard that I tried this year. A loose silky bib made by Snuggy Hoods that I picked up a few months ago from Amazon for something like $15.

This thing is fantastic - it fits loosely under any style of blanket and has a tab that loops over blanket straps to keep the bib in place. Tho the woman who helps me with blanket changes during the week never remembers to use the tab and the bib stays in place anyway.

flashback to when i first introduce our new shoulder guard, the silky loose bib by Snuggy Hoods. so far i'm a big fan!
I use this bib under any and all blankets, including Charlie's Back on Track mesh sheet. And so far he doesn't have any shoulder rubs at all, whereas this time last year he was already becoming bald in spots.

The bib itself is still in great shape despite all the constant wear. I should have taken a new picture of it, but all seams are still holding, it's not gotten super nasty or anything like that, and basically looks the same now as it did when I got it, aside from the standard dust and whatnot.

So my general verdict? This thing was definitely worth the cost, is super easy to fit, and easier to get on and off than the previous stretchy elastic thingy I used. My friends who tried to get one after me this year couldn't find one in the right sizes, but it's worth keeping an eye out for next season, imo.

shine bright like a diamond, charlie! and yes one of the strands is out of juice right now, but there's a usb charger so i think i can just recharge it on my usb adapter in my car one of these days!
Last but not least: #5 on my list of fun new changes in recent times, the reflective LED road safety breast plate from my blogger secret santa, Susan of Saddle Seeks Horse.

This thing is amazing - rechargeable LED light strips on each segment of the breast plate that can either hold a steady glow or strobe or pulse (or stay off). The top two straps have standard clips to attach to the saddle's D rings, and the bottom strap has a loop to fit over the girth. All three straps are fully adjustable and fit Charlie easily.

On weeknights Charlie and I spend a lot of time on the long, twisty driveway between his barn and the arenas. Drivers know to be careful and watch for horses..... but it's also REALLY hard to see - esp dark horses and around the bends. Naturally, this can be pretty nerve wracking both for riders AND drivers.

it's gotten a lot of compliments from passing drivers!
So far every time Charlie's worn this breast plate, we have encountered passing cars. And almost all the drivers have stopped to roll down their windows and say how easy it was to see us. Or, they have mentioned it to me later.

The breastplate can seem kinda silly, and it's definitely SUPER flashy and can be a little spooky or cast an eerie green glow on our path.... But it makes me feel WAY safer on the road. So I'm calling it a win.

Anything that makes the dark, cold winter nights more festive, right? So yea. That's all my latest and greatest stuff recently. Normal practical stuff like anti-rub guards for blankets, and water bucket insulators. And not getting thrown off my horse when he bucks at the spur. Ya know. Normal stuff. But also fun stuff like bit experimentation and sparkling like a disco ball on our way up to the arenas. Lol....

Have you used the off season to reconfigure any of your gear or tack? Or found any useful upgrades for dealing with all the incidentals that come along with winter? Or maybe you're still holding out for some big exciting upcoming purchases or additions???

35 comments:

  1. Sounds like a lot of really great additions to your repertoire!

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  2. I switched to that kind of bib and much prefer it to the spandex kind. I had Pony Grandma copy the original one I bought and make a few more for when I needed to wash it. For someone with basic sewing skills it would be easy to make.
    I had bought a Mylar low port comfort snaffle a few years ago for the picky mare. It was okay, and better than the French link I was using before that. But I found she got really heavy on her right shoulder, and we had moments of head flipping when I would make a shorter turn. I switched her to NS Verbindend and those problems went away. Thankfully I kept the bit as that is what Cisco is currently going in. He doesn't like single joints for sure, and didn't seem to think he could move his tongue in a double joint. The low port helps with that. I'm hoping to move him into a KK bit sometime, but since it's not in my mouth my preference doesn't really matter!

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    1. verrrrrry interesting about the verbindend -- that's another one my dressage coach has mentioned to me that i'd like to try eventually. also agreed that these loose silky bibs probably wouldn't be very difficult to DIY

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  3. If any of your friends are still wanting one of the silky bibs, tough one makes an identical shoulder guard (down to the little tab) that I've been using for years with success :) you can usually find it on Amazon, chick's saddlery, and a variety of other places too!

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    1. that's good to know! i'm pretty sure the folks who were looking weren't looking for only exclusively this particular brand - everything just seemed sold out. but i'll pass along that message anyway!

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  4. I've done a little experimenting with Candy's bits this winter. I switched her to a kimberwicke for foxhunting, which has made a world of difference. She has brakes now!

    Candy can get very heavy in the bridle, so I borrowed a Neue Schule loose ring verbindend from work to see if she leaned less or liked it more than her Sprenger KK Ultra d-ring. She was okay, but I think the loose ring is more input than she's ready for right now.

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    1. ha yea charlie definitely needs a little help in the braking department, and i actually have another bit, a pelham, that i want to experiment with eventually.

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  5. Subi went in a Myler comfort snaffle and Batts really liked that bit too (D ring). At some point I should probably take it off Subi’s bridle and just give it to Batts.

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    1. ha idk why but it always takes me forever to get around to switching bits out!

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  6. Love that new breastplate - what a great safety addition!
    I'm a loyal Myler bit person (well until Doc who I have no say in his bit situation). All of my horses have gone in one or another at various points in their careers, both their English and Western bits. Both of my mares at one point went in their triple barrel mullen D-ring. Lucy also goes in their loose ring snaffle, but she's also a horse who rides off no hand and is all whoa, no go. Along the way, one went in a full cheek snaffle with a roller (copper I think) and one of their slow twist snaffles. And that's just the english bits haha.
    I think they're well made, beautiful, high quality and have a lot of options that work for a lot of horses. There's always the exception of course, but I never hesitate to recommend them.

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    1. yea i've heard a lot of really positive things about the mylers, of all various different levels. i figure even if this one ends up not being the right fit for charlie, they're easy to resell bc they're so popular!

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  7. Amber uses that same Myler bit, actually - the very simple loose ring one. It's her absolute favorite. However, she also has a low pallet and small mouth, so any jointed snaffles (2 or 3 piece) would still hit the roof of her mouth. Her change though to the Myler wasn't a huge one, but when I noticed that she was immediately a little softer in my hands and a lot more willing to hold contact, we've stuck with that mouthpiece for all her bits. And since she was a western pony before this....brakes are no problem haha.
    I love that LED breastplate!! It looks so awesome on Charlie haha! Glad everything else seems to be working as well!

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    1. haha i wish brakes weren't a problem for charlie!! homeboy goes like a freight train sometimes, feels like it can take us a mile just to stop! and yea i'm pretty pumped about the LEDs lol - and i esp kinda love that they make us look ridiculous ;)

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  8. I love how you experiment and keep trying new things with Charlie to see what works the best. I tend to get in a bit of a rut when things are "good enough". When I changed Gem from the double jointed with lozenge full cheek to the Baucher it made a big difference in her comfort level and even though she never protested with the full cheek, I really wish I had tried it sooner.

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    1. i'm definitely guilty of finding something that suits well enough and just rollin with it forever and ever amen, even when maybe there might be better options if i keep looking. sometimes it can be hard to tell what's making the difference - whether it's the bit or something completely unrelated. but sometimes a small change makes a huge positive difference! awesome that changing Gem's bit worked so well for her too!

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  9. re: the bits...I've tried so many, some bad, some ok, but so far none have magical unicorn creating properties. That breastplate, though? That thing is magic, for sure. I'm getting one.

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    1. it really IS magic! i'm honestly somewhat surprised by how excited i am by it! like, it's a little silly sorta haha, and everyone kinda jokes about it.... except it totally works and is eye catching in exactly the way it's intended to be lol

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  11. Have you tried a Waterford? I had good results with a few horses since they play with the balls while you ride and it doesn't provide anything to lean on. It doesn't have a ton of stopping power in it so I used it more for flatwork on a strong horse and XC on a sensitive mouthed horse. I call Stella's shoulder guard her horse bra and she has had it for about three years. Very happy with it!

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    1. waterfords are great bits for a lot of horses - we used one on izzy during her early semi-feral terrorist stage and it was fantastic. it's not specified very explicitly above, but the bits described above are intended to be my dressage bits (obvi with the exception of the myler correction bit, which was just a short term tool anyway) and waterfords are not legal in the show ring. i did pick up a waterford pelham to try over fences, but haven't had a chance to experiment with it yet. charlie currently jumps in a three ring elevator (with the KK mouth piece) and that's worked mostly pretty well for us.

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  12. I love when people try different bits i live thru them. Remus was HORRIBLE in the snaffle D ring. LIKE Lean city! Ugh. I have not tried a Myler but like that you are trying one :) I ride Remus in a loose ring french link snaffle with copper he likes that a lot but can get leany inthat, I also have the bauchers that have the copper french link. That keeps him from leaning so much. BUT I should try some different things. WHY is it so hard to try different bits :) LOL Remus has no issues with brakes but sometimes CC I am very glad I have the baucher in at times. :)

    Spurs. UGH love or hate them I Have to wear them for Mr lazy pants. And he reacts to them still. I think this will be addressed next time I ride with Emily as her ass is going up on him. He needs to move forward no matter what. I love the breastplate very cool!!! and yes Winter can end soon, thanks. :)

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    1. yea idk why it's so oddly hard to play as much with bits as we might otherwise like. i blame the sheer number of buckles that have to be done up every time haha. maybe if each bit had its own set of reins it wouldn't feel like such a chore to always be changing them out?

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    2. True that may be part of it I do hate changing them out and then having to do the reins (Lazy me :) HA)

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  13. I use a bradoon KK with Tesla - and she LOVES it.

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    1. it's a great bit - worked wonderfully for izzy with her petite mouth! even tho i currently have two nearly identical KKs not presently attached to bridles, i really don't foresee ever selling either lol

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  14. I love the outrageous breastplate.

    Oh bits. Despite swearing I'd never be a bit hoarder or have more than needed, um, hi, I'm a burgeoning bit hoarder with more than I need! With knowledge comes a bit collection though? I blame Griffin. Finding a bit he likes for jumping has been tricky. He continues to love his Myler combo bit the most though! It's forever been the bit he is the most happy in through all disciplines. I keep trying other bits for jumping, but he's slowly flipping me the bird with each lol. Oh well, I'm enjoying the learning process even if my wallet isn't.

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    1. ha yea i hear ya on the wallet thing.... i tend to be a bit of a scrooge about buying quality/expensive things... except bits. i will definitely spend some $$$ on a nice bit, mostly bc i only really buy stuff that i know i can resell if it doesn't work out. except.... then i never sell them bc i love them all in a completely irrational way lol

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  15. I love the bib- P has 2 baldish spots from the nights he's had to have his blankets layered so this is going in the cart.

    I started P in a loose ring Myler level 1. It was, meh, he was always a bit fussy. He actually went the best in a baucher bit, but my dressage trainer didn't love him flatting in it. So I put him in a KK loose ring and he seemed to love it until now. Now that vacations and holidays are over with, I've got to experiment with some new ones myself.

    I wish winter were over.

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    1. this bib has worked fantastically and charlie wears his blankets layered quite often, and recently with the extreme cold he's worn the layers for days at a time. no rubs. good luck with your bit experimentation too! at least it's fun(ish) to have stuff to do while winter is otherwise limiting our adventures?

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  16. that breastplate is such a good idea. i think itd be good during hunting season as well. not many deer wandering around in day glo...

    1) where did you get that big fat ass eggbutt
    2) WHERE ON EBAY DID YOU GET THAT LOOSE RING MYLER. i've been searching for one bc i think indy would like it but theyre soooo blerping expensive.

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    1. yea that breastplate is definitely gonna get used during hunting season bc you're exactly right - it's a great way to stand out as a NOT DEER PLZ DONT SHOOT!

      the big fat ass eggbutt (now that you mention it, not sure why i called it a d-ring above, d'oh!) was from ebay for like $25 i think. key search term to find a similar one is "heavy." otherwise you'll end up with some sorta hollow stainless steel one. also tho i would be willing to sell this one if you're in the market.

      the myler just popped up on ebay when i searched. it wasn't rock bottom prices but definitely better than new and most of what i see used, tho i had to do a little bidding war to get it.

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  17. Bits are tough! Trainer liked the bit Niko was going in before I bought him, and even though it was pricey, I sprung for it. What pony likes, pony gets!

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    1. yea there's definitely something to be said for not fixing what ain't broke when it comes to bits! esp since they hold their value so well, it's usually a pretty reasonable investment!

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  18. I guess I missed this post! I'm so glad you like the funky breastplate. And that is a great thing--to hear that drivers have actually commented on how well they saw you. #WIN

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