Monday, January 23, 2017

Flashback Fun - January, 2001 - Brandy's Bit

Flashback Fun - January, 2001 - Brandy's Bit

My sister gave me back a bit I gave her to use years ago.  Over time, it became worn, and she had to replace it.  She thought I would want it back for my “museum.”  I sat there and looked at that old bit, and memories came flooding back to me.
Most people reading this newsletter have already met my first horse, Brandy.  My aunt gave him to me when I was 21. It was a dream come true—I finally got a horse of my own.  He came with a long list of problems, but at least he was a gentle horse for a beginner to start with.  I rode him as a teenager when I visited my aunt, so I was aware of most of his problems when I accepted him.  One of them was his hard mouth.  Since he was a runaway, too, this was a pretty serious problem.  We rode him in a mechanical hackamore because my aunt told me he absolutely wouldn’t listen to any bit less severe than a spade bit.  In the world of bits, the spade is one of the most severe around.  It should only be used in the hands of a very skilled horseman, which I was far, far from.  My aunt gave me his hackamore when she gave me Brandy, and I used it quite a while.
After about 6 months or so, the padding on the noseband was starting to come loose on it, so I decided to put new padding on it.  I tore it apart to find a chain similar to a bicycle chain in the center of it.  I wrapped new material around it, and made it as soft and comfortable as possible.  It bothered me to find out how this hackamore was constructed.  I saw that by pulling the reins, I was crushing his nose between two chains. He didn’t listen to it very well, so when I did pull the reins, I had to pull very hard.  Is this what I wanted for my beloved horse?

This brings me back to my bit.  A friend had given it to me several years before I ever had a horse, and I kept in my “museum.”  It was a short-shanked Pelham with a joint in the middle like a snaffle.  Since it had two reins, the top rein would activate the snaffle action and the bottom would make it work like a curb.  I had read some negatives things about bits like this, but since I had it, I figured I would take the chance and try it.  It was during the wintertime, and I was riding in the arena, so if he didn’t listen to it, where would he go?  To my delight, he listened as well and sometimes better than he did in the hackamore.  I seldom used the hackamore again. (Only cold days that I didn’t want to warm the bit.)  Generally, he ignored the snaffle rein whenever he felt like not cooperating, but I always had the curb to back it up.  I benefited because I got to use a more precise tool of communication.   It helped to improve my horsemanship quite a bit because I was able to develop “hands.”

He was 22-years-old when I made the switch.  Logic would say that it shouldn’t have worked.  My aunt owned Brandy for many years and knew him better than anyone before she gave him to me.    I had an open mind, tried it in a safe area and had great success.  I was even able to use it down trail and had no more problems than I had when I used the hackamore.  Sometimes you can teach old horses new tricks.
When my sister got her first horse, she tried several bits and ended up using this one because it worked the best for them.  Eventually, she was able to switch to a plain snaffle in most situations.  The only time she uses a Pelham now is when she goes down trail with Cruiser and me.  Since they are such good friends, sometimes they get a little hyper and racy, and she needs some help stopping Ranger.  Most of the time, she can ride using the snaffle rein, only.  If Ranger ignores that, she backs it up with the curb.

I held the bit in my hand and thought about how many miles that my sister and I traveled with it in our horse’s mouths.  Yes, this was certainly something that belonged in my “museum.”

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