Thursday, December 31, 2009

Trail Training Newsletter - #108 - A Happy Starry

A Happy Starry

Kevin has owned Starry D for a few years, now. He is a really good horse for Kevin. He’s friendly, gentle and usually listens well. Ellen and I have both taken him on trail rides. He has a slow walk, fast and bouncy trot and a gorgeous canter. There is only one problem. He does this “head thing.” When you go faster than a walk, he twists his head out to the side and fusses a lot.

We noticed he does it more when he is with other horses, so we thought it was a behavior thing. We used to think it was a Kevin problem, until we found out he did it with us, too. Sometimes it was worse than others. We thought it was about bugs, until he did it when there weren’t any bugs.

Kevin rode him in a snaffle, but since he needed just a little more stopping power, he switched him to a Kimberwicki. He stopped better, but he still did his “head thing.” Finally, I came to the conclusion that it was about the bit. One day, when Ellen rode him, she realized that his bit was much too tight. She loosened it. Not 10 minutes down the trail, Starry had his tongue over the bit and was acting like an idiot about it. She reluctantly tightened it up.

We tried to get Kevin to try our mechanical hackamore. Ellen got one really cheap at a used tack sale. She liked to use it on Mingo when she took him on rides. My mild 3-piece bit that I use on him only stops him when he wants to stop. It works fine for me because he nearly always wants to stop—but Ellen just felt more comfortable with something stronger.

It took a long time to convince Kevin that a mechanical hackamore has more stopping power than the bit he was using. It bothered him that there wasn’t a bit. Ellen was going to take him out for a ride by herself on a day that Kevin couldn’t get out to ride, so she took the initiative. She didn’t get to give it a good test because she ended up with some riders that only wanted to walk, but she did give it a few good tugs to make sure he wasn’t surprised by the different feel. Starry took it all in stride. He also didn’t fuss with his head a single time.

This convinced Kevin to try it. We had it all adjusted for him to make it easy. They went out on a ride and did a lot of trotting. Wouldn’t you know it—Starry went perfectly, and Kevin was one happy rider.

We aren’t sure if it was the bit that was the problem or if it was the tightness of the bridle on his poll. It could have even been both.

Kevin bought his own hackamore, and I can’t imagine him ever using a bit, again.

When you have a problem, sometimes it takes a little experimentation to find the answer.

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