14.11.22: Bit by Bit

It figures that the coldest morning we have had in a long time is the morning that we decide to play with metal bits. I tucked one in my pocket with a hand warmer, and Kirsten kept the other in the house as long as possible until we were ready to tack up. I brought Storm in from the field and gave him his breakfast before brushing him a little bit to get the worst of the mud crusties off of him and then led him to the round pen. He hesitated a little, but eventually came along nicely. Kirsten noted right away when she saw him that his back had freed up a lot from the work I had done on the long lines in the halter without any bit at all. She pointed out that when a horse carries too much tension in the neck pulling upward and tucking behind the bit, the back will automatically lock up. So the fact that his back was moving a lot was a great sign that he was freeing up his body again.
Kirsten helped me get the bridle on and set up, and it does fit him. We started with the french link snaffle first, and he was antsy to go. I got the lines organized enough to get him safely away, and he took off at the trot, jumped into a few canter strides, and then went back to the trot for a lap or so again. He finally slowed to a walk, and Kirsten encouraged me to keep very little contact in the reins because he was still tucking behind the bit. She encouraged me to keep adding energy to get him into the trot if that is what it took, in order to get him out of the tucking behind posture. Kirsten was not surprised by the fact that he was still tucking behind even in the different bit. He was applying what he had done to the current situation, even though the feel of this bit in his mouth was very different from his experience with his previous bit. We continued to work on trotting and moving forward with energy every time he would tuck behind. Most of the time he was only going a few strides before his head would pop up and he would slow down. Kirsten was glad that he was working on finding different alternatives, and doing a little exploring. We spent a bit more than 15 minutes working in the french link snaffle allowing him to experiment. He was beginning to stretch and find a different posture, though there were no dramatic changes.
We changed to an eggbutt snaffle, and Kirsten was immediately much happier with how it rested in his mouth. It just seemed to "fit" better from some sort of gut level intuitive response. We started off and headed to the left again, and Kirsten noted immediately that he was doing more exploring and stretching than he had been. He was staying behind the bit less, and stretching in all sorts of odd directions a lot more. I bumped him up to the trot several times, and he was doing a lot of head twisting and moving around that hadn't happened in the french link snaffle. He began to wobble a bit more, and fall into the circle, so I gently added contact to the reins to help him find a little better balance. I kept the contact as light as I could in order to allow him the freedom to explore. We switched to the right again, and when I bumped him up to the trot he began to trot through more than a quarter of the circle with his head bent hard to the outside. Kirsten pointed out that stretching his neck like that would allow him to open up his shoulders in the front and really get his weight back onto his hind end since he had been so stuck with a lot of tension in his neck.
He worked really hard, and settled into a nice walk, with only a few trot transitions. I was also able to ask for more energy to shift his weight without getting a trot transition, which was a positive improvement. By this time he'd pooped 6 times, which is a record for him. It was a great sign that his body was working and all the parts were moving in a relaxed manner. He was very tired, and ended up halting by the gate. Kirsten checked her watch and he was right on time for an hour. Nancy wasn't there yet to pick up Kirsten, so he had to keep working for a few more minutes. I'm sure he took quite a nap later in the day!
Next Page: 14.12.05: A Little Bit More