Maximizing Results……lighten up and rebalance!
Whether you are putting a foundation on a green horse or rebalancing a seasoned horse, training bridles are a great resource! Small details matter and we know this from the countless hours doing what we call “Barn Science”. Barn Science entails designing, adjusting and pairing different cheeks, mouthpieces, curb straps, martingales, and reins to maximize the designs and enhance training outcomes. It all begins with good horsemanship practices!
The rider’s hands ultimately determine the heaviness or lightness of the horse! Some trainers believe that as much as 80 percent of a horse’s mouth is man made! To build confident responsive horses it takes a balanced rider with steady consistent hands. Developing good muscle memory and feel in your hands takes education and practice. Correct hand position and rein length is a huge part of the equation.
In Photo 1 notice the rider has an L in her elbows. The hands are positioned over the swells of the saddle with a straight line from the elbow to the corners of the horse’s mouth. There is a light contact and finger feel of the horses mouth. To establish contact close the ring finger then the middle finger. This subtle movement is enough to signal the horse and every time you go to the horses mouth it should begin with this soft feel. With good quality harness leather reins attached directly to the bit the horse will feel this movement and has the opportunity to respond to the light pressure. Using your seat,legs then reins to drive the horse into position will help soften a horse that is heavy or non responsive. This method will always out perform methods such as jerking or getting into a pulling contest.
Whether it is with one or two hands, we often see riders with straight elbows pulling down as in Photo 2. Not only does this cause the rider to have a lack of feel but as you can see the horse’s response is to over-tuck in the bridle, gap his mouth and get heavy on the front end.
On our training bridles we choose to use a Cowboy German Martingale which has leather to leather connections to enhance a soft slow feel to the horse’s mouth. We have found that anytime there are metal snaps it creates a vibration and disconnect between the hands and horse’s mouth. Also the leather to leather connection has infinite degrees of adjustability. Using our Cowboy German Martingale helps the rider soften the horse through the poll and enables the rider to more effectively rebalance the horse left to right and front to back. Results at our clinics are obvious in as little as 15 minutes in this equipment!
In Photo 3, the martingale is adjusted longer than neutral. You can see that the rider has contact with the reins and that the strap is not effective. When adjusting the martingale start where there is equal contact between the reins and martingale when the horse’s poll is in a balanced position and be sure the nose is slightly ahead of the vertical ( refer to the photo 3).
In photo 4, the martingale is adjusted shorter than neutral as indicated by the red line and the tension on the strap that runs up from the girth. This position will act more like a draw rein and can cause a horse to get behind the bridle and on the forehand. You can see that with this adjustment and no rein contact from the rider the martingale is applying pressure offering no release for the horse. Our goal is to establish the adjustment that is most effective for your horse’s level of training. Refer to Photo 1 for for an example of a neutral adjustment. This equipment is designed as an aid in creating connection, collection and self carriage. Be sure to always start the process on the conservative side and seek professional help as needed.
By Donna Irvin
Published in Rodeo News Sept 2018