Over the past few days I’ve continued to swap around bits and bitless bridles with Sheldon to see if I could encourage him to relax. The Micklem bridle without the bit seemed like a good bet but after a small spook and (short) run episode I wondered if perhaps it didn’t offer quite enough control.
The next time I rode him I tried using the Micklem with the reins attached as a sidepull AND with a bit in his mouth using two sets of reins. It sounds confusing but I figured that I could ride him using the sidepull and save the bit for when I really needed it. Unfortunately, the experience confirmed with me that he’s not ready for a bit. Even when it was just hanging in his mouth with no rein pressure at all he started to shut down and refuse to move forward.
So I dug out my trusty LG bridle, which had been Kroni’s bitless bridle of choice. It offers a bit more oomph than a straight side pull but not as much as a hackamore. It also keeps the direct rein aids rather than the indirect approach of the Dr. Cook’s bridle. Depending on where you attach the reins to the LG “Wheel” you can achieve some mild curb action. You can also use it as a straight sidepull. Since I bought the LG they’ve become more difficult to buy in the U.S. but I found that Nickers Saddlery offers something very similar: the Flotation Hackamore works the same way and at just $65 it’s about half the price!
I am optimistic that this will be a winner. I got some very nice work from Shel with basically no tantrums or melt downs. In fact, once I got him into a nice trot rhythm, he dropped his head, raised his back and started to step underneath himself and push! He’s better tracking right where he could hold it longer but I also got some nice trots to the left. I asked him to move into a canter but that seemed to make him anxious so I let him stay in his comfort zone.
It’s funny which solutions work for different horses. Freedom has never been a fan of the LG bridle or the Dr. Cook’s. It’s not that they bother him; he simply ignores them. Periodically I take him out for a ride bitless to see if the situation has changed. In fact I tried using the Dr. Cook’s today on a hack. Each time I do that, I realize it’s a terrible idea! But with Sheldon, removing the bit is making a huge difference and I hope that it will help me get him to use his body more effectively and start to build some topline.