When Less Is More

Angel has been with me for  8 1/2 years.  During that time I have ridden him in a variety of bits.  I’ve used a Western Dee snaffle (the kindest snaffle IMHO), a generously ported curb, and a ported Kimberwicke.  I have ridden him in several sidepulls – this one and this one, all of the same general sidepull type.  I tried Dr. Cook’s bitless bridle on him once and he hated it; didn’t like the “whole head hug” thing goin’ on there.  (At least I got to return that one for my money back.)   Oh, and I also spent $85 to buy the “Rockin’ S Snaffle bit” recommended by clinician Mark Rashid, who usually has good ideas.  Used it once and Angel was like, “What the hell?”  I’m not saying anything against any of these products; they just didn’t work out for us.
Rod the Trainer has been enormously patient with me.  He has trained Angel to go well regardless of what nonsense strikes my fancy.  Once when asking him about some piece of tack I said, “I’m just trying to figure out if it’s anything other than my hands!”  Rod said, “Not today!”

The reason I keep seeking “something better” is because as long as I’ve had him, Angel has rooted on the bit.  (And yes, his teeth have had generous attention.)   Rod has helped him enormously to go quietly in the bit and has helped me to have quiet hands.  Also, canter departures to the left have always been iffy; he drops his shoulder and basically dives to the center of the arena.  Angel does like a sidepull and goes well in one, but a sidepull is pretty much a “blunt instrument”; you don’t get much refined movement with a sidepull.  And it doesn’t have a real strong “whoa” either.  Granted, a horse that really needs to run away from that Mountain Lion will blow through any bit, but I sometimes feel a little too dependent on Angel’s good graces with a sidepull.  I want something that is soft on him, yet leaves me feeling confident enough to go out on the trail with it.

Enter the LightRider Bitless Bridle.  That’s Angel in his new bridle above and to the right.  I try to not be the type of person to use something once and decide that it’s magic and will fix all my problems.  So, I wanted to wait until I’ve ridden in the LightRider at least a few times before reporting on it.

Last Saturday afternoon I picked up my LightRider from the post office and tried it on Angel on Sunday.  The LightRider is more than a simple sidepull; it uses a chin strap to produce a minimum amount of pressure.  (Check out their website if you want specifics on the mechanics of it.)  It took about 15-20 minutes for him to adjust to the difference in the pressure and the use of the chin strap, but he got used to it very quickly. Then we started doing some exercises.  Backing, sidepass, canter to the right: check.  Canter to the left: CHECK!  He went off much more easily.  I rode another day, and same thing – much better canter departures, as well as easily backing through L poles and lateral moves at the trot. His lateral trot was much more straight that before.  All cues were very soft and he responded very quietly and articulately to all my cues.  Rode again today; even with all the construction going on next door to the arena I never felt out of control.  Canter departures continue to improve. 

How often do we try to solve a problem by beating on it with a sledgehammer, when less can do more?

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