Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Musical Bits

We've all played the game "musical chairs" when we were younger.  You never know when the music stops what chair you're going to get.  You need to be prepared for when that music stops that you have a chair within your reach.  I never put much thought of how this would relate with horses until I was warming up at a rodeo.

I had just came back to my trailer, to boot up and stretch.  There were about 20 girls left before I was to go and two tractor drags so I "thought" I'd have plenty of time. In fact, I thought it would be about perfect timing for my mare who was also a little gate sour but would walk into the gate at the first pass (at this point in her situation, going by the gate beyond pass 1, you were in for a fight but that's a whole new blog post). Being lazy, I left the bridle on while I threw the halter over top of it to tie up my horse while I retrieved the leg boots from the trailer.  My normally non-itchy mare decided the skin below her eye was being attacked by ants as she inched over to the ledge on the trailer and proceeded to relieve her itch like a mad woman.  However, with her itch relieved and all well with her world she realized that she had gotten the edge of the chicago screw stuck on the trailer.  I saw it all in slow motion as she threw up her head, breaking the headstall beyond repair.  

By this time I only had about 10 girls left to go and the tractor had already drug once.  I was in a panic.  I couldn't do anything in a pinch to fix the headstall.  Although I had other bridles in the trailer, I wasn't comfortable riding her in any of them because she only had "her" bit and it'd been a struggle to find a bit that you could call "hers" in the first place. In a fury I ripped apart a headstall to put on her "Highness'" bit.  I made it to the gate just as they were saying last call.  

I don't remember much about that run.  I remember it wasn't good.  After that I vowed that I would ride that mare and any horse in any and every bit that I had and I'd be comfortable throwing anything on them.  It would have been easier for me if  I'd been able to throw on a spare bridle on my mare and continue on our merry way.  As it was, my mare was panicked as we loped from our trailer to the gate and I sure didn't have my mind where it needed to be after that fiasco.

There will be bits better suited for each individual horse but most of all the riders hands.  However, it's really important, as I learned on that July day that it's best not to just stick to ONE bit.   Being the bitoholic that I am, I have a lot of variety to chose from in the bit department. Although I have my favorites, I still change things up almost every ride.  I've heard the argument that you're to never ride you horse in your competition bit.  I don't necessarily agree with that, but I do believe that you need to keep them fresh; keep them guessing.  They need to learn how to "pack" different styles of bits but also they need to learn to rely more on YOU than a given bit.

That particular day was the start of a different journey for me and the gray mare you've heard me talk so often about, Holly.  We'd already been on a wild roller coaster journey previously, but this was the start of something special.  We learned to work together.  Our partnership wasn't based on tack in the end, it was based on just that - each other.  

Because of that important lesson back at that rodeo years ago, I learned how "musical chairs" played into horses but also just how important horsemanship is to achieving success as well! 

Mae Holly Fire returned to that same rodeo that this fiasco took place several years later to redeem ourselves by placing with a tough group of horses.
Photo by Tina Graham.