Putting on the Bit

Getting on the Choctaw Princess’s back without first addressing her old injuries is asking for trouble. So I have decided to ground drive her first. But before I can ground-drive her, I need to persuade her that picking up a bit and putting it in her mouth is a reasonable thing to do. And the reason I am introducing her to the bit before I ground drive her?

Most warm-blooded animals stretch and yawn especially when they first wake up from sleep. Arching one’s back and stretching one’s limbs while taking a few deep breaths resets the nervous system to a calm alert waking state. It also recalibrates and evens out tensions in the entire myofascial field. Known as the SYS or Stretch-Yawn Syndrome, this specifically resets tensions in the upper back and neck.

However, horses are strictly nostril breathers and so they do not yawn as we do. But, fingering a rein just enough to wiggle one side of the snaffle at a time will get most horses to play with the bit, moving their tongue and jaws. And  the most effective way to ask a horse for the SYS response while moving is with a snaffle bit So I am left with getting the old stresses and tensions in her neck and shoulders to ease up by grounding driving her with the lightest of hands on the reins.

I managed to get the bit into the Choctaw princess’s mouth and the headstall over her ears the first time quickly and smoothly. The only problem I ran into was a sudden fit of acute stage fright.

Since I have been writing instructions for other people to follow I am occasionally stricken with an overwhelming need to make sure that I am actually doing things the way I recommend other people do them. The result is that I usually turn into a totally fumbled fingered idiot for few moments . So I had to double check what I was doing.

Did I remove, the reins, the noseband and the brow band from the headstall before I tried to put it on her?

Did I adjust the headstall so the bit was high enough up in her mouth that it would  not clonk against her front teeth before I tried to put it on her??

Did I stand by her side facing forward with the bit and treat in my off side hand and the crown of the headstall in my near hand so I could pick the whole thing up and slide it over her ears in one smooth quick move?

Thankfully, the Choctaw Princess is patient with my wool- gathering, and cooperated nicely even though she was loose in her pen this whole time. Once I had the bridle on her, I stepped back to see what she would do. And I wanted to take a few pictures for the blog.

I had put some bite sized apple bits and a handful of pellets in her feeder to distract her. But, by the time I got the camera out, she had realized that the thing in her mouth was not going away any time soon.  The first image shows her doing her very best to spit the bit out. She has her lips pulled back, her jaws open and her tongue working like mad to get it gone. Her best efforts were not successful.

Putting on the Bit

However, the Choctaw Princess is not one to fight a losing battle or one to give up easily. The second image shows her next attempt at getting rid of the bit. She decided that since the vet had given her molars such a stellar rating, she was going to take that bit in her back teeth and grind right through it.

But a few thoughtful chews did not produce much in the way of results either. Always pragmatic, the Choctaw Princess decided to just get on with eating her snack and ignore the thing in her mouth as best she could. The last image shows that it only took a couple of tries for her to figure out how to get the food past the bit and between her molars.

And when it came to taking the bridle off, she stood quietly and put her head down enough that I could get the headstall over her ears easily. She readily opened up her mouth to spit the bit out as I asked her to drop it. Now all we need to do is establish bridling as a hassle free routine not a one time novelty.

So I put on the bit before I feed her, And I put on the bit before I take her out to roll. I. put the bit on her while I groom her or work on her hooves And I put the bit on, and do nothing with her at all.

click here for a beginning


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