We all know Lucy is a sensitive soul. She often appears to be more annoyed and prone to be silly when I pick up contact, and her leaser has noticed also. She suggested that we might try a bitless bridle or a hackamore, so I arranged to borrow one from a nice lady in New Hampshire whom I don't really know but she gladly sent me, a stranger, her bitless bridle for a month's trial. How nice is that?
Sunday was the first time we tried it. Her leaser was riding and Lucy did alright with it at first, and then a couple of times got really pissy in the ring. At one point she popped a small rear but came back down when asked to go forward.
She seemed to be getting more and more agitated in the ring and since she's usually so happy outside, I suggested we take her for a walk, offering to follow her leaser on foot while she rode. We followed a little trail through the woods and Lucy seemed really happy. She responded well to the bridle and we had a nice time. I wasn't even out of breath trudging through a foot of snow!
Then, when we were almost back at the barn, and we had to cross a small field to get to where the far paddocks are that lead back to the main parking lot and barn area. Lucy all of a sudden got very worked up, as if she couldn't get back to the barn fast enough. She didn't bolt, but she got wound up like a rocket ready to burst. This is a horse who has never offered to be barn sour, but she had made her mind up. When her leaser pulled back to ask her to woah, Lucy went straight up in the air. She came back down and went up two more times, each time getting consecutively higher. Her leaser sat all but the last rear, and she said it was more a decision to bail than anything else. I stood in the corner of the field watching the whole thing feeling totally helpless. Once Lucy was riderless she galloped up the very icy path back to the barn. I was furious at her! I checked to make sure her leaser was ok, but luckily she had fallen in a nice big cushy snow drift (yay snow!) and she was fine.
Somehow Lucy managed not to wipe out during her trip back to the barn, but she had a hard time stopping on the barn driveway (because once again, it is ICE), and she had to run up a snow bank to stop. Then she trotted back to the barn doors and waited expectantly to be taken inside.
I wanted to KILL HER.
The more I thought about it afterward, the more I realized that her rearing was probably a reaction to the mechanism of the bitless bridle. This particular bridle works by applying pressure to the underside of the chin and jaw, and both areas are very sensitive on a horse. When we were back in the woods before she reared, I had to adjust the straps several times because on a few occasions they got twisted, and they also didn't release pressure well at all. Even if there was no tension in the reins, they were still tight against her face.
Needless to say I don't think a bitless bridle is going to work for us, but I am really glad we gave it a shot. I'd be hesitant to try it again because I do not want to teach my already very athletic and slightly unpredictable horse that rearing is an option. Even the fact that she thought she had to rear to get away from the pressure is very alarming, but it makes sense. I feel awful that she acted like that with her leaser and I am very grateful that no one was injured. It was scary.
So it will be back to the regular bridle from now on, and I've set up a dentist appt for her to see if her teeth are bothering her.
And to add to the drama, I slipped going up the muck pile with a full wheelbarrow and landed with all my weight on a solid piece of ice with one knee. I had to stand there and collect myself and just breathe for a few minutes before I could continue because it hurt pretty badly. And now my knee is all sorts of fun colours.