Wednesday, January 26, 2011

naughty horse

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.


  1. Oh that sucks! You know IF you want to try bitless again-this girl Sydney at her blog ( me and Laz a ton, as well as talking to the people at to make sure all the fittings were correct.
    I'm only saying this b/c when I first tried it, I had it on VERY wrong and Laz reacted soooo horribly, I thought, NO WAY will I do bitless. Once I got it fitted correctly (emailed pics back and forth, etc) it has been working great for us. It's not for everyone but in case u want to try again, there are helpers out there :)
    I'm also wondering...any thoughts of ulcers or anything causing her to react like this under saddle?? It seems she is trying to say something...I'm sure you'll figure it out.

  2. Good idea to have her teeth checked out. Personally, I have never had good luck with the bitless either and I prefer a gentle snaffle. I've had good results/acceptance with the KK bits. Jackson didn't like taking the contact at first either but he loves his KK -- and I think it's a trust and confidence thing too. It took time and I'm sure your trainer can help you with it too. Mine was a tremendous help.

  3. Kristen and Annette, thanks for your comments. Kristen that link is great, I will keep it in mind if I try the bridle again. Her leaser rode her today in her regular bridle and reported that she was a million times better, so yay :) and then I got on after work for a 30 second walk through the snow and she was really good.

    It could be ulcers. I won't have the money to scope her until spring. I was trying to exhaust every other possibility before dishing out the dough for the scope/ulcergard but that may be what it's come to.

    Annette yes she's overdue for her teeth anyway. Wouldn't that be funny if she was completely different once they were done? She goes in a double jointed snaffle with a copper lozenge right now and seems to like it. It's hard with horses like this to differentiate if they're being really difficult, or if they're trying to tell you something is hurting. I have a pretty strong hunch that a lot of her antics can be chalked up to her age and breed, and the fact that it's very cold here and due to weather she's been getting limited turnout.

  4. I hope it's not annoying that I keep commenting! Obviously you are a great rider/Mom so don't take any offense to my suggestions :)
    There is a ulcer 'test' you can do with Maalox that is cheap and easy to see if Lucy reacts BETTER when she's on it, is a good detection she has an ulcer, then you know when u are ready to scope that it wont be a waste money. Talk to Marissa at :
    if you want more details on it. She's awesome/smart, etc.

    Of course, you know Lucy best and maybe it is her age/breed, etc :) That isn't a stretch for a TB of course!
    Ok good luck! xo

  5. nope, not annoying at all :)

    I have tried the Maalox test and even did two weeks of it. I didn't see much of a difference.

  6. Have you heard of/tried the Micklem bridle? It places pressure in a more human way, and you can use it bitless. I have heard that many horses really like it. My guy liked it, but I don't have a problem with a typical flash bridle so I did not stick with it. Also, do you have Lucy on probiotics? I highly recommend them; I've used probios and had a lot of success. I thought my guy had ulcers two years ago because he was dropping weight and very irritable. But his scoped clean. It turned out that he was not being fed any hay (hello!); I now use Purina Ultium feed, and he is a much easier keeper! Just sharing!

  7. Hi Shane, thanks for the comment. I think I will stick to her regular bridle for a while now. I worked at Dover for a while and saw the Micklem bridle there and it looked quite gimmicky. If I could borrow one I'd try it but I don't want to buy one.

    Lucy gets Probios every day and has since she colicked last spring.


Thank you so much for taking the time to leave a comment!