Cider did NOT Like the New Curb

When I called Debbie about my lesson this week I got bad news. Debbie was tested and has Covid-19. I am really happy that I did not go to the lesson stable last week, and I will be staying away from it until Debbie gets over her illness. This is an “ideal” time for me not getting my riding lessons, Debbie had a schooling show where she got sick so I don't know if anybody else is carrying the virus around, school started this week so there are all of those colds spreading around (I always get sick the week school starts) and it has been HOT and HUMID and totally miserable outside.

I did get to ride Cider at Shannon's place. I introduced her to a new style of Weymouth curb, the Fager Felicia titanium Weymouth whose port is inclined 45° up and leans back, using the same Fager Alice double jointed titanium bradoon with a roller. Cider DID NOT like the new curb bit! She did not really like it when it was put in her mouth, she did not really like it when led to the mounting block, she did not really like it when I walked her around, and she especially did not like it when I tried a really, really light contact with the curb.

Cider went behind the vertical immediately when I picked up contact. I applied my lower legs and she dove her head down, showing to me that she was not afraid of the bit but that she DID NOT LIKE IT! All through my ride Cider was really antsy, the only thing she wanted to do was run to Shannon going “Mommy, mommy, SAVE ME!” and bury her nose in Shannon's bosom. I checked with Shannon, Cider did not gape at any time so the bit was not unbearably painful, but Cider was very, very, very definite that she did NOT like the Felicia Weymouth and she was going to tell the whole world that she didn't like it at all. I kept the curb rein sagging the rest of my ride.

It became evident how much Cider objected to the new curb when I walked past her usual “bow out and move 6' away” going past the cedar tree that she views with great suspicion, and she only moved about a foot away from the tree. She totally ignored where the horrible horse eating baby rabbits used to live. Cider had this THING in her mouth that distracted her from her deeply seated fears of these places.

By the end of my ride I had made my decision, I have changed the Weymouth on her double bridle back to the previously acceptable Fager Victoria Mullen Mouth Weymouth curb for my ride tomorrow. Cider seems to like the Fager Alice bradoon mouthpiece more than the other Fager bradoon mouthpieces so she gets to keep it. I decided that since Cider is rather elderly now (late 20s?) that if she is that insistent that the non-Mullen Mouth Weymouths do not have her total approval, well that mare should know what an acceptable bit is for her. Who am I do argue with her imperial majesty, after all?

All horses seem to me to take their bits SERIOUSLY. They have definite opinions about how comfortable a bit is in their mouth, they definitely have preferences as to the metal of the mouthpiece, they have opinions about the shape of the mouthpiece, and then they have opinions about how the bit feels with each rider's hands. Cider has shown us that she prefers titanium bits above all other mouthpiece metals, but if she does not like the shape of the mouthpiece or how the mouthpiece moves in her mouth she does not care that I spent the extra money on a titanium bit, THAT particular bit is unacceptable to her.

Someday I will probably be assigned a riding horse who actually likes the Felicia Weymouth curb bit. Maybe the inside of that horse's mouth will be shaped differently than Cider's mouth, maybe that horse will have different places in his mouth that get irritated, and maybe that horse will decide that the Felicia is the most wonderful bit in the Universe. Cider is not that horse, the Felicia got a resounding round of NO!, NO!, NO!, and I really do not think another rider would get a different response though another rider could possibly hide Cider's response better than I do.

When I was there I showed Shannon my new Fager bit, the titanium Wilma. The Wilma is Fager's answer for a horse that “needs” a Waterford snaffle that discourages the horse from leaning a lot of weight onto the bit and the rider's hands. Obviously I do not NEED that particular bit to ride Cider, I told Shannon that I would value seeing Cider's reactions to it, when it gets cooler and my riding reflexes come back to me.

I got the 125mm Wilma with loose rings. The mouthpiece has 5 parts which are an inch long. The parts of the mouthpiece which attach to the rings are straight without any curves, and the three center pieces are the Fager type lozenge that they use with many of their double jointed snaffles. The mouthpiece is VERY MOBILE, and Shannon noted that she did not feel any pinching where the parts join when she manipulated the bit in her hand. I bought the loose ring version, I just got the feeling that since this mouthpiece is so different from the usual snaffle mouthpieces that the horse may value the ability to put it exactly where it wants the bit on his tongue.

I will also show the Wilma to Debbie. Maybe she will let me try it on MJ in a few months so I can get his opinion about it.

I usually do not have the problem of a horse expecting me to hold up his head. I usually do not have the problem of the horse “grabbing” the bit and accelerating. I might have found use for the Wilma the first few months I rode Bingo since he specialized in diving his head all the way down vehemently. I imagine that if I end up using it on a horse it will be to show the horse that lugging the bit is unacceptable, and showing the horse the proper way to carry me before I change to a more normal mouthpiece.

This might be different if I was going out on the trails or galloping madly cross-country, but as long as I am just plodding around the ring at the walk and trot I foresee that I can use this bit as a boredom reliever and allow the horse's tongue to feel new pressures, all in my quest to keep the horse's mouth “fresh” instead of dead and stale. Most of the time it will probably rest in my bit box.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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