I Try Out My "Old Type" Wellep Lever Cheek Snaffle

I Try Out My “Old Type” Wellep Lever Cheek Snaffle

Lat Sunday was a good day. The weather was nice, Shannon's ring was dry, my grandson was visiting, and I got to try out my new bit on Cider! This bit, the “old” type Wellep Lever Cheek Snaffle has some differences from the “new” type Wellep Lever Cheek Snaffle that I had used a little bit several years ago. The cable that goes through the mouthpiece is longer, The “new” type with the coated cable has just 1/2” for the cable to move side-to-side, the “old” type bit, with the uncoated cable, has 3 3/4” for the cable to move side-to-side. Since there are two bends on each side of the bit that the cable has to go through I did not know how much side-to-side freedom this bit would give the horse, but I figured that Cider would quickly tell me if she liked the bit! I was also curious about how Cider would react to the poll pressure from the Lever Cheek bit.

When I called Shannon to arrange our rides I asked for her permission to try my new bit out on Cider. Ever since Magic's back movements aggravated my hip bursitis I also asked if I could ride Cider first and then let my grandson have his ride on her. Shannon cheerfully agreed with my plans. This is good because the second thing my grandson asked me when he came was if he was going to get to ride a horse! Yeah, my grandson enjoys riding!!!

When I started my ride on Cider I quickly found out that the cable moves freely from side-to-side on the “old” type Lever Cheek Wellep bit. The little “zings” started immediately until my hands got coordinated. The “old” type Lever Cheek snaffle feels a lot more “alive” in my hands than the “new” type Lever Cheek snaffle, and I had to use the same lightness of hand aids that I use with the “old” regular type Wellep snaffle, little teeny tiny twitches of my fingers. Cider had no problems with this bit, she seemed to like that she could position her head to the place of greatest comfort, and it only took a few hand aids for her to agree to obey my lighter hand aids. To get this light response I had to use my leg and seat aids first, then my hand aid was “icing on the cake”, adding further refinement to her movements.

I did not notice much reaction to the poll pressure until we started trotting. She was willing to trot but she had to get used to the bit before she would stretch out into the trot. Her contact at the trot was a little bit lighter than usual, but since she was free to adjust her head to the contact from the bit she did not get defensive. All in all we had a very nice ride.

Then it was my grandson's turn. He had to ride in my Pegasus Butterfly 17” saddle instead of the EZ-Fit treeless saddle. Shannon had a little bit of trouble shortening my Millbrook stirrup leathers short enough for my grandson because of the wide upper part of the stirrup leather, but she finally got them short enough so my grandson could feel the stirrups. Shannon took my grandson into the ring and he started riding Cider, and he did not have any problems using the new bit, Cider graciously obeyed him when he got his aids remotely correct, until, irate over the fact that she was being worked beyond my half-hour, she stopped by the gate.

Shannon had been trying to get Cider to trot in the ring for my grandson, but what Cider came up with would have satisfied a Western Pleasure judge, slow, no suspension, and no faster than a slow walk. When she stalled at the gate, my grandson got her head turned out and he gave her “Pony Club kicks”. Then Cider remembered that Shannon had been asking her for a trot and she shot off at a moderate trot, going around the ring several times. My grandson LOVED it! He has not done the posting trot except for one time at Debbie's, and his stirrups were too long for a posting trot, so he was bouncing along on her back. With a bit smile he finally got Cider back to a walk and told us that it was FUN!

Later on, when I asked how he liked my saddle compared to the EZ-Fit saddle he said my saddle felt more comfortable to him.

Most of the time Shannon was concentrating on my grandson, I was talking with Nancy, Shannon's mother, about their new QH mare, Merida. She is short, probably around 14 hands, bay, her head is quite refined, almost Arab like, with good width between her jaws (I could fit my fist in there) and a kind eye, a nice neck and shoulders and decent legs. She has excellent high withers, a croup almost as high as Bingo's (though not much higher than her withers), and with a sagging back in-between. Her back goes from a low point just in front of her croup, and is rather straight and rising a little bit up to her withers. Since the EZ-Fit treeless saddle has a shimmable pad I suggested how to shim it so the seat would feel level, with the thicker part of the shim to the rear.

Shannon has found a trainer that will come to her stable to train horses, this trainer rode Merida in the EZ-Fit saddle, using a very thick Western pad, and had no problems. The trainer must “listen” to the horses, after riding Merida she told Shannon she got the impression that the mare had been trained somewhat abruptly and forcefully, and to use a lot of gentle handling and praise so that the Merida could learn how to enjoy being handled and ridden. Shannon wants this trainer to have a few more rides on Merida before I get up on her, and that is fine with me. If Merida has any hidden problems I would rather another rider find out about them first. Nancy is worried that Merida's back might be too weak for her right now, so she is also willing to let the trainer do several more rides on Merida too. I am looking forward to riding this mare, her expression is so sweet and gentle.

I am thinking of asking Debbie's permission to try this new bit on Bingo. Debbie has used the “new type” Wellep Lever Cheek snaffle a lot more than I have, I lent it to her for months to use on her super-reactive Arab gelding Tercel. I want her to try out this bit and give me her opinion on it. It just feels so different to my hands than the “new type” lever cheek snaffle, which sort of felt dead to my hands. I did not particularly enjoy riding in the “new type” lever cheek snaffle, and the horses did not particularly enjoy it either. But I think, from this one ride, that the “old type” lever cheek snaffle is a bit I could enjoy using, and once I get my hands properly coordinated I think that the horses won't mind me using it too much.

Eventually, when my hands get used to this bit, I want to try it out on Mia. She LOATHED the “new type” lever cheek snaffle, and she made good and sure that I knew it! However she really likes the longer cable through the mouthpiece of the regular cheek Wellep snaffle, so maybe, just maybe, she won't hate this bit. Of course if Mia totally hates the poll pressure I won't use it on her again.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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