Another Week of Not Riding

The weather has been most uncooperative! Last Sunday Shannon's grass ring was just too wet, even for just walking around.

Wednesday I nervously watched the weather radar before my lesson. It showed rain in several places but not over the stable. Debbie called, I told her this, and we agreed to try to get my lesson in. But when I got out the door there was this persistent “misting” rain, a north breeze, and it was cold, wet, dank and miserable.

When we got to the stable the drizzle had not let up. I got out of the car, felt the tiny raindrops whipping in my face, and promptly decided I was not riding. All I could think of was how Cinnabar would be cussing me out under his breath for being so unreasonable as to expect him to be out in the ring with no wind breaks, just to shuffle around.

It was not a wasted trip though. Last week Debbie had been describing the challenges that a particular mini horse was causing one of her very young students. I mentioned that while I was buying double bridle bits I had run into a very good deal on two mini-sized Weymouth curb bits, 3.5” and 4” wide, and that I had bought 4” and 4 1/4” single-jointed egg-butt bradoons, not only to go with these tiny Weymouth curbs but also for the remote chance that someday I might run into an Arabian with a really tiny mouth. I never expected to use these bits personally, but I figured that one day Debbie or Shannon might run into a really small equine and I would have some bits that they could try. Debbie really wanted a Kimberwick for this mini, something a little bit more effective than the full cheek snaffle his owner was using on him. Right now this mini's favorite trick is to all of a sudden to run to the arena fence, completely ignoring his little rider. He is a pony, he has learned that he can get away with disobeying his rider's aids, and he has to learn to obey his rider (humanely, of course.)

Debbie was not in a very good mood when she entered the barn, she did cheer up a little bit when I told her she did not have to stand out in the drizzle and wind while I rode. I had my tiny bits in a bag, and when I brought out the teeny-tiny curb Debbie melted inside, the bit is that cute! Her mood lightened and we had an interesting discussion about which of the bits to use. She got the mini's bridle out of the tack room, and his full-cheek snaffle at 4 1/4” so she picked my 4 1/4” German silver bradoon and the 4” Weymouth curb. Debbie would have preferred a properly sized Kimberwick, or a Pelham that she could use with converter straps so the little girl could use just one rein, but even so Debbie was glad to finally have in her hand a bit that the mini might actually listen to. All she has to do now is teach the little girl how to use two reins and how to train a horse to the bit. Hey, back in the dark ages when we both learned to ride little riders were often taught to use two reins early when they were put on ponies with Tom Thumb Pelhams, and these riders did not use converter straps on the Pelhams.

After I got back home I got on the web and started searching for mini-sized bits. These bits do exist but they are not common. Interestingly the most common really small bits were Western grazing curbs, with 6-7 inch shanks, both the “Tom Thumb” Western curb and the low ported grazing curbs. Kimberwicks? In this country I could only find a 3” single-jointed Kimberwick, much too narrow for this mini. Other stores had 3 ¼, 3 1/2”, and 3 3/4” Kimberwicks listed but did not have these bits in stock. Most of the really small snaffles are single-jointed, loose ring, egg-butt, or full-cheek. I did find a source which sells egg-butt French Link bradoons that go down to the mini sizes, I will be buying these when I get the money saved up. I also found a really small jointed Pelham bit in this country, and in England I found a listing for a Cambridge mouth really narrow Pelham with a low port, but that particular bit is expensive. None of the English mini bits are cheap to buy, but some cost a good bit more than other mini bits. Even Herm Sprenger has a few bits at 4” and 4 1/4”, just as expensive as their bigger bits.

Then it occurred to me that Debbie did not have any training tack small enough for a miniature horse, and Debbie told me that the mini's owner did not have any training tack. So I searched and found mini-sized nylon lunging cavessons (with three rings on the nose and side rings by the brow band for side check/anti-grazing reins,) nylon mini-sized training surcingles with plenty of rings, and mini-sized side reins. When I called Debbie to tell her that these were available she had no idea that they existed. I also found a very interesting mini-sized bit, the Kelly Silver Star Mini Low Port Correction Bit with Roller, basically a “comfort snaffle” mouth-piece with a low port, copper inserts on the barrel, and half-cheeks projecting downward from the mouth-piece. This bit is available in 3 1/2”, 3 3/4” and 4” widths. It is a driving bit, but at this point who cares?

I told Debbie that the mini's “mother” NEEDED to buy some of this gear so she could help her daughter train this miniature horse effectively on the ground. While the mini may be way too small for an adult to ride, a lot of effective training can be done on the ground or while driving, but one needs the training tack to be truly effective doing this. Many years ago I saw a video of a miniature horse that did “airs above the ground” in hand, quite impressive!

There is all this tack that is available for miniature horses now. I've seen pictures of countless Western mini saddles (some quite attractive), some miniature horse sized English GP saddles, girths, oodles of mini sized harnesses both synthetic and leather, halters, bridles, mini sized blankets, protective boots, and fly masks. If you know of someone thinking about getting a miniature horse reassure them that they can spend almost as much money gearing out their tiny equine as they would with regular sized equines, though the saddles are cheaper. It is all available, often with enough glitter to gladden the hearts of little girls everywhere. I just wish the bit selection was better!

I never plan to own a miniature horse so there is absolutely no point in me buying miniature horse sized training gear. I do not mind adding mini-sized bits to my collection though, gee if I wanted to I could collect Weymouth curbs from 3” wide all the way up to over 6” wide as well as other types of bits. I cannot ride miniature horses and I have no desire to ride a huge horse again, so I limit my bit collection to the most common riding horse widths. At least the miniature horse bits I've already bought are cute and I was right, Debbie could find a use for them.

Have a great ride!

Jackie Cochran

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