Well, I have given up on going back to using regular bits for now, it is back to learning all the subtleties of the Wellep bits! Mia had behaved quite well when I used the Mullen mouthed snaffle, but she communicated to me that she MISSED the mouthpiece of the Wellep. So I got the regular cheeked Wellep snaffle out and sat there trying to figure out how I could use the bit on Mia and still have the stability I needed to keep good contact. Finally I decided on bit converters, like the ones people use on Pelhams so that there is only one rein. One end I buckled right onto the cheek piece of the bit, and the other end got buckled to the ring at the end of the cable that goes through the mouthpiece. It sort of looks odd, but hey, I don't show. I also got myself a pair of laced reins so my hands would have a better reference point.
So on Wednesday I put my new contraption on her head. Mia approved of getting her favorite mouthpiece back. When I started my lesson she immediately started relaxing her top line and reached out to the bit. Whenever I lessened the strength of my contact, Mia would happily roll the Wellep mouthpiece around, relaxing her tongue, jaw, and poll. Debbie was pleased, gone was the snatching at the reins, the inversions of her neck, and the general atmosphere of disapproval whenever I used the reins. It was a cold and windy morning, and Mia was feeling her age, nearly 30, and her arthritis. It took some effort on my part to get her moving, but as she warmed up she started showing some impulse, not much impulse, but some. We did not work as hard as usual, all three of us ladies were feeling the weather in our bones. Debbie said she liked how Mia was reacting to the bit AND she liked how my hands were steadier when keeping contact.
Friday was different. Debbie was giving a private lesson to a girl, so there was another horse in the ring. Keeping out of the way of Debbie's student I mostly walked and trotted. Mia started to give me her opinion of my hands. Whenever I tried for a stronger contact Mia showed her disapproval. It was only when I used light contact that Mia moved correctly. I don't really blame her, with my usual plain reins I am very good in letting the reins slip through my fingers when Mia feels like she needs more rein. With the laced reins this slipping of the reins happened in a much more jerky manner, and this was irritating Mia. I think that Mia's neck muscles start cramping when held in one place too long, and she NEEDS to stretch out her neck. After her stretch she is willing to go back on contact, but if she does not get to stretch she gets unhappy. With light contact Mia's neck did not cramp as much, and she felt free to stretch when she needed to, so she was much more willing to work with me.
I hope my lesson next week will be better, maybe there will be a warm breeze instead of a cold wind.
Today I got to ride Cider. Today the sun was shining, with a bit of a cool breeze, that crisp fall weather that encourages snorty behavior in the horses. Cider was ready to go, go, go, and no, she did NOT want to be held back, and if I held her back she went back to trying to become a pretzel. Contact was fine, Cider likes the Wellep mouthpiece, especially when I use the reins attached directly to the cheek of the bit where the effect is like a mullen mouth, but when I tried to rate her speed the pretzel effect would come back. After a few minutes I got tired of the pretzel movements, loosened my reins, and started using my legs to straighten her out. LOTS of leg work (for me.) I worked on keeping Cider at the arena fence on loose reins. I also worked on serpentines on loose reins. Bend, straighten, then bend in the opposite direction. Going down the sides of the arena keeping Cider straight. Just about every stride I had to use one leg or another, but I did get Cider going straight, with forward impulse, on loose reins, and I did get her doing the serpentines with only occasional use of my rein aids. During all the loose rein work Cider was happily rolling the mouthpiece of her bit. All during the ride Cider was giving little contented snorts, she is so glad that I listened to her and got her bit right! Now I just have to work on everything else.
I think my hands were worse this week. Debbie had found an old tack trunk full of old tack that had been thrown into it for one reason or another, and she asked me to go through it, throw away everything that was too damaged to save and to try and save the rest. So the past three weeks I have been working on the tack, cleaning off years of dust and mold, then working lard into the leather with my fingers. This makes me tired, it makes my hands tired, and then my hands just are not as responsive to the horses' mouths. The good thing is that I have saved several pieces of tack for Debbie, but I think I will have to take a few weeks off and let my hands rest up. Cleaning tack is almost as tiring to me as riding is.
Enjoy the cool weather. Have a great ride!