Sunday, October 27, 2013

Micklem Bridles

     When it comes to bridles there is an overwhelming number of different options. You can have different nosebands, different bits, and even different types of headstalls now. The number of choices can make some people crazy, feeling like they need to try everything to see which magic combination will make their horse go better. Others stick with a plain nosebands and snaffle feeling like if you can't ride you horse in that, you need to ride better.

     I am not a huge believer in different gadgets, but I am willing to try new things, especially bits when it comes to jumping. For dressage I pretty much ride everyone in an oval link snaffle and a noseband with a flash. I had seen a lot of people using the Micklem bridle but, honestly, thought it was ugly and had no real interest in it until this summer.

     We had a group come in for a week and a lot of the riders were using Micklem bridles. I started asking them why and what benefits they saw using that instead of a regular bridle. They told me that their horses were much softer in the jaw and that it is sort of a self correcting bridle. They said when the horse tries to resist, by opening their mouth excessively, it puts pressured on their nose and encourages them to be more accepting of the bit. I found this very interesting and for the first time I wanted to try one.

     The horse I had in mind to try the Micklem on was Rosie. She is an ottb who can be a bit tight and sometimes to can be a little resistant in her jaw on the flat. She had always done well in dressage but I never felt like she was as soft in her jaw, and subsequently, over her entire topline as she should be. I was very happy to find out that Strafford Saddlery allows you to try out the Micklem and if you do not like it you can return it. This made trying the bridle worry free because it is expensive and you really don't want to drop that much money on something if it doesn't work for you and your horse.

     So I went to Strafford Saddlery and got a black cob sized Micklem to try on Rosie. The very first time I used it on her, I fell in love with it! Rosie was so much more soft and supple in her jaw and I was able to get her to lift her back and swing along much more freely in the trot. The results impressed me so much I decided I may as well try it on all of the horses I am riding.

     Union, the horse I am currently competing Intermediate, is also an ottb and he is very sensitive on the flat. His problems are usually more mental, he physically can perform very well, but often gets a little overwhelmed and becomes anxious. I have had to create a pretty unique way to warm Union up, where I basically trot and canter around on a loose rein, just to get him to relax in his own way. I was totally unsure how he would react to the bridle. As with Rosie, I loved riding Union in it. He felt so much more relaxed and more rideable. I was able to work on more lateral work and put a little more pressure on him without him getting anxious or worried. I can't say enough about how much this bridle has changed my work with Union on the flat.

     Now this bridle isn't for every horse, I tried it on a mare I am riding, Jumbie, and she hated it. She was so unsteady and was trying to be very heavy and she kept pulling down. Jumbie isn't as sensitive as the two thoroughbreds so I was pretty suprised that she really didn't like it. I wound up getting off and switching back to her regular bridle after about 20 minutes, I wanted to give it a fair try or I would have switched back sooner than that!

     I have heard some people say they think the Micklem clamps the horses mouth shut and looks really uncomfortable for the horse. I think this is totally false, the horses I have found it work the best on are very sensitive horses who would be much worse if their mouths were being clamped shut, they would be softer in the jaw. The bridle is supposed to be designed to work with the facial nevers and be better anatomically suited for the horses head.

     Overall, I am so happy I decided to put aside my skepticism with the Micklem and try it on a variety of horses. The two thoroughbreds have been doing much better and are moving more freely than ever before. If you have a horse that you think just needs to be a little softer or seems a bit fussy in the bridle, consider trying a Micklem!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thinking about the Sunny South

The weather is getting colder, it even snowed a little today, the horses are getting fuzzy, it's time to get the h%#^ out of here! Once upon a time I was a hardcore winter girl, I never liked it but it never stopped me from riding. After six (soon to be seven!) winters in North Carolina, I fully admit I am a bit of a winter wimp.

I grew up in Michigan, I worked at the barn seven days a week, I did afternoon chores after school and the rode a couple horses until I had to go home and do homework. I spent all day of the weekends at the barn, I did this all winter long, nothing stopped me. I then moved to RI/MA while in college and basically did the same thing. I am sure I complained about the cold and snow but it was what it was and I just dealt with it. I think when you are outside all winter long you get a little acclimated and the cold doesn't bother you quite so much. I am no longer this person haha.

Don't get me wrong, there are days in Southern Pines that chill you to the bone, they are usually followed by a warm sunny day though. The weather doesn't stay cold for weeks on end, you always get little breaks and so it never seems too bad. When you can jump outside, school cross country and even start competing during the "cold winter months" there isn't much to complain about. I'm not sure  I could handle a real winter again, I'm sure at some point in the future I will have to but it will be with a lot of complaining hahaha.

We are getting ready to leave (about threes weeks), there is a lot to do, to close up the barn, but it usually goes by very quickly. Normally at this point in the year we do not have any "outings" left but this year we have a 15 mile ride we are taking several horses on and I am riding Jumbie in an Irish horse demo at Equine Affaire in Massachusetts. This will make the last weeks fly by and before you know it we will be on our way!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Giving blogging another shot!

So, I am going to try and make myself blog once a week! I am not always good at sitting down and doing it, I do not think I am a great writer but you won't get better if you don't try, right? So bear with me haha.

So the horses are all don't competing for the season, they will get down time when we move to Southern Pines (about a month). Right now we are working on things that get away from us while we are competing. The fall is a great time to take a step back, look at what each horse needs to improve upon and work on it! We are doing a lot of gymnastics with all the horses, it is helping them with their foot work and is making them more responsible when it comes to jumping. We are setting them up so the horse has to do all the work without help from the rider. This allows the horse to make mistakes and learn from them on their own. I can't even explain how much this is helping all of my horses. When you are out competing you make all the decisions and help the horse out as much as you can, it is good to take a step back and make the horse more a part of the equation.

We have mostly been using trotting gymnastics with a combination of one strides and bounces in different orders. I like having the bounces further down the lines, it makes the horses have to be quick and really rock back and come up. If the horses would accelerate down the lines we would put in V poles to help back them off without the rider having to do it. The V's also help keep the horse straight, if a horse is still drifting we would put a placing pole on the ground on the side the horse was drifting to. The horse sees the pole and it helps keep them straight, again without the help of the rider. It is hard as a rider to sit there and do nothing, especially when you know the horse is messing up. It is so important to let the horse to figure it out. Obviously if the horse was really going to get into trouble we would help them but the jumps are small enough and we introduce the jumps gradually enough that they don't often get themselves into trouble.

After doing the gymnastic lines, when we take the horses to single fences, the horses seem to hold themselves off the fences better and pay a little more attention, in case there is another fence coming. I am excited at the progress the horses are making and I think it will make a big difference with them all competing next summer! Yay for good homework!