I Might Have a Dressage Mule on My Hands

I'm really behind on posts due to work trying to drive me absolutely insane. So this post is about last week's Wednesday lesson. This was my first non trail ride on Nilla since getting her back from the trainer's. It took me over an hour to get ready since I had to tinker with my saddle. The saddle fitter recommended a few changes to make it fit me better. I'm going to do a follow-up post on that later.

Once I got the saddle on, I had to play bit roulette. Laura wanted me to use a simple snaffle instead of the kimberwick I had been using. I was using the kimberwick without a chain so it as basically a snaffle. It was simply the bit that bothered Nilla the least; not a desire to use leverage. Nilla hated the first bit I tried on her. She was sticking her tongue out of her mouth and trying to wrap it around the snaffle rings almost like she wanted to pull it off. It was like something in between the tongue monsters in Tremors and an elephant trunk.

So I stole Shasta's bit. My husband rides Shasta about 90% of the time in a bitless bridle and only uses the bit for jumping lessons. It's also my bit from my college horse, Snitch, so it's really mine. It's a brass french link. The kimberwick had a small amount of copper on the bars so I thought Nilla might like the brass taste. And I was right. She wasn't magically reformed to suddenly like bits, but she did settle down and keep her tongue (mostly) inside her mouth.

I lunged her like Laura showed me, though not for as long as I should have since I needed to get on for the lesson and the bit swapping and saddle fixing had taken a bunch of my time.

We rode up the upper arena. I had a shared lesson. One of Dijon's leasers was there taking a lesson on the trainer's horse. Dijon is a great horse, but he does not canter well and she wanted to practice cantering and especially canter departs. She was doing really well on the trainer's nice western horse who naturally canters like a western pleasure horse. Unlike Dijon who canters like a drunken fool.

It was during one of her canters that I was standing in the middle of the arena and noticed the bend in Nilla's neck that I posted about last week. It's not something I ever noticed with her mane.

You can see how the muscles on the right of her neck are thicker and about 1/3 of the way down from her ears, there is an actual crook in her neck to the left. She's always liked to go left better than right, but I didn't realize just how physically bent she was. We always do a lot of work to the right to try to address this uneveness,  but we have to do some left work to allow her to actually learn and excel at all the new things we're exposing her to.

Nilla was on her game for this lesson though. She was light in the mouth and connecting with the bit instead of fighting it. But the best part? How awesome does this mule look? She looks like a freaking equine instead of the llamaraffe that she's spent the last year impersonating.

We worked on lots of circles. Near the end, we added in some poles to get her stretching. Nilla likes poles - you point her at them and she bounces over happily. She really likes figuring out how to arrange her feet so that she doesn't touch them and gets annoyed when she does.

Every movement wasn't perfect, but even when she put her head up or didn't bend around my leg, it wasn't as willfully obstinate as before. She came back to me and listened. Now I just need to get her doing this the whole time and we can go do a dressage show. I also need to develop a desire to do dressage. Since this seems highly unlikely, I really need to get her balanced enough to canter so that we can do a three-day or a hunter/jumper show.

Does anyone else's horse have a favorite bit? Shasta goes in whatever. I've never known an equine to care as much as Nilla.

Labels: , ,