If you were observant you may have noticed Kachina rocking a different bridle in the canter pole media.
Kachina is fairly fussy with her mouth and has a bit of a strange shaped head (short from nose to poll but wide around the nose, I think she would look very block-headed it it weren't for her markings). Both of these things led me to getting a Micklem bridle for her back in 2015 and mostly sticking with that.
|In the Micklem at a show in April 2016|
I do like the Micklem in general and would buy it again, but there are a couple things that have been bothering me lately. First, Kachina has been fighting me more to put the bridle on, especially when I go to buckle up the nosebands (though I keep them quite loose). This has made me wonder if she is expressing displeasure over that particular bridle. Second, the Micklem has an integrated flash equivalent. I am not opposed to flashes and I actually like that the Micklem design provides this function without dragging the noseband down as much as some conventional flashes; however, I do think that a flash is a tool and like any tool it is important to sometimes get rid of it to see if the training is improving or if you are starting to rely on the tool as a crutch, i.e. is Kachina actually learning to hold the bit in her mouth or is her fussiness just reduced because of the bridle? Unlike a conventional bridle, you cannot remove the flash component from a Micklem so I had no way to test this without changing bridles entirely.
|No way to remove lower strap|
With those things in mind, I spent some time cleaning bridles the other day and switching Kachina to my old conventional dressage bridle without the noseband. Why did I remove the noseband? Two reasons: 1) I want to work on bridling with Kachina and it is nice to get some of the extra straps out of the way at least temporarily, and 2) This bridle was from my last horse (an anglo-arab with a very different shaped head) so the noseband really doesn't fit Kachina well. The cheekpieces of this bridle are on their last hole so that isn't a great fit either but I wanted to try the bridle I already owned before buying a new one.
|Old photo of Kachina in this bridle|
Noseband on loosest hole and everything else tightened almost all the way up
This isn't the first time I've tried a different bridle since first switching to the Micklem. Sometimes changes have been disasterous (like to show western dressage in 2017 as written about here), and sometimes it has been less eventful, but I've always ended up going back to the Micklem. It's been a long time since I last did a bridle experiment though and our training has progressed so it seemed like a good time to try again.
|This wasn't a good ride, but I do like how she looks with no noseband|
I also put a new bit on the new bridle. I know that it isn't great to change bit and bridle all at once but this new bit is the exact same shape as my old one (a super fat single-jointed eggbutt snaffle), just copper instead of stainless steel, so I felt it was a small enough change. I bought this bit a few months ago and have been meaning to switch it in for a while.
|An old pic of my old bit|
The first time I used the new bridle I lunged her in it a little to get her used to the feel before mounting up. I did a fairly easy ride to start, focusing on being very mindful with my hands and using my legs and seat wherever possible. Kachina got a little high-headed to start the first time she felt contact on the bit but she settled quickly.
The second time we rode in the new bridle was for my weekly jump lesson. For this particular lesson we did trot pole and canter pole work. I asked my instructor for her thoughts on the new set up and she liked it, she thought Kachina seemed a little more relaxed in the contact and while she opened her mouth sometimes she would then chew and softly close.
I have had a handful of rides with this bridle now and in general I am liking it. In the new set up, especially with zero noseband at all, I am very conscious of the fact that my hands have an even more direct impact on Kachina's mouth. It has made me more mindful of my hands and that is a good thing. Bridling has also been less drama which both Kachina and I appreciate. I will continue to ride in this configuration for a while at least.
Of course, in dressage, one must have a noseband to show (it's in the rules, though the reasoning isn't super clear to me). That means I will be bridle shopping in the near future which may warrant a separate post. In the mean time let me know if you have any suggestions for what would both function well and look nice on Kachina's wide white snout.