The adventures of Gilly the rescue horse and his side kick and partner in crime, Pokey the donkey.


Being with a horse is a journey that never ends. What they have to teach us is amazing; but we must quiet our mind to hear them. ~ jca


Saturday, November 21, 2009

My horse is trying to tell me something....

I have been absent lately because I have been looking at a lot of my pictures of Gilly. A lot are painful to look at. The faces he is making and his mouth open, he is telling me he hates the bit. I know I will probably get a lot of flack over this but..........what I see my horse telling me is he is in pain. I have a bitless bridle but started using a bit over a year ago because others have said that the horse needs a bit. Why? Why did I listen, Gilly does just fine with out one, he can be light, collected and doesn't need something in his mouth to guide and direct him. Do these pictures look like a happy horse?

I recently watched a DVD by Stormy May called "The Path of the Horse" something worth watching.
Review from Natural Horse Magazine "To produce this exceptional documentary,Stormy May 'gave up' her horse training career. She set off on a mission to find better and this video portrays what she learned and experienced on the journey, which will astound the viewer who is new to this kind of horse-human relationship.
This beautifully produced DVD, featuring Stormy and the visionary horsemen and women she interviews (Mark Rashid, Linda Kohanov, Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling, Alexander Nevzorov and Carolyn resnick), clearly demonstrates how horses do have a gift to share and that the future of horse-human relationships is looking much better.
Footage of what is typical in today's training and treatment of horses is shown in stark contrast to the gentle, elegant and natural ways these folks relate to their horses and to amazing things with them, also shown.
We can be better horse people and The Path of the Horse challenges us to transcend. Thanks to Stormy May and her very impressive work, we have a place to start. This is a must-see, must-share video. Here's hoping it's impact on the horse world will spread far and wide fast."

Below is a trailer and from it.

This has given me a lot of food for thought. I need to listen more to my horse, he has a lot to say. He also has a lot to teach me, can my mind be still enough to hear him?

And before anyone asks, no it's not his teeth giving him any problems. His teeth are fine. The bit said it was a gentle training bit, expensive......but after thinking on this would I want it in my mouth? No matter how light and gentle someones hands would be it's still metal in the mouth, one of the most sensitive parts of a horse. The collage below is a sharp reminder of this, I can't stand to see him like this so we are going to leave bits behind us and move on.

To see some really amazing things with horses, check out Alexander Novzorov and Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling.

This is a picture taken several years ago when I first got him the Dr. Cooke's bitless bridle. A much happier horse; check out the link to learn more about his bridle. We are going back to bitless. I was lucky and able to send the expensive bit back where I got it for a refund because Gilly hated it. Now I have a nice synthetic dressage bridle that I thought I couldn't use but then I found this site, Natural Horse World the link will take you to the bitless bridle page. Cynthia has a bitless nose band that will fit my bridle so I can still use it and be bitless too. I am going to give Gilly a chance to chose which one he likes best or feels best on a given day. He should have a say in his comfort I think. A new chapter in our relationship; for the better!


Anonymous said...

Evidentally he has a sensitive mouth and you really shouldn't need a bit to collect him......A lot of people have trained and used hackamore, or less. Go with you gut/instincts. Good luck! Take pictures without the bit in his mouth and compare different movements.

jane augenstein said...

Julie, I will do more photos with the new bitless too. I should have known that he was not happy with the bit. He would clamp his teeth shut and wouldn't open his mouth. Finally he would give up and groan when he finally opened his mouth. Sometimes he can be pretty vocal about things.

Jacque. said...

Good for you, Jane. Listening to Gilly will take both of you more quickly down your path to complete understanding of each other.

Julia said...

There is something I noticed about your horse right away with his bit. He does not make any saliva or have any moisture around the bit from what I can see in the pictures. He appears to have a dry mouth. Horses normally show some moisture in small amounts of foam, etc. on their lips. The lack of this moisture would definitely mean he is not happy and/or accepting about the bit in his mouth either resulting from a mental or physiological source.

Regardless, he will be happier with what you are doing now.

Katharine Swan said...

Interesting about him clamping his teeth. Panama practically dives for the bit -- I am having to ask him to wait for me to bring it to his mouth! I know this doesn't mean he necessarily likes the bit, but I also don't think it bothers him excessively. The only time he fusses with it is when he is bored with what we're doing.

I hope the bitless works out well for you -- please be sure to post with updates!

Desert Rose said...

Good for you in seeing and listening to Gilly's signals to you!

Kate said...

Go where it takes you - he certainly does look happier in the bitless photo! I believe some, perhaps many, horses can be comfortable in bits if they're used as very delicate communication devices rather than control devices - that said some horses, due to history/training or shape of mouth, just aren't comfortable in bits and I think it's our job to figure that out - which is what you're doing! I've used a Dr. Cook's but also think I'm going to try a traditional Western side-pull, which has a more precise action, to see how that works. Good going, and keep us updated!

Leah Fry said...

I have a Dr. Cook's that I use with Jaz. I bought Poco a new bit almost a year and a half ago that he seems to like. Put it this way, if I hold it an inch or so below his mouth, he'll drop his head to take it. That says something to me.

I've never made sweet potato pie, although I like it.

Sarah said...

Wow interesting Jane!! I like the whole idea you have presented..looking at other ways to manage that relationship!! I will say though snaffles tend to make them do that anyway..can't see how they could be comfortable. My Stormy used to do the same thing with his..interesting. Off to look at the site..Hugs to you hon, Sarah

jane augenstein said...

Jacque, thanks I hope so!

Julia, There are other pictures where he does have some foam on his mouth but not much. Could be a dry mouth but regardless it seemed painful so I have to change for him. I feel bad for "making" him take the bit when it hurt him....I hope he will forgive me.

Katharine, I have heard that some horses "like" the taste of certain metals and it is supposed to make them have more saliva in their mouths. Like the copper that will rust. I can't imagine likeing the taste of rust? Maybe horses do, mine didn't. In one picture, if you looked closely he has a different bit, it was copper, didn't like it either. Wish they could talk and tell us out loud how they feel. But would we listen then?

Desert Rose, thanks, I hope I can hear more of what he has to say.

Kate, yes, some horses may be able to tolerate the bit without much problem in capable hands of a good rider. I know that my hands are not that experienced so I am sure I added to Gilly's discomfort and for us the bitless is better. I will keep all updated on his progress and what his decision is on the two different types.

Leah, Gilly would always hold his head up really high, clamp his mouth and turn sideways. Now when I put his rope halter on he will put his nose right into it. He knows there is nothing there to go in his mouth. He is a little shy of the bitless until he figures out there is not but, then there is a sigh of relief...why didn't I hear that before?

Sarah, thanks, I think our relationship will become much better now that there is no metal involved.

Anonymous said...

Gilly will always forgive you Jane! Julie

toejamxs said...

Dear Jane,

Thank you so much for posting those photos of your horse with the bit in his mouth. As a bitless bridle conversion specialist, I see it time after time that people do not have any idea what is going on in their horse's mouth because they are sitting atop their horse so how could they? When I take before and after video of their horse they are shocked and most of them (except the ones who are unwilling to form a different relationship with their horse) never go back to a bit. I used the Dr. Cook's, but a year ago had to switch to the Nurtural bitless because my horse had issues with the pressure exerted on his poll by the Dr. Cook's. But I'm grateful for Dr. Cook introducing the equine world to the bitless in such a big way (although bitless bridles have been around since the turn of the century). I just discovered your site and will continue to follow it as I really like what you are doing here. Take care and continue to follow your instincts and the guidance your horse gives you. Shawna Dalke

allhorsestuff said...

You are very sensitive to his words~ through actions Jane...You are the perfect Partner for that beautiful Gilly! You tow were made for each other!
Looking forward to the next round of photo's..hope it does not have to wait till spring!!
Be well , my friend!
Kacy w/ Wa mare~

Jennifer MacNeill-Traylor said...

Gilly does look happy in the bitless bridle. My old horse was an off track TB and he would never accept the bit despite my attempt at many different types. I always wanted to try the bitless bridle.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Good for you for listening and being more open minded about using alternatives with your horse. There's never just one way to do things.

I've only used a bit in my mare's mouth when my neighbor insisted I try it for more control. Baby Doll hates the bit. She is more tense, she rides rough, shakes her head, lifts her head too high and isn't relaxed and does not produce enough saliva or foam in her mouth.

When I bought Baby Dol, I took lessons on her for several months with her wearing a hackamore. My instructor then told me that I had very light hands and I don't ride the reins or my horse's mouth. But I was still nervous about using a bit in my horse's mouth. So, as soon as I got her home, I bought a Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle.

I used that almost exclusively, except for those times my neighbor encouraged me to put the bit in Baby Doll's mouth.

I rode her out on the trails, in the round pen and the arena. She's very sensitive and never needed much asking to do what I told her. And even when she spooked and bolted, I was able to one rein stop her quickly using the bitless bridle.

She was always so relaxed and calm, with head down low while wearing the bitless bridle. My neighbor would laugh at how much foam and saliva my mare created when wearing it, too. Surprised because she wasn't wearing a bit with that much foam.

The only issues I have with the Dr. Cook's bitless bridle is that my mare would become heavy-headed when she was barn sour. She would try to steal her head from me and turn back to the barn until we were having a tug o war battle. My shoulders and arms were exhausted and sore for days afterwards.

The problem with all that head pulling, is that the bitless bridle would get 'stuck' under her chin where it crosses and then the reins would be longer on one side, and too short on the other, and I couldn't release them unless I dismounted.

She would also lean into the bitless bridle, so that her nose would have a line across it afterwards. It's as if she wanted that contact, or she wanted to take control.

I never learned how to fix that issue before my accident last Christmas and I wonder if there is a way to solve the heavy-head issue and tightening of the chin cross-over, so that when I ride again I can still use the bitless bridle.

Let me know how your experiences go with Gilly and the Bitless Bridle as you two get more experience. Maybe you'll be able to give me some more insight for when I'm ready to ride again.


jane augenstein said...

Julie, thanks, I hope so!

Shawna, thanks for visiting and thanks for your comments. I like Dr. Cook's bridle because of the head hug it gives but sometimes Gilly isn't in the mood for it and has gotten a little pissy with it. But then maybe he was just having an off day that day. I am anxious to see how he likes the bitless noseband; I am sure he will tell me if he likes it or not.

Kacy, thank you my friend; I hope we are a good match, I love him so much!

Jennifer, your horse probably would have loved the bitless bridle.

Lisa, when Gilly has wanted to turn and head back home I have just turned him in circles, in both directions and move those feet fast. He will give up and then go forward. I don't remember him leaning on the bridle if he would though I would have collected up the reins and squeezed his sides to make him flex his neck. He does that pretty easily, if he didn't I don't know what I would have done? He can be a little buggery sometimes about wanting to go back home. If he really gets bad and circling doesn't work, I have gotten off the lead him down the road at a trot. We just keep going so he doesn't get his way. Don't know if that's right or not but at least he didn't get to go back home! LOL

Oz Girl said...

Loved your post Jane... I've been reading Mark Rashid the last few months, so I'm sure I would enjoy following Stormy May and learning more about her too.

We sent our Stormy girl to a trainer for a month in October, to see if she could be trained to be a header horse (for team roping). We're still not sure of her potential, but she came back a much better and different horse. The guy who worked with her believes in positive reinforcement; the day we unloaded her at home, hubby jumped up on her with only her lead rope and we were amazed at how responsive she was.

I'm all about positive training, and working with the horse's natural behavior. It just makes sense.

Wishing you and yours a warm and wonderful Thanksgiving!!

Blackfeatherfarm said...

I love this post, because I always believe "Less" is more, especially where horses are concerned. I removed the nose strap from my dressage bridle and ride in a simple snaffle. She is not unhappy with it, she justs believes royalty should not be ridden at all,lol. I would love to go the bit- less, bridle- less route. I still haven't bought a saddle, I love just hopping on and riding her bareback. I want to ride with just a string around her neck someday. Good for you to listen to Gilly.

Melissa-ParadigmFarms said...

I think it is very important that we listen to each horse and make decisions based on the individual. I own a bitless bridle and own many bits as well. It is important to try and learn what is most comfortable for each horse and it sounds (and looks) like you have done that with Gilly.

A Palmer said...

Just wanted to tell you that I had the opportunity to take a class with one of the women who spoke on the Path of the Horse video. It was out on her ranch earlier this year in Sonoita. It changed my perception of horses and my relationship with them. Interesting stuff. I heard though that the program is no longer offered at that ranch due to loss of funding. I wonder where those horse are and if she is still able to teach.

jane augenstein said...

Oz Girl, I have gotten two more of Mark's books since I posted this. Will read soon, I have some of his other books, love them.
Sounds great about your horse. I believe horses will do more for us by handling them kindly and fairly.

Blackfeatherfarm, I haven't gotten to ride with my bitless noseband yet. First it rained and rained and now it's way to cold to ride. I did try it on him and he likes it. Will post when I get to ride. I'm not a cold weather rider anymore! :-(

Melissa, Gilly has never seemed to like any bits I have tried on him. I know that some people think that a horse "has" to have a bit in their mouth but if they do well without one then....that's for me. Gilly is the only one I have to worry about so we are bitless!

Anne, how interesting and fun! I would love to be able to attend something like that. So sad that they had to give it up!


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