I have commented before on Ben’s reaction to a bit and to being bridled. He seems happy with his myler comfort snaffle, but produces huge yawns on bridling. I have been keen to try a different bitless bridle to the Dr Cook’s which he did not like and have just purchased a light rider bitless bridle (the performer type – more affordable than the English leather one). So last night in the dark and this morning in the wind I put it on and played with some simple in-hand work to see how he responded to a feel on the bridle.
I have made this work palatable with lots of treats. (I tell myself these are a reward, not a bribe.) Last night in the dark I fiddled with the bridle to Ben’s displeasure as I tried to fit it on properly. He did relax and focus as I put a feel on each rein, asking for a bend to either side. He is quite sticky on the left which is interesting, but on the right he got the idea immediately of responding to the feel on the sliding chinstrap of the bridle.
This morning after breakfast he hung around, making snatching motions with his mouth, obviously wanting another treat vending session. I spent some time teaching manners around treats. He knew immediately what I meant by “don’t snatch’. He is one bright boy and I have to be alert to keep level with him.
I produced the bridle and put it on more easily in the daylight and once again played with different feels. This went well, and he waited, rooted to the spot, when I paused and walked away. What was interesting was how he reacted when I took the bridle off. He rounded up Rosie, trotting fast, then cantering and finally galloping around the track before relaxing to have a rest.
Ben chose to work with the restraint of the bridle. He stayed with me and responded, sometimes willingly, sometimes showing resistance. When he showed resistance I released the feel anyway so that we would not have a battle. Taking up the feel again, he would then respond. When I walked away he would wait, but when released he showed the tension that was involved in this imposed restraint.
This was not about a bit – it was about a bridle and about contact and probably also about standing still when asked to do so. And in his response once released from the restraint of bridle, contact and standing lies the clue to those yawns he produced just prior to bridling.
Now I can respond in different ways to this. I could leave him free of all restraint which would be an end to our hacks out in the country which he seems to tell me he likes. I obviously like them too. I could carry on as normal, bitted or bitless and ignore what he is showing me here. Or I could work with his response and gently challenge it by exploring it, playing with restraint and feel in short sessions.
Of course, this last is what I will do. I can never resist a chance to explore an interesting reaction from Ben.