I didn’t have very high expectations for this show.Honestly, I didn’t really have any expectations for this show. Levi isn’t even going well at home; he’s not going to go well at a show. But it was a cheap schooling show and my husband was going so I tagged along. I figured if Levi magically transformed himself into an enjoyable creature I might sign up for an event that my husband is going to. If not, I’d remain unentered.
Although Levi has never been a fan of bits and was pretty convinced that all contact on his mouth was to be avoided, he’s gotten a lot worse lately. He’s reached a point where he’s started actively chewing bits to pieces (he’s already chewed through one Happy Mouth and is working on a second one).
He’s also decided that any contact with the bit is intolerable. If you ask him to go from halt to walk without slack reins – not even on the bit, just anything other than nothing – he will hurl himself sideways, piaffe, back up a hill or into obstacles. As Kate said when I made her ride him, it’s like you’re asking him to walk through a brick wall. It took me a while, but I have finally come around to the idea that something is wrong with him. I was watching him eat the other day and it’s not normal. I’m guessing he has some sort of dental issue. I do remember the dentist telling me he had something wrong with his bars last year, but I can’t find the records and I don’t remember exactly what the problem was. Bone spurs? Bruising? I only really remember that it was something that there was no solution for and nothing I needed/could to do, but he wanted me to know about it. I’ve put in a call to my vet so we’ll see when I can get an appointment and get to the bottom of this. It’s entirely possible that there’s nothing wrong with him and he’s just an *sshole, but I’m holding out hope.
Anyway, back to the show. We had really awesome times (1:44-2:45) and got to sleep in. We ended up getting there earlier than expected when we didn’t hit any of the anticipated traffic. But that’s fine by me. I’d rather chill at a show than be rushed any day. We hung out for a bit, letting the ponies eat hay before eventually changing and getting them tacked up. Levi immediately took offense to my touching his mouth, tried to buck me off and I honestly considered just quitting right then and there, but hell: we’d already paid. We regrouped and Kate helped get him back on track. He was still uninterested in connection, but quit acting up so much.
We did BN A first. I had the old BN tests memorized, but not the new ones so I used a whiteboard app on my phone to practice the tests on the drive down. The app allows for a photo as the background. I downloaded a rough picture of the dressage court and then traced a line with my finger around the test, pausing to add C, W, T for transitions.
Turns out I’m not any better at drawing digital circles than I am at riding them, but it did really prepare me for the tests and I would totally recommend it.
The test went better than I thought it would and probably better than I had any right to expect given his current issues, but it was still pretty terrible. I’m a complainer by nature. But I know I am supposed to be positive. So instead of complaining about everything that went wrong with the test, I’m going to just talk about what went well.
First Positive: Levi’s strutting Leo impersonation is damned good.
Second Positive: We can get the right lead… on the second attempt.
Third Positive: Levi’s clip job is fabulous.
My clip job brings all the grooms to the yard,
And they’re like,
Its better than ours,
Damn right its better than yours,
I can teach you,
But I have to charge
We finished with a 40 and the final judge’s comments of “needs to be connected.”
For our next test, we did BN B. This test has a new movement in that you do a half circle at B, then between centerline and E, pick up canter. You also do the right lead first. We practiced this a little bit before the show and Levi did not understand the concept of cantering in the “wrong” place and it was much worse to the right.
For a positive comment, it’s a very uphill transition. We also got the right lead on the first try. In an actual, not sarcastic positive comment, this is the best halt this horse has ever done. We got an 8:
The judge’s overall comment for the test is the most accurate comment I’ve ever received on a test: “Not always happy with his work.” It’s like she could see into his soul.
When Levi isn’t hating dressage, he’s really such a nice horse. The show grounds had a little trail course set up and after the test, we went over and played around.
Climb the tire? Sure.
Walk across all the little bridges? No problem.
Obviously I’m hoping the dentist can fix some things for us, but if not, he probably just needs a new job. He’s not unhappy with everything and he’s a nice horse; I’d like him to be happy with all of his work.
If I remember correctly, and I may not be, didn’t they pass bitless dressage? I thought there were a bunch of blog posts a while back about the rule change. Or maybe it was just a proposed change.
Western dressage allows bitless. Regular dressage will probably never do so. The whole point is to be on the bit. The traditionalists have actual conniptions anytime someone brings up bitless dressage.
Fingers crossed that you get the mouth thing sorted out. Have you thought about trying a leather bit? I have never used one, but it might not be the worst solution…
On a positive note, when I saw the canter depart picture, my first thought was also that it was super uphill. So small victories… and he’s so cute and such a nice little jumper.
I have actually thought about getting a leather bit. He literally chewed pieces out of one of those soft squishy mullen happy mouths (not the hard plastic ones) so I am worried he’ll chew a leather bit to pieces.
Poor guy, he definitely sounds/looks uncomfortable. I hope the vet and/or dentist are able to help get things moving the right direction.
I hope the vet can get to the bottom of what’s going on. That first picture of him and Leo is priceless
That IS such a nice clip job though.
Hope you guys get it sorted. Happy horse, happy life?
Fingers crossed for answers from the vet and dentist!
Ooh, poor Levi and poor you. I hope the dentist and vet are able to get things sorted out!
That first picture is amazing lol! I hope that the dentist and vet can help Levi- it’s never fun to have a horse who seems to hate the job you want him to do.
Awww poor buddy! I hope the dentist can find something. And I also must admit that I thought that depart was very uphill lol.
Poor boy, does sound like a dental issue. My TB (who was pretty much broken head to toe) had TMJ. Could be a thing for Levi too maybe? Hopefully something easier like a broken tooth you can just pop right out. Fingers crossed.
That halt though, right?! He sure is handsome.
I’m hoping it’s not TMJ. Our chiro who is a vet said his TMJ felt fine last time she saw him, but that was a few months ago.
Was the court just the letters, no actual perimeter? How did you like the new start to the test, not going straight down the centerline?
Levi does look a lot happier doing the obstacles!
Thanks for the laugh with that picture with Leo :p
It’s really hard to see, but the court is lined with a dark wood that blends with the dirt. There is a perimeter.
The new entrance is certainly easier from the perspective of not having to do a 10 meter turn, but I don’t really like it. Instead you have to manage a bend to the right (A-X-M) with the eventual turn to the left (X-M-C). So now you just get a turn in each direction over a larger angle instead of one turn over a shorter angle. It seems to ride fine though and I think it will make people get better scores (especially the BN A ending turn onto centerline not being a 10m because no one does that one well.)
You should look into casting him as a Leo body double because #nailingit
I know, right…
I hope that getting his teeth checked will give some answers. Otherwise, I agree he needs a new job- wihtout a bit.
I’m hoping the vet can find something so we can get back to regular bit usage bc there are almost no jobs he can do without a bit.
Levi definitely would rock as a trail horse, are their open breed shows with that?
Western shows usually offer trail classes. I’ve done them at schooling shows with him. I think you need to use a bit at rated shows though so it wouldn’t b a good solution for him if I can’t fix the mouth issue.
Levi!!! Hopefully the vet sheds some light on what’s going on with him – crossing my fingers for you!
That Leo photo though…. I’m still giggling. Fingers crossed for some answers.
I know you can’t ride in a curb bit in dressage (although you can in Western Dressage and Working Equitation – which I think he would love), but I would recommend trying one with a roller. The things you are describing are exactly what I went through with Ashke. He can not tolerate any type of bar pressure. Use a Salinas mouthpiece with a roller and see if that doesn’t make him more comfortable. (I’m not advocating buying a Garcia, either. It’s way too much money to spend without trying it first.) Stay away from the Myles mouthpieces, as well. Just a simple curb with a roller.
I don’t really understand curb bits. How does it avoid bar pressure? His cu
rrent bit has a roller and that’s not helping, but it’s a snaffle not a curb.
The mouthpiece I ride in is a salinas. It rests on the tongue, has a hooded top (next to his soft palette) and a roller that he can move with his tongue. When pressure is applied the curb rotates on the bridle, applying pressure under the chin, behind the poll and across the tongue. With a snaffle, when pressure is applied, the bit collapses, with the center of the bit (whether it is a single joint or a french) jutting into the soft palette (roof of his mouth) with the sides of the bit squeezing the bars (gum part where there are no teeth). Ashke hates bar pressure. Your pictures of Levi look exactly like the pics I have of trying to ride Ashke in a snaffle. The first curb I tried was a grazing bit, which he liked a lot, but it didn’t allow any flex in the side of the bit and it was difficult to get him to bend. The Garcia bit I am riding in has enough give at the edge of the bit that he can feel the subtle shifts in my hands and respond. The other thing I like about the bit is the metal is thick (less severe) and the overall weight of the bit is heavier than most bits out there. I think he loves that combination, because he is reaching for the bit and when things are difficult he is reaching down instead of throwing his head up. It has been an amazing transformation. When we aren’t working, he plays with the roller in his mouth, when we are working, he is quiet and on the bit. He still gapes on occasion, but my trainer says its when he is leaning on the bit, not necessarily something I am doing wrong. The other thing to consider about a curb bit is that it doesn’t move side to side in the horses mouth, hence no need to use a flash or crank noseband to hold it in place.
Oh man, I hope the vet can figure out any dental issues and things will get better. There is nothing worse than a horse being mismatched with his job. And you need to both be having fun! 🙁
I’m guessing that you’re right and there IS something bothering him. He looks like such a pleasant guy between his tantrums, that I can’t imagine he’s doing it just to be a jerk. I hope you get some answers and a fix for the problem! It’s so great that you’re willing to consider a career change if he’s really just unhappy with dressage. I’ll admit I laughed at that explosive canter depart and your commentary on it. That halt is GORGEOUS though!
If I couldn’t laugh at myself, I’d probably be pretty miserable.
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