Monday, 2 May 2011

Hacks, Bits and Bridles

Sunny glasgow suburbs at 7am

Glorious city sunshine at 7am, perfect start to a day which had me visiting my new horse friend Merlin for a little hack. It was to be our second encounter today so I hot footed it out or suburbia to ayrshire and by 8am was in the countryside and wondering at how perfect everything looks in early morning sun.

sunny Ayrshire countryside at 8am
I am not yet at the stage where I have felt anywhere near comfortable enough to take my phone out of my pocket and fiddle around for my camera app while riding him, but I took a couple of snaps on the way along the road  and have to share the gorgeous sunshine we enjoyed. It should be known that  these pictures could be a little deceptive. We consistently get our summer in Scotland for around two weeks at the start of May so if you are ever visiting our fair and green land make sure it is in this month  - we are just as consistently and then drenched in rain for the rest of the Summer!

Hello horses....neither of them Merlin, just passing by....

The hacking route we follow is all at walk and trot on very quiet roads, and although his owner is known to make the most of a grassy verge for a canter on him, my head is not, indeed may never be, in that place. For us instead it is a relatively relaxed (as much as you can be on a strange and big horse) affair at a slow steady pace and thankfully with company to bolster confidence.

Today we got on well, Merlin and I, with me having adjusted to his little ways with the bit.  Last week I read the fidgeting and head tossing as highly strung, but today I mellowed as I realised he needed a lot of leg to keep moving, and thought 'ok, its just a habit' so ignored it and relaxed. It seemed to pay off and we had a nice time leading me to think that maybe next week I would be brave enough to take him out on my own.

Having said that I am a bit green, so this evening while writing this post I thought more about his fidgeting at the bit and decided to google the type of bridle , a gag snaffle which looks like the English Gag Snaffle in this article under the section on 'Elevator or Gag Bit'. I knew nothing about these until now - perhaps not that surprising as they are not at all common - but it seems that this type of bit is generally used only for very strong horses, pullers or those with evasion issues. I need to find out more how long he has worn it and why.  And more importantly, in the hands of a novice - I wouldn't claim to be anything but - is it a problem?


  1. The type of bit and how they are used are scary to me....I am always afraid I will hurt the horse! Good for you for investigating why Merlin has this type of bit. I am not insinuating that this is the case, but I have seen some riders think that a stronger bit will "correct" a horse when really it's the riders skill that needs to be corrected. :-)

  2. I am exactly the same, it is the fear of hurting the horse using the reins too much...soft hands needed, and good balance too!

    Turns out he gets a bit excited jumping, so the stronger contact is so that he doesn't haul her arms out their sockets on the way around the cross country course....fair enough, I would go with that if I were her.

    She is going to switch to a bridle and bit which she thinks will suit both our needs - me to hack him and school on flatwork without having to learn 2 sets of reins and her to make her way safely around a cross country course.

    All sounds good! This is such and education!