Monday, February 3, 2014

I Figured It Out

I finally figured out the cause of Rock's jumps and spins.  As soon as it hit me, I felt sick to my stomach, and disappointed in myself for not catching it sooner.

My husband rode Rock in the arena for the first time since his accident, and I stayed on the ground to help with whatever issues came up.  At first I was mainly just paying attention to him and the way he was riding, and then I started watching Rock's expressions to see if he was showing his feelings.  That was when I saw it.

When I first fitted the side pull bridle to Rock, I didn't like that the straps that extend around the poll and down the cheeks were riding up so close to his eyes, but when I wiggled the bridle around, they didn't rub up into his eyes.  However, when a rider pulls a direct rein back, the opposite side of the bridle does ride up enough to touch his eye.  There was just a leather strap on the right side, and that didn't seem to bother him, but because of the way the noseband needs to fit, the buckle on the left side winds up right next to his eye.  So, when a rider pulls on the right rein, the metal buckle slides up and pokes him in the eye.  The buckle is smooth and not sharp, but anything touching or putting pressure on the eyeball would be disturbing to anyone.  I did not see this while in the saddle, because if I was pulling his head to the right, I couldn't see the buckle touching his left eye.

This makes total sense, because A) I had just loosened the noseband a notch before my accident, which would have allowed the side straps to shift even further, B) in both accidents, Rock jumped and spun to the right as if trying to get away from something poking his left eye, C) I pulled him quickly to the right to avoid having him step in that thorny bush, thus poking him in the left eye at the time he spun and ran, D) though my husband was at a standstill at the time Rock jumped and spun, Rock did turn his own head in the instant before his spin and that could have caused the buckle to shift into his eye if my husband had the reins tight to keep him still, and E) in the instant before both accidents, Rock threw his head up as if to avoid something in his face, which I was interpreting as a spook or fear.

Christine raised the possibility of tack being the issue, but I always check the condition of the tack, make sure it fits correctly, check for burrs and thorns stuck in it, and whatnot before each ride.  The only thing new I had been putting Rock in were the Renegade boots, but he spun from a standstill in my husband's accident, so I couldn't see how it could be the tack.  I had completely forgotten about loosening the noseband on the bridle, and the leverage you get from pulling back on one rein is different from shifting a bridle around on the horse's head while standing in front of his face.

So, I've been studying pictures of different side pull bridles and found that the one I bought just sucks.  The two ropes over the nose are too stiff and tend to stick out straight rather than curve nicely around the nose.  This causes the side straps to ride up close to the eyes.  Because Rock has such a large head, the nose ropes needed to be about two inches longer, but are not adjustable.  The chin strap is not long enough to sit under the jaw in front of the cheek to put pressure on the poll, so I had to punch a new hole on the very end and attach it under the chin just to get the buckle to reach the other end of its strap.

So, I'm jerry-rigging a way to hold the the cheek bands to the chin straps to pull them away from the eyes, but that may cause other problems.  I can attach a third strap to the Y intersection of the bridle, but I doubt that is close enough to the eyes to make a difference.  I may have to just get a different design.

If the jumps and spins stop once the bridle design is improved, then I'll know this was the problem.  I'm glad it's looking like it's not a behavior problem, but I sure hope that buckle didn't cause him any eye damage.  I don't see anything, and he doesn't have any sensitivity, so it's probably okay.  This is a frustrating tack problem, because I searched everywhere for a side pull bridle with decent reviews, and they were not easy to find.  This time I'm taking a different approach of looking at images of other people's horses wearing side pull bridles, comparing their horse's head size to Rock's, and then when I find a picture of a bridle that clears the eyes by several inches, I track down the source of the picture and find out where they bought the bridle.  I also play close attention to how the bridle is constructed to make sure there are enough adjustment points, and to make sure that the materials are flexible and not stiff.

10 comments:

Sam said...

I have a sidepull bridle I can bring over (a different design - it doesn't fit any of my big headed ponies) you can try. I'll swing by in a couple of days - I've been sick and don't want to get you sick - and drop it off for you to try.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Christine - Okay, thanks. Part of the problem is that Rock is big headed, but I'll try it. I'm taking classes and have appointments all week, so call or text first. Or if you just have to come when you have a moment, you can leave it in the tack room of the trailer. I hope you feel better soon.

Becky Maggart said...

What about a bosal? Riding in it is a bit diffrent, but if you want to stay bitless and not have such a side to side motion to the headstall, it might work for him!

Kate said...

Im so glad it was a technical issue and not a major one. Always a relief when the source of a problem can be tracked down and dealt with. I also wonder if a bosal wouldnt work for him?

Laura Lee said...

Forgot you were using a side pull--remember now reading about that a while ago--I think, sometimes I get all these horse blogs mixed up :) Hope that solves the problem!

To get by, maybe a halter and lead ropes would work. Justa thought. Pretty much the same thing as most of the side pulls I've seen.

appydoesdressage said...

So glad you found the issue! With his laid back attitude it was disappointing to hear he was spooking so I hope this fixes the issue. Have you tried a hackmore instead of a sidepull? There are a ton of kinds, from big shanks to rope noses to the Dr Cook models, maybe that would work better for him. Good luck!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I'll look into those other options too. After seeing how the ropes over the nose rub a permanent bump into profile, I think I'm going to avoid that in the future. I want something bitless that is soft that won't damage his face, but something with enough leverage that I can get his face out of bushes. One of my old flat nylon halters with reins should be fine for now. I don't want to use the knotted rope halters, because those rub bumps in his nose too.

Venom said...

I was going to also throw in behind the idea of a hackamore/bosal; some of those rigs can be quite light.

But let me make one more suggestion - how about having one made to order just for Rock? Then you could have whatever kind of rig you'd like as perfect as you could get from the first day you use it. There must be a couple of saddle-smiths near to your location?

fernvalley01 said...

a short shank mechanical hackamore might work, it is bit less, and in soft hands an OK way to go , you can get a sheepskin padded nose band as well

achieve1dream said...

I'm so glad you figured out the problem! It's frustrating having tack problems but it's easier to fix than a behaviorial problem.