|I hope they don't mind if I borrow their illustration.|
I've been watching these for three years. Blog posts, personal conversations, trainer testimonials, I even thoughtfully handled the one hanging in the CANTER MA facility where I found Encore. But it remained a $200 bridle. Watched through the eyes of a horsewoman who has three bridles -- that were all found or free.
And it had a flash-type strap. And I hate flash straps.
A certain unnamed person who surely had evil intent gave me a gift certificate for the new Dover store in Raleigh & I drove down to happily purchase a big jar of horse treats & perhaps a pretty shirt. Yet I found myself standing front of the bridle display, the Micklem competition version in my hand, running my fingers over its sturdy, yet pleasant leather, putting it down, picking it up, putting it down again, touching it again.
Ever since we started really asking Encore to work up into the bridle, he has a tendency to develop tension. He will grind & chomp his teeth, he will cock his head, he will shake his nose from side to side. Not constantly, but more often when he is out of practice or in a particularly anticipatory mood. Now that his physical issues were resolved (oh, I just jinxed myself, crap), I wondered...would it really matter?
|Shut. Yo. Mouth.|
I can't take it anymore. I want to know and if it is indeed all hype or just not for my horse, I can sell it on eBay. I handed over my gift card & the cash balance & then sat at the farm with a pile of leather straps, trying to figure out how to make them bridle shaped (HEY, William Micklem, if you ever read this, ha, some directions would be really nice. REALLY nice. At least a diagram??? I did appreciate the ONE label to at least let me know which way the crownpiece was supposed to face).
|It actually looks rather handsome on him.|
It was a bit of a strange size (I purchased the full/horse size) -- it took a bit of fiddling to get the nosepiece where I wanted it & it would still be nice if the jaw strap was significantly longer (it bareeeely fits on the last hole).
But on the plus side -- SOMEONE FINALLY MADE A BROWBAND THAT FITS MY FAT-HEADED HORSES COMFORTABLY. No more brain squishing! I didn't use the rubber reins -- I've always found them too bulky & heavy in my hands, just a personal preference.
Are you still holding your breath?
Because I'll be damned, I think the thing actually works.
I can only ride bareback at a walk right now (damn knee surgery), but I immediately noticed that Encore was softer in the bridle, less ready to lock the left side of his jaw, & appeared to very much like the bit-stabilizing effect of the chin strap (which I kept very loose, he can still open his mouth, chew, chomp). It was not a lightning bolt, but a definite change in feel & a lower level of tension at the end of my reins, when no other variables have changed.
Worthless Cripple Must See More Evidence
I couldn't wait until our most generous friend, Foy (recent winner!!!! aka badass at the East Coast Adult Team Challenge with her endearing and amazing Irish ex-steeplechaser, Point Clear, or as we know him, Louie, who not too long ago was declared unable to ever event again. YEAH! Longest parenthetical statement ever.) came out today, as she has been giving Encore the occasional educated ride while I rebuild myself.
On The Longe
I longed Encore while she was on her way, slipping the vienna reins on so he would be warm & stretched & she could just hop on when she arrived. I have NEVER seen this horse put his nose on the ground on the longe or in the round pen (although it's Solo's signature move). He will stretch about to his knees, even in the reins, & move through his body, but he never completely lets go. Observe:
I eagerly watched (post-Encore tantrum that the end of longeing did NOT mean the end of work) & questioned what she felt. She too, felt that he was softer & more willing in the bridle once he got to work. We did try the bit clips that transfer pressure to the nose: Encore notes, NO LIKEY. I don't think he'll be a hackamore horse, ha!
Foy is taking it easy on him (maybe I am a mean mom?) & gives him a lovely, patient ride; she made his butt sweat!! I don't think I have ever achieved that without the aid of 95 degree heat, I'm dying to know what I am doing wrong. Oh & my commentary was so ridiculously dorky, sorry about the music. Trust me, you thank me. And don't judge the lil guy too harshly -- he lost most of his hind end strength in injury & layup, but we're working on it.
On the whole though, this skeptic finds herself designating it as the new daily bridle. This hater of all trends & she who deploys a heavy dose of scrutiny to, ok, pretty much everything, finds herself cautiously changing from skeptic to believer.
I still don't think it will have magical unicorn powers for every horse & I am curious, if it will fit Solo to see if he cares (as a rule, he doesn't; although there was that incident with the crupper experiment...). But according to my experiences this week, doing my best to isolate the bridle variable, I think I found a keeper... Further testing TBD.