|Trax's typical after ride pose|
where he is urging me to quit taking pictures
and get him some dinner
When the vet showed me what was going on his mouth, one of the things he said is that sometimes these things happen from a situation where the horses is running away (without a rider) and steps on the reins and slams the bit down into his tongue. And then of course it also comes from really heavy hands with a bit that is too thin. He also said that for a cut that deep it might very possibly have been a series of injuries over and over again. We will never know exactly how it happened. What we do know is that it is there and I must always have it in mind when riding.
So now I have a new mission. I will be doing a ton of research on "bitless" and even bits that will be comfortable for him, yet still keep me safe. I do have an old mechanical hackamore which I have used on him. He likes the hackamore, and is pretty responsive if all I want is forward and stop. For training it was more of a hindrance than anything, which is why I went back to the snaffle. But I suspect I might be able to accomplish a lot with some sort of sidepull. The bad news, as Louisa knows, is that for most shows and competitions you have to use some sort of actual bit, even a snaffle is not considered a bit. Stupid.
One thing the vet told me is I will most likely spend a fortune trying various bits before I find the one that is right for him. (He knows me too well) But when I asked what he recommended the best he could tell me was avoid harsh (duh) and avoid thin. (the twisted snaffle is pretty thin and will never be used on him again) Surprisingly enough he said that sometimes the D-ring snaffle is good because it has that nice curve which rests on the bars of the mouth and gives relief off of that scar. He said, "I can tell you what I think should work, but experience has taught me that it is different for each horse."
One thing that Louisa mentioned in her comment that I know is true, is that there are so many different opinions out there, and they all conflict and half the time I don't know what is right and what is wrong. I guess it is different for every horse and every rider. But I have some ideas of where to go for some good information, and I will be getting lots of different opinions and then applying what seems to fit with my horse. That is my plan. We will see how it goes. :-)
So after I posted that I had my lesson with Mark. I showed him the video, and he agreed that the twisted snaffle could certainly aggravate the injury, so it stays in the spare tack box for now. We went with the Mylar knock off this time. We started the lesson with just working on our transitions, which seems to be a good way to warm my boy up. He actually did really really well and only once or twice did I have to really close my circle down to get him to slow down from his canter. But I was using more rein than I wanted so I kept trying to use my seat.
Mark was coaching me on my riding position, reminding me to not lean into my circles, and to really sit down with my seat when asking for that drop in speed. There was one time when I was asking him to drop back down to the trot and he wasn't "getting it". I kept trying to figure out how to cue him without pulling on his face. I finally did an actual butt scoot (almost like a dog does) in the saddle and he instantly dropped his gait to a trot. I did it again and got the walk, and then said ,"Whoa" and did it again and he stopped. We ended that lesson right there. Now I just have to remember how I did that! LOL
Then we went to the log pull, and he was a little bothered, but not too bad and pretty soon we were dragging that log around like pros.
Mark made a make shift rope gate and we tried to work on that. It was in a very awkward position though without much room to move around it, so we struggled with it terribly. My main goal went from trying to do it perfect, to just trying to get him to respond to my leg cues. He really fought me at first so I pulled him away and did some side passes and then went back to it. It made the difference and we sort of were able to complete it. It was just so awkward, doing it text book was not an option.
We ended the lesson there, and when I got off we took a few minutes to look at the Mylar in his mouth to see how it looked. I was pleasantly surprised by what I saw. The Mylar actually hits his tongue below the cut. I am surprised at how good Trax is about letting me put my fingers in his mouth. I was actually able to stick my fingers up in there and feel where the bit was and where the groove of the cut is. Now I don't know if that changes when you start pulling on it, or putting pressure on it, but I will be looking into that more as well. I will actually be checking this with both the snaffle and the Mylar to see what hits where.
When I got home I spent some time watching the video again and pausing it during different frames. What I noticed is that it seems like the groove is way up there almost right at where the frenulum is. That is pretty high up. That brought to mind a gag-bit. When I think of the term "gag-bit" I think of something that sits way up in the mouth like that. But the truth is I don't know anything about gag-bits, so that is something else I will be reading up on. What I do know is that some barrel racers like gag bits, and he was used on barrels at one time by the same family that roped on him. Is there a connection? I'll never know.
So that is where I am at with Trax and this new development. I will of course be updating my blog on what I find out, what works and what doesn't. Thank you again everyone for your helpful comments.