The pictures were taken during a schooling session in October 2004. The pony is 15 years of age, a TB X Connemara from Ireland originally. He is wearing a Bitless Bridle™ and he does not have shoes. He has not worn them for 4 years. He is gradually being prepared to resume jumping. Currently he has progressed in his schooling to walk and trot. Canter work will not begin until his responses in walk and trot are consistently light and he is using his hind legs to propel himself forward. Interestingly his conformation, a thick set neck does not permit any flexion at the poll for long periods of time. He would start to choke and become stressed. He is given ground work exercises and pole work – all in walk. Progress is slow but steady, it would be faster if the owner was able to carry out the retraining program much more frequently.
For a long period of time the pony was a member of the ‘Head Shaking, Jogging and Teeth Grinding’ society. He jumped anything and everything at high speed. He was always in a rush, standing still was not an option with him. Schooling ? forget it.

At the time of purchase he was ridden in a single jointed snaffle, with a drop noseband and running martingale. The current owner believes this arrangement had been used for most of his life. To alleviate discomfort from the roof of his mouth and bars, a different bit was employed namely a Baucher French link. The noseband and martingale were removed. There was some improvement but the head shaking and teeth grinding continued. He was also difficult to bridle, so the owner purchased a combination bridle, a halter with bit hangers. This made the bridling process easier. She would put the halter on first of all and the pony accepted this readily. The bit could then be clipped into place after a few moments. This reduced the need to continually reach for his head.BBriding02

Then Dr Cook’s Bitless Bridle™ was discovered. The first time it was used, the owner put it on the pony and went out for a hack, disregarding the advice on the instruction sheet. A decision by the owner was made along the lines that two things could happen

1) nothing exciting at all or

2) The ride could be short, fast and furious and she would have to just hang on.

It turned out to be the best ride ever.

After a period of time the jogging sessions returned with a vengeance. The reason was not clear, the usual checks were applied. The owner even considered reverting back to using a bit! This thought came at the end of a really dreadful ride, the pony was completely soaked in sweat and froth and the owner’s digestive mechanism shaken to a pulp !

After a sleepless night pondering over the situation the owner realised that the fundamental problem was the pony was in conflict with the stop signals given by her. He was not thoroughly habituated to these signals. A plan of action was required, a retraining program.

The pony was not ridden for a month and basic ground work commenced using, initially a halter and then the Bitless Bridle.  Hacking was resumed and the pace was kept to a WALK. Trotting was gradually introduced and then canter over a period of a few months. Groundwork continued and any jogging ? Jogging ? what’s that ?