Jun 8, 2009

Longeing Caveson - Shameless Equipment Promo

Maybe I'm behind the times here, but this weekend I got the newest issue of the Dover catalog and discovered a plethora of cavesons being advertised for sale. Well, if by plethora you understand that to mean 4 cavesons. But if I wanted to see some underlying meaning in that (which, let's face it, I always do), I would like to think that longeing cavesons are gaining in popularity again. I am pretty happy about this as I am a huge fan of using cavesons for longeing.

I hate attaching my longe line to a halter because the halter is loose enough to twist into the horse's eye and it doesn't offer much control. That being said, I would rather longe in a halter than a bridle. Though the idea of having the bit leverage can be a very appealing one, there are massive drawbacks to attaching a longe line to a bridle. Frankly, if I'm in a bind I'll do it, but I would rather not. It is much too easy to yank a horse in the mouth or simply use so much pressure that the horse can't relax on the line. Even inadvertently. The bit just isn't really meant to be used in this manner. I think attaching your longe line to a bridle is just setting yourself up for a horse that either resists the contact to the bit or becomes deadened to it. I'll admit it was a long while before I discovered the beauty of the longe caveson, but once I did I will never go back.

The one I have doesn't have the bit attachment like the one pictured above and that's really its only drawback. I dislike having to put so much equipment on my horse's head if I am going to use side reins with the bit (i.e. caveson over the bridle). Though, I have been on more of a kick to attach the side reins loosely to the side rings on the longe caveson itself -- no bit, no bridle. Of course, like with everything you have to know your horse and be careful in doing such a thing, but in theory I like the idea of this far better as I can save the mouth from getting jabbed. I mean, I would far rather let the pressure be on the nose than the mouth especially when, being on the ground, I have far less of an idea of the forces acting on the animals mouth, and thusly less control over them. Therefore, attaching the side reins to his nose will not inadvertently negate my training techniques as attaching them to the bit could do. However, if I ever need to purchase a caveson again, I will get one with removable bit attachments, so I can decide depending on the animal I'm working with at that moment.

Of course, there are the inevitable arguments over whether or not even use side reins, but I'm of the opinion that you do what is right for the individual horse. Personally, I'm going to resist putting a young horse in side reins because I want to encourage happy, relaxed and forward, not an artificial headset (which can occur if the horse doesn't understand and accept rein contact prior to adding side reins). And over the years I have learned that I would rather never use side reins that have a rubber doughnut or an elastic on them. Plain leather side reins, thank you very much. Elastic and rubber encourage leaning on the bit, which is exactly what I'm trying to avoid when I'm riding. But in general, some horses need the time on the longe with side reins and some don't. I like longeing without any other equipment sometimes, just to try to establish straight and balanced naturally. However, in many instances it is very difficult to get a very crooked horse to do this without use of long side reins to encourage straightness. I will NEVER shorten one rein versus the other. I find that problems of this nature (leaning on one rein or the other) are readily fixed by longeing in a round pen. As the horse gets stronger, he will start to carry himself properly in a main ring as well. All this being said though, I have had plenty of horses that I simply never feel comfortable longeing in side reins as they lean on the bit, resist the pressure, rush, etc.... It's a useful tool, but it's not for every horse and every rider. Growing up, my mare was built a bit downhill. Longeing in side reins was a futile exercise with her. She would lean on the bit, run, or simply hollow out -- and these were very loosely attached side reins, mind. Instead, my trainer and I worked on her back or in hand. Lungeing was used only to blow off steam. This approach won't work for everyone, but it's useful to know the individual's horse's needs and work with them. In-hand work, with long lines, can be a much better substitute often. But if you're going to longe in side reins, I strongly recommend the control of a caveson.

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