Horse Life

Cause of Death: 18″ Cavaletti

After giving P 3 days off (2 were on purpose), we headed to Trainer B’s yesterday for our 2nd to last lesson before he heads off to sunny Florida.

Me when he gets back and I don’t remember how to ride anymore.

I had no idea what was in store for us that day, but I wasn’t expecting the question, “How often do you leg yield at the canter?”


Everyone, horse and human, has a stronger side and a direction they go better in. I used to be better going to the right, while P was better going to the left, so we sort of (emphasis on the sort of) balanced each other out. Then I broke my left ankle and that makes going right SUCK.

Combine that with going right being P’s worse direction, we’re just a hot mess. Going to the left, I can usually keep P round and bent correctly. Going to the right takes all my physical and mental ability, and when P and/or I get tired, it’s just all over.

Not round, not bent correctly. And the reason why we missed our planned turn.

In our lesson with Trainer J last Tuesday (before the HT), she had me step to the outside as hard as I could and shift my hands to the left to try to counteract P leaning in.

Which I had to do so hard just to get P to arc out a little bit so we didn’t plow into the jump

Trainer B said he felt it last Wednesday when he rode him, and it was time to fix that.


When I ask P to move off my left leg, he, ya know, does it. When I ask him to go to the left off my right leg he resists against my leg and just gets super bendy with his shoulders. And then gets fussy when you put his shoulders back where they belong, almost like he’s trying to distract you because THIS IS HARD. And then rather than keep my leg soft and rhythmic, I brace because THIS IS HARD. See a theme?

So Trainer B had us start on the left lead down the straightaway, then leg-yield to the right. Left lead? Check. Right lead? Tempi changes.

P: Let’s skip the 1st level BS and go straight to 4th. But only tracking right.

But it got better each time around, so then Trainer B set up a cavaletti, with an obstacle that we had to get past after landing.


We  were supposed to land, half-halt, leg yield. Leg-yielding off the left leg wasn’t so bad:


And I didn’t even notice that he moved the chair a little bit each time to make us work harder.


But then we turned around to go our collectively harder way.

So close to going past the mounting block. Not.
Not even a little closer

Until we didn’t screw it up.


So then the cavaletti turned into a bonafide jump, which Trainer B joyfully announced would make it harder.


And, well, he wasn’t lying.


And this is our GOOD way.Left4.gif

I can’t even tell you how many times I lost my right stirrup and almost hit the dirt before I finally proclaimed this was the most dangerous thing Trainer B has ever had me do. Ok, maybe it was just 2 times.


Then we turned around.


Heaven help us. But we eventually got it right.

And without tempi changes!

I will say, for how challenging it was, it’s really an excellent (and simple to set up) exercise. The point is to get the horse to land off a jump and go, “What next?” instead of just charging into the abyss. So we’ll be incorporating that into our routine now until it gets a bit easier and consistent.

Then Trainer B brought up changing P’s bit on XC. And I could feel the defensiveness rise. So I asked what he had in mind, and imagine my surprise when the response was, “A fat, rubber snaffle.”

I think I stuttered, “But that’s milder than even this bit.”


But the reasoning is sound. I currently use a Herm Sprenger KK Ultra loose ring on P. The double jointedness encourages him to give to the bit and keep steady contact, which is great for dressage and show jumping, but P needs to be bolder on XC (getting there, but not enough), and Trainer B thinks that him being able to have a more solid feeling in his mouth might help.

No more horse trials this year, so the experiment will have to wait until next year. Which actually isn’t so far off now that I think about it. So if anyone uses a rubber snaffle and has any suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

22 thoughts on “Cause of Death: 18″ Cavaletti”

  1. A Nathe really helped Henry when he was first transitioning back to a bit (after being in a hackamore for a while bc his mouth was just ruined when I got him). It worked really well to help him feel more comfortable coming into my hand.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i may have giggled a little too much and watched your videos several times while giggling. P is so expressive even with his ears and head. Cracks me up. UGH that looks hard too. And i might get to see you if you put P in a fat snaffle. Next time you run cross country you might end up in Delaware (HA HA HA HA) just kidding…


  3. Unfortunately no suggestions from me lol. I’m not a “trend” person, but Amber has a tiny mouth which is why I have to use Myler bits. And only level one because even tiny ports are too big lol. Even jointed snaffles she’s uncomfortable in. Plus, she really doesn’t need anything more than that, really lol. That exercise is really super! And if you didn’t want to jump you could even just use a ground pole for the exercise. I really like that and it’s great it’s such a simple exercise to take home and practice. By the end, tho you guys were getting it! And P looked a bit more open to yielding LOL so glad the lesson was a success!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I started P in a Myler but he didn’t ever seem to be a fan of the thin bits. He goes great in the KK, so I’m curious to see if the rubber helps him on XC. We’ll see if I can replicate it at home!


  4. Tricky Trainer B strikes again!!! Great exercise to help keep the horse thinking and paying attention to you while jumping. No comment on the bit since I’m not very bit knowledgeable, but it is an intriguing concept.


  5. My coach loves to torture us with that exercise too. Last week for the advanced group she had three fences off set from each other and set two strides apart. So you jump in, leg yield left, jump, leg yield right, jump out. I’m good with not trying that yet, lol


  6. honestly i’m impressed you never ended up accidentally jumping the mounting block or the chair. winning? lol my friend Brita’s sensitive soulful gray tb mare goes well in a nathe for contact, but needs a full cheek for steering. since a full cheek nathe is like…. .$260 or some shittery like that, she had to choose between. and ultimately the steering was more important so they go in a full cheek snaffle. much luck!


  7. I use to ride my OTTB in a Nathe bit and she went really well in it. She was a firecracker to ride but she respected it quite nicely. Hopefully P will like it too!


    1. Oh and I’m pretty sure Sinead Halpin rode Manior De Callvalier (sp??) in a Nathe on XC so if she can run advanced in one you’ll be fine at BN and such with P 😁


  8. I’m impressed you didn’t end up jumping the chair or the mounting block haha. It does look like a really great exercise to get the horse to ask what’s next tho!


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