This morning after barn chores I was amazingly free of sweat, Keil Bay had finished eating breakfast and was munching on hay, and the temps were in the low 70s... so I decided to psychologically make the switch to our autumn routine, which means riding happens after equine breakfast but before human lunch.
Keil Bay loves this routine. It's obvious that in his life before me, his rides were generally in the morning. He knew instantly when I put Salina and the donkeys on their side of the barn that he was in line for a ride.
My son had groomed all the horses earlier, so all I had to do was pick feet and tack up. When I got the bridle on and was buckling the cavesson, I had my hand inside the buckle so I could feel how tight it was. Keil opened his jaw and I realized that even with my setting the buckle to the first hole, which is where I normally put it, his jaw can't open all the way. Because of where my hand was, I felt it in a way I don't think I ever have before. So in that one moment, I decided to remove the cavesson and ride without it.
A big thank you needs to be said to Ann and Jeeves, at Transitions, because it was Ann who told me she'd removed Jeeves' cavesson long ago. For some reason it had never occurred to me to just remove the thing - I had been thinking of buying a western bridle! A good example of how we can get stuck with "the way things are" to the degree that we can't even perceive how easy change often is.
Anyway, this morning I realized it was time, so I unbuckled the cavesson, slid it off Keil Bay's head, and watched him explore his new freedom from the noseband.
I'm guessing he has never been in a bridle without one.
He immediately opened his mouth as wide as he could, just to test it. He did a huge dramatic yawn. He lifted his nose up and jiggled the bit around in his mouth. He lowered his head and shook it from side to side. (for a moment I thought the bit was going to come out, but it didn't)
He had a look of complete amazement in his eyes. Suddenly there was nothing there but the headstall and the bit, and he couldn't quite believe it.
Off we went to the arena. I can't attribute everything to the lack of cavesson - last night was the coolest we've had since spring, fall is definitely in the air, and I'm sure Keil Bay was feeling all of that as much as I was. Still, he seemed excited and eager to move, and he was freer in the head and neck than he normally is when we start out.
I've tried bitless bridles with Keil and he didn't like them. He does enjoy when I ride with halter and clip-on reins, but today's experiment without the cavesson is the most successful change I've made in terms of bridling.
He has always fussed when I buckle the noseband. The only worse thing was the flash, which I removed years ago. He hated that thing, even when it was buckled so loosely it dangled under his chin. And the cavesson is not as bad, but he always bobs his head when I buckle. And now that frustration is gone.
I cleaned it up and hung it beneath his bridle, with the flash. The bridle looks so bare! But I think this is how we'll be riding, at least for now.