Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Chambon

With our dressage schooling show fast approaching, I had a little bit of a panic moment realizing that we have SO much to improve upon- namely bit contact, lowering the neck, transitions, and the stretchy circle.  So, like most of the training level tests.  

I did a little bit of reading and chanced upon a recommendation for the use of a device called the Chambon.  Now, I'm not huge on gadgets, as I believe they tend to be habit forming, but this one is kinda neat because I believe I can utilize it to teach Louie what I'm asking for, then hopefully I won't need it for long. 

So, here is a Chambon, for those who are not familiar. 

The idea of the Chambon is to apply pressure to the poll and the corners of the mouth when the horse raises his head up beyond a certain point.  Since I've been struggling with finding a way to get Louie to relax and stretch down for many months (with the exception of getting him really tired then letting him jaunt along at a free, loose-rein walk), this device will help to teach him what I want, and all I have to do is associate a "cue" with the pressure he feels when the Chambon activates, and voila! 

The thing I love about the Chambon in comparison to any other "gadget" is that not only is it gentle (mine is part elastic) and acts only when needed, but it leaves the horse's nose free to stretch OUT and is pretty much the only device that doesn't pull the bit back to the chest in some way.  With Louie's (and most Saddlebreds) habit of curling his neck up into a circle, this will be most valuable to not create a bad habit. 

So I constructed a home-made variety out of some of my old saddle seat appliances- surgical tubing from a pair of stretchies, and an old rope sidecheck.  I've ridden him twice this week in this set up and so far the results have been fantastic.  Since I've taught him a cue (basically just working the bit in his mouth) that he feels at the same time as the Chambon activates, he's learned that the cue means to lower his poll.  He's now responding pretty easily to the cue and lowering just based on that alone.  I'm very excited as I've fretted over trying to get Louie to relax his Saddlebred neck down for months and have just never had a way to get that message across.  Well now I've got one! 

The other really cool use is during transitions, since Louie likes to raise his poll up several inches for every transition he makes, this will help to just discourage that, and I can focus on the rest.

Our stretchy circle (at least the neck lowering part of it) as improved dramatically in the past 2 rides, and I am hopeful that the message will stick when the Chambon isn't there on Saturday during my show.  I'll be keeping my fingers crossed. 

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