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Cavessons: Start pretty loose

By LES VOGT - Horsetrader columnist - September 15th, 2011 - More with Les

Sixth in a series
Les wraps up his equipment checklist with the set-up of the cavesson.

I prefer a stiff rope cavesson, and I like it under the bridle so that it sits about an inch above the snaffle. Make sure that it’s high enough that the bit won’t pinch the horse’s lip against it when you pick up on the rein. Start with a pretty loose cavesson. I like about ¾-inch clearance under the jaw. You want the horse to be able to open his mouth slightly if he wants to. If it’s too tight some horses might shake their heads, or even panic and fall, so don’t introduce it too snug.

Depending on the horse, I might move to a smaller band if he wants to open his mouth when I put pressure on the bit. If not, I don’t worry. I don’t want the cavesson to trap his mouth and make him feel like he can’t open it. What I want is for him to get a reprimand when he opens his mouth too far – then he hits the rope and it gets him. So it’s not a crutch but more like “if you go there bad things happen.”

The experience I’ve had with the flat leather nosebands is that when you go to take them off – a high percentage of the time it becomes open season for mouths! They seem to just restrict the horse’s mouth and become a crutch, rather than training him through conditioning. Some folks will use a dropped noseband, but I haven’t had good experiences with them either.

When you adjust your throat latch on any horse, make sure you don’t have it too snug because the throat will expand as the horse flexes. If it’s too tight, your horse might find it uncomfortable or become resistant to flexing at the poll.

EDITOR’S NOTE: More with Les is a regular California Horsetrader column. Les Vogt has won more than 15 World Championships, including two wins at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. Although Les still rides and occasionally shows, his focus is giving clinics around the world and developing products for the performance horseman. To learn more about Les and to see his clinic schedule, visit: www.lesvogt.com

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