Tiptoe to the Barn….

Posted: August 1st, 2019 under Life beyond writing, the writing life.
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Where the new resident now appears to be headed for permanency….a ten year old gelding whose new barn name (didn’t have one before that I know of) is “Tigger.”  Tigger looks somewhat like Kallie, except that he’s shorter in the back with a longer hindquarter…in other words better basic structure.   Here he is at the training facility where I bought him, all spiffied up for his portrait.

And here he is at home, very cautious about those dangerous-looking jump blocks. Who knows what horrors might be in them?

A week plus later, he’s more relaxed, turning to come toward me in the late evening light.  ‘Oh, it’s you…got any of those carrot things?”

Like all horses, he has some dings and some training challenges.  He injured one leg as a young horse and has an impressive scar on his left knee that does not affect his action at all.  He also has a splint bump on the cannon bone of the same leg, also not affecting his movement.  No data on whether these injuries occurred at the same time.  These are blemishes that interfered with his planned halter career, but not a problem for the use he will have here.

More challenging is a clearly very settled habit of balling up his tongue behind the bit.  As this is not good for him, or for me as a rider,  and convincing a horse that automatically balls up his tongue when the bit enters his mouth is known to be a difficult fix, I’ve decided to retrain him for bitless riding.  So far, at the groundwork stage, using his usual flat webbing halter and clip-on reins, it’s going well.  Having his tongue balled up behind the bit would certainly explain his rather, um, strong contact when being ridden (both observed with another rider and while riding him for the test.)   I was told “You have to keep a tight hold on him, and really pull to stop him.”  I love his forward-going nature, and his alertness, but prefer to have a horse light in the bridle.  Without the bit in his mouth, he seems to need only consistent training to be light.

He also needed dental work that will be done this coming week, within his first month here, and the vet may find an explanation for the bitting problem other than someone not doing a good job of introducing him to it.    I know his mouth is small, with a flat palette, so it may be the bits being used with him were simply too big.   If the vet thinks he might ever carry a bit,  I’ll work him bitless for 6 months or so and introduce a different, thinner bit designed for horses with small, sensitive mouths.   In about two-three weeks, if all goes well with the prep work, including at least a week of ground driving with the saddle on, I’ll be on his back using a halter with reins attached (the mildest form of bitless)  and with my trainer’s help we’ll decide which of the several bitless bridles might suit him best…he gets a vote, of course.  Sidepull, rope halter with reins, flat halter with reins, Micklem Multibridle, Dr. Cook’s Bitless Bridle, etc.

In the meantime, ArmadilloCon starts tomorrow and I’ll miss several days work with him.  Love the people at DilloCon but will miss my new horse.  He’s a real character, and I can hardly wait to be riding him when he’s showing off like this, taken at the training facility and shown on his sales page (now removed, alas.)

On the writing side, after he arrived and began settling in…I wrote the first new fiction (very short, very rough draft) that actually finished a story since the concussion.  And I’m starting slowly on the next Vatta book, the third in Vatta’s Peace.  Horses are not a distraction…they’re inspiration.


  • Comment by Richard Simpkin — August 2, 2019 @ 6:22 am


    “What shall we do about poor little Tigger?
    If he never eats nothing he’ll never get bigger.
    He doesn’t like honey and haycorns and thistles
    Becasue of the taste and because of the bristles.
    And all the good things which an animal likes
    Have the wrong sort of swallow or too many spikes.”

    (verse by Edward Bear aka Winnie-the-Pooh, according to A.A.Milne – as I’m sure Elizabeth knows)

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 2, 2019 @ 6:52 am


    But Elizabeth’s Tigger, ’cause he is a horse
    Likes honey, oats, hay, and molasses of course,
    So though he’s a grown horse who will not get bigger,
    There’s no need to worry ’bout this kind of Tigger

    (I had in fact forgotten about that verse, so thanks for reminding me! I remembered that the book Tigger was offered different foods and refused them, but mostly that he was cheerful, bouncy, and friendly, which my Tigger is.)

  • Comment by Terry Ann Frick — August 2, 2019 @ 9:48 am


    Tigger is gorgeous and his eyes have a very sweet and open expression!

    I’ve tried several different bitless bridles, the best in my experience being Dr. Cook’s because its poll action is spot-on, even better than my favorite bit (loose-ring snaffle) for getting a horse to understand what poll flexion is really all about because he either doesn’t resist or, if he does, he can’t maintain even the subtle resistance he can with a bit.

    Agree totally that horses are inspiring. My sister is an artist and she says painting inspires her to ride and riding inspires her to paint. The horses inspire me about better ways to be and live.

    Hope you and Tigger have many wonderful days together!

  • Comment by Moira — August 3, 2019 @ 7:36 pm


    Great news on both the equine and writing fronts!

    The primary concern, of course, remains your wellbeing. So please don’t push it, even if you’re fed up being careful…

    Tigger looks lovely (non-horse person here, so clueless). He’s a beauty, anyway!

  • Comment by Jazzlet — August 5, 2019 @ 10:43 am


    Wonderful news, both that you have Tigger and he is settling in nicely, and that he has helped you to write again. I hope you are safely back home and enjoying his company.

  • Comment by Nadine Barter Bowlus — August 6, 2019 @ 1:09 pm


    Best wishes for both you and Tigger as you get to know each other. May it be a long association.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 6, 2019 @ 11:55 pm


    Terry Ann: As always with anything equestrian, opinions don’t just differ, they wave swords… which is to say that elsewhere online someone was telling me how bad Dr. Cook’s was for the exact reason you like it (“…had a horse go crazy because of the pressure on the poll and under the head…”) I’m glad to hear your experience, as I was glad to hear hers, and am sure Tigger will let me know pretty “loudly” whether he likes it or not when we get to that point. And if in the end I can persuade him (after six months of no-bit) to accept a bit again, I’ll be happy about that, too. We’re still working on the “halter with reins” model, in ground work, and next week should be ground driving in that rig. I’m still looking for my old surcingle and hoping I didn’t throw it out at some point. So far, with just walk/halt and halt/walk transitions, he’s halting pretty straight with rein pressure (not real pulling) on the halter, and turning when “plow-reining” one rein and the other one slack. If that translates to ground driving, then backing him isn’t far behind.

    I’m having fun with this, though I’m also eager to get back on him, in a rig that he accepts and understands, so we can do some even more fun things.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 6, 2019 @ 11:56 pm


    Moira: He IS lovely. There’s not just one beautiful horse-build, but he’s got the symmetry and springiness that I think is beautiful. I tell him so every day.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 6, 2019 @ 11:57 pm


    Jazzlet: home and we are growing together.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 6, 2019 @ 11:58 pm


    Thanks, Nadine. I’m sure hoping for that!

  • Comment by Sharidann — August 7, 2019 @ 11:56 pm


    Nice to read from you and very happy to hear you were able to resume writing!
    Wonderful pictures too!

  • Comment by Terry Ann Frick — August 8, 2019 @ 11:16 am


    I’ve used Dr. Cook’s bridle on several horses and never experienced the problem the other rider described, but the first thing I remember my grandfather telling me about horses is that what works well with one horse may not work well with every horse.

  • Comment by Daniel Glover — August 13, 2019 @ 10:56 am


    Wonderful news all around.

    Praying for more good to follow.

  • Comment by Eowyn — August 13, 2019 @ 12:19 pm


    Horses are not a distraction…they’re inspiration.

    They are inspiring, humbling, and wonderful partners to have in our lives. For some of us, some sort of horse something is a requirement. I’m so happy for you and Tigger.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 13, 2019 @ 7:30 pm


    I agree that you can’t know for sure what will work with any horse until you try it. I’m still working on his groundwork. He’s moderately whip shy, as I suspected (from other behaviors and the videos I saw from the training center…and wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d freaked out at the sight of one, which is why I waited until we had some trust established before bringing it out.) So desensitization to the longe whip and then the dressage whip are starting now. Because ground driving is the next big step on the list. He didn’t freak out today…he touched it with his muzzle when I asked, but moving it toward his body, even slowly (and with the lash wrapped and tied) made his eyes widen. I know he was pushed around a paddock for a sales video with a whip, because I caught sight of the tip of it. Standard practice but I hate it.

  • Comment by Moira — August 13, 2019 @ 10:49 pm


    “I tell him so every day.”

    Aww. As you should! The bond between a human and an animal is an amazing, wonderful thing. And yes, Eowyn, they can be an inspiration.

    My dog had an eye infection the past couple of weeks, and the poor thing… of course I had to put ointment (drops were COMPLETELY impossible) in her eye. Well, holy S H one T… she is a squirmer. I already knew this, of course; she’s a squirmer, and a wriggler, a struggler and a wrestler, and she fought me every step of the way. I don’t know why she’s that way; I can only wonder if maybe the vet who gave her her baby shots (I brought her home at 8wks old) was rough with her. No idea. But any sort of physical examination/procedure makes her freak out to some degree, although she’s usually better with me than with others. Anyway, to cut a long story short, the eye infection seemed to clear up but then recurred, and when I tried to do the second round of ointment, she just was NOT having it. “Mom… why are you torturing me?!” Honestly, it got so I was reduced to tears and I could feel the stress and trauma beginning to damage the relationship between dog & human. She literally ran away from me instead of coming when I called, and stayed out in the rain rather than chance another torture session. My poor pup.

    Thankfully the eye infection seems to have resolved – fingers & toes very firmly crossed – and we’re back to plain sailing again. But I have some work to do to restore her trust completely. Treats help. The chucking of tennis balls helps. Time will help most of all.

    People who aren’t dog/horse/whatever people just don’t understand, but that bond is infinitely precious.

  • Comment by elizabeth — August 14, 2019 @ 5:36 am


    Eowyn: I agree. And humbling is definitely one of the gifts they bring us. He’s proving not an easy guy in some ways, but on the other hand, I enjoy horse challenges unless I end up on the ground knocked out or too broken. Which so far I haven’t.

  • Comment by Jim DeWitt — August 30, 2019 @ 9:18 am


    I couldn’t be be more pleased for the two of you. Tigger has found the best possible owner, and you seem to have found a beautiful, trainable horse. Congratulations! I hope it continues to go well.

  • Comment by Leslie — September 13, 2019 @ 9:32 pm


    I hope all is well with you, I miss seeing your posts.

  • Comment by elizabeth — September 13, 2019 @ 10:54 pm


    I’m doing well, just extremely busy and posting more in Facebook about the horse that’s keeping me so busy…along with choir being back in full rehearsal-for-big-things mode. We’ve finally had the big vet visit at which Tigger got his dental work done, all his shots, his blood draw for the Coggins test, his sheath cleaned, and his hooves trimmed. (And also met the two biggest donkeys I ever saw. His reaction was “THOSE aren’t HORSES!!!! Mom, SAVE me!”) As part of the dental exam and teeth grinding, we found out why he balls his tongue up in the back of his mouth, behind the bit (instead of in the normal place with the bit on top)…he has had an injury to his tongue sometime in the past, and has a transverse groove across it…most likely a scar, and most likely from someone being rough with a snaffle bit (if he was a racehorse, having his tongue tied down while racing would be likely.) So he will go bitless for at least six months, quite possibly permanently.

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