How and Why to Use Cavessons
Cavessons are used to help keep horses from opening their mouths to evade the pressure of the bit. But there’s a lot more to a cavesson. Follow along with the video as Dennis Moreland, of Dennis Moreland Tack, and Wade Meador, of Wade Meador Performance Horses share their expertise on cavessons.
Some colts want to open their mouths when they’re learning to respond to pressure from the bit. Some older horses have gotten in the habit of opening their mouths to evade the bit. When they do this, they brace the muscles in their jaws. This bracing goes from the jaw, all the way down the back and into the legs. A cavesson http://bit.ly/DMTackCavessons that fits, is the appropriate type for the horse’s level of training, and is adjusted correctly, will apply pressure on the nose and jaw when the horse opens its mouth. This pressure can help the horse to relax its jaws and lower its head rather than brace. This can have a relaxing effect all the way through the body.
Wade Meador says he always starts with a flat leather cavesson on colts. He’ll step up from there, when necessary, as the colt progresses. “Always start with the mildest piece of equipment that will work. When introducing a cavesson to a colt, adjust the noseband so there is plenty of room around the nose. A colt needs to be able to open its mouth, chew and learn to carry the bit. You want that colt to be comfortable” says Wade. In the beginning, you want to adjust the cavesson, so the noseband lays right under the prominent cheekbones. In this position the colt can open its mouth and move its jaws more than if the cavesson was placed lower on the nose. “You always want to adjust it so you can get a couple of fingers under it” explains Wade “and adjust it looser than that in the beginning.” The headstall of a well-made cavesson will lay behind the bridle’s headstall and not interfere with any part of the bridle.
As a horse progresses in training you can slowly lower the cavesson on the nose to about midway between the cheek bones and mouth. Wade warns that if you go too low on the nose, when the reins are pulled, the sides of the lips can get pinched between the bit and the cavesson. “It’s important to watch the response of your horses when you adjust anything, they will tell you if something is wrong.”
To get a better and/or quicker response you may also want to experiment with a cavesson that will apply a stronger signal as the horse progresses. “You’ll still want to be able to get 1-2 fingers between the cavesson and the horse’s nose regardless of the cavesson or stage of training” says Wade. Wade recommends starting with a new cavesson where you started with the previous cavesson rather than where you left off. “Let them get used to the new cavesson, you’re going to get a different response from the new cavesson” explains Wade.
A cavesson can help keep a horse relaxed and comfortable so it can learn and perform at its highest level. Always work with your horses on the ground when trying new equipment, including cavessons, to be sure they accept the new equipment before you ride with it.
Leather, string and rope cavessons with rawhide nosebands http://bit.ly/DMTackCavessons are all handmade at Dennis Moreland Tack. All cavessons are either adjustable or come in several sizes. These cavessons will fit correctly to function as they should. If you have questions, please give me a call at 817-312-5305 or write to [email protected].
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