Lift and Shoulder Control
The uses of the Loomis gag are varied, and preferences differ from trainer to trainer. If Joyce had to name one person who truly made the bit a favorite among barrel racers, she attributes it to the late Celie Ray.

“Who really made it famous, to be honest with you, was Celie Ray,” Joyce said. “She bought one from me back in the early 70s when I started going to the futurities. She’d have a clinic, and I’d have 30 to 40 orders afterward. She didn’t want to sell them; she just told people to call me.”

It was multiple futurity and derby champion and National Finals Rodeo qualifier Celie Ray who introduced Dena Kirkpatrick to the Loomis gag. Dena has trained many great horses in the Loomis, and many of those horses competed in the bit as well. They include DJ Nick Bar, Imanonstop Princess, Frosty Feelins, 2008 WPRA World Champion Sugar Moon Express, Levin Lucille, Fols Classy Snazzy, Lady Perks and perhaps most memorably Willy Nick Bar, the only horse to sweep both rounds and the finals of the BFA World Championships.

“I rode with Celie for years, and I learned to use it while riding with her,” Kirkpatrick said. “What I see today is a lot of people using it for a lot of different reasons. I use it past a ring bit or snaffle to get more lift. That Loomis gives me more lift and shoulder control.”

Although she’s used all types of Loomis gags in the past, today she mostly uses the twisted mouthpiece with leather headstalls.

“I use the leather headstalls, because I only want to work with the corners of a horse’s mouth,” Kirkpatrick said. “If I have a horse that’s a little sensitive to the twist [mouthpiece], I try to ride that particular horse with lighter hands rather than go to a smooth mouthpiece. If they get overly sensitive or flinchy, I will put a smooth mouthpiece on them.”

Joyce Loomis Kernek.

Joyce Loomis Kernek

At her clinics, Dena advises her students to ride with a lot of feel in their hands. The key to the Loomis is riding with your fingers, mainly your pinky finger, and a little wrist movement. This play in your hand when riding with one hand is what Joyce refers to as “give and take.” Taking a solid hold during your training with a Loomis will dull a horse rather than make it lighter.

“You don’t ever ‘dead pull’ on them with it,” Kirkpatrick said. “If used incorrectly, it will actually encourage a horse to pull on you, and that’s counterproductive. If I do need to lighten one up, I’ll bump them on one side and then the other—a little see-saw for lack of a better description. Even when I ride them with something else, I’ll use the Loomis to lighten one up, to get more feel in the mouth and backed off the bit.”

After starting her 2-year-olds on the pattern in a snaffle, Dena will switch to a Loomis when she starts trotting the pattern.

“When I first put the Loomis on a 2-year-old after they’re ridden with a snaffle, it will take them a couple times to realize the different feel in their mouth, so I’ll wait until I’ve reintroduced the buttons they had with the snaffle,” Kirkpatrick said. “Usually the better broke they are to a snaffle, the easier it is to go to a Loomis. I almost always start my colts on the barrels with a snaffle, and then when they get to trotting and I want to lift their shoulders a little bit more and get more flex, I will put the Loomis on them.”

The Loomis also allows lift and flex without stalling a horse in a turn, which is vital for Kirkpatrick’s one-motion-turn training style. It also allows her to help a young horse on the backside of a barrel without hanging them in the turn.

“I get more flex and more shoulder lift but can still get the forward momentum with it,” Kirkpatrick said. “It has a lot of play, because it gags indefinitely and it’s not as direct into the corners of their mouth so you get more play in there. If you’re using a snaffle, it’s a direct pull in the corners of their mouth. When you bump the corner of their mouth in a snaffle, their face is going to come directly to that.”

The Loomis also allows for the use of an indirect rein. If you’re turning to the right and pulling to the right with the inside rein, that’s direct rein. If you need to shape the horse for a turn and you push the inside rein against the neck to get the horse to hold their position or move away, that’s indirect rein.

“The Loomis enhances what indirect rein means,” Kirkpatrick said. “In other words, stay up and around in a turn instead of leaning on the inside rein and dropping in on the barrel.”

If a horse gets to where it’s not listening to the Loomis on the pattern, Kirkpatrick will go back to her dry work to lighten the horse up. Most of the horses Kirkpatrick trains in a Loomis will make their first competition runs in one.

“I won’t switch to something else until I need to stand them up a little more,” Kirkpatrick said.

JB One Famous Dude, the 2009 BFA World Championship Futurity Reserve Champion, was switched to a Carol Goostree Simplicity due to his extreme speed and drop, even though he gets tuned in a Loomis.

“He wants to start dropping on me a bit going into the turn, and I can stand him up a little better [with the Goostree Simplicity],” Kirkpatrick said. “Even though in my slow work I use that Loomis to get a lot of flex and move their shoulders and keep their rear ends up under them, when they get to running they start to get in on you, and you don’t have much because the Loomis has so much play. So if they have a tendency to start their turns too soon, I’ll use a Simplicity because it’s not so different that they’re going to freak out and hang up, but I can stand them up going into a turn a little bit more with it. You can get them on their butt a little quicker.”

Kirkpatrick has also used the Loomis to desensitize super light horses.

“Say you’ve got a horse that’s really sensitive and every move you make is doing something, you can put that Loomis and hang it a little looser in their mouth,” Kirkpatrick said. “You can desensitize them with it because it has so much play; you can smooth them out. When you move your hand, nothing drastic happens. You can smooth out a horse that over-reacts.”

Kirkpatrick says the Loomis keeps her honest in her training.

“It helps me keep a horse where he needs to be instead of getting a bigger bit,” Kirkpatrick said. “When I ride with a Loomis, I know exactly where they are.” {continue to page 4}

Dena Kirkpatrick

Dena Kirkpatrick and Kate’s Always First. BHN file photo
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