Earlier this week before heading off to the Equine Affaire I had a session with Apache and for the first time a session with his young pasture mate Max.
Apache, who has progressively gotten lighter and more balanced was the best he has been. The breakthrough in thinking for me this week was fascilitated by my mom's mare Cora. We have recently decided to sell her which kicked in some of my old way of thinking around obedience and expectations. I began imagining all the situations she was going to be in and began to demand more. This worked progressively less well with a little more stress in each session until I demanded Cora turn left when she wanted to go right and she took lame short choppy steps. This for lack of a better statement, woke me up. This wasn't working and it was not a path I wanted to revisit. We stopped for a moment and then began again. This time I recommitted to following Cora's bend no matter where she went in the ring with the prerequisite expectation that she continued trotting. And just like that everything changed. It finally clicked for me what it meant to align the horse rather than demand obedience. And also what it means to set a horse up and allow them to execute the movement. When they are gaining strength and coordination it doesn't matter where the movement happens but that it happens in alignment. This gains trust and they become willing to give the movement when asked. We finished with the most beautiful right hand circle I had ever ridden on Cora with true bend and a beautiful rhythmic gorgeous trot. And just like that we were friends again and all the stress had melted away. With renewed understanding I approached the rest of my rides before going out of town this way.
This resulted in a flowing fun ride on Apache with more bend then we had recently had. We also began trot to halt transitions with only a couple of walk steps and the left hind beginning to come square rather than trailing out behind. Apache was feeling and responding to the changes in my back and I was able to stay patient enough to see and feel that. Again I was confirming within myself that it is ok to wait and avoid the confrontation that come from demanding obedience immediately.
Next I worked with Max, who is very young and just beginning ring work with only some trail riding under saddle. I began on the ground. This was the first time for Max to wear the Ultimate Bitless Bridle and I wanted to introduce him to his ability to release it. I spent 10-15 minutes asking him to move forward while standing in riding position. Especially in the beginning when I do this the horses want to turn and face me. I gently block their face and keep my belly button facing forward with my body at the girth. Max did a lot of licking and chewing, learning how to release the bridle himself and eventually took forward steps. After he was confident going forward when I asked I got on him and was very happy with his turning and stopping. I continued asking him to go forward and even got a beautiful canter. I noticed it was harder to keep my balance on his wiggly shifting back and since he is so small I made sure that I was staying as straight and balanced as I could to stabilize his back. It was fun to be on a youngster and an honor to be doing the beginning work with his young mind. I look forward to his future sessions.
In conclusion, with the understanding that bend and straightness come from a coordinated back that then produces a neck position it becomes possible to conceive how one can ride without a bit or even without anything on the head at all. If however one is attempting to produce bend and straightness from the neck position it is impossible to conceive how it would be done without a bit.
Coming up next, Equine Affaire experiences