Saturday, December 10, 2011

Bareback in the Hackamore

Brian and I wanted to get to the barn early this morning in hopes of having the indoor arena to ourselves. The thermometer said 7° when we got up and 10° when we left the house. I pulled out all the stops as far as my wardrobe is concerned, digging out my sock liners, helmet liner and turtle fur neck warmer.

We got the horses into the barn and Steen was very fidgety while I groomed him. He wasn't doing anything bad, he just kept moving his front feet around. Due to the cold, I wanted to go bareback, and since I wasn't going to be working on loping, I decided to try out the hackamore again.


Steen seemed annoyed with it when I first put it on, and then distracted when I took him into the arena to mount. So distracted that I took a step back and did groundwork. He was overly energetic when I asked him to move, so we worked on yielding the forequarters and hindquarters until he was seeming more focused.


We worked on some backing, too.


Then I got on, and I asked for the soft feel and some flexes. These came without trouble, so I asked for the walk. Then for just a minute Steen started going a bit nuts. He started flinging his head from side to side so hard he was knocking himself off balance. I had half a second where I considering bailing, but then the spasm passed and he was over it. I didn't get another head toss the whole ride.

Still, the little adrenaline rush I got from that moment got me nice and toasty. As the ride went on the day warmed into the teens. I actually became too warm and had to unzip and unbutton several layers. I forgot how much more physically demanding it is to ride bareback, even when the horse is just walking, and of course Steen was generating a fair bit of heat as well.

Steen and I spent a lot of time at the walk today, working on the soft feel, collection, controlling speed within the gait, disengages of both ends, and short-serpentines. The ride went in a sort of arc. It started off great. He was bending to a very light touch and, though very energetic, he was attentive. Then I perhaps over did it on asking for things, and I think he got a little burned out. I felt him stiffen up like he did the last couple times I rode in the hackamore, so I backed off and worked on large figure-eights using only one hand and my seat. When he started to feel more relaxed and softer, I moved back into short-serpentines. I took them very slowly, though, and gave him time to feel his way back into bending. It worked. He softened back up and the stiff feeling went away.

We also spend quite a bit of time at the trot. Steen has been nailing the downward transition between trot and walk lately, which is very cool since downward transitions have always been his weak spot. We also got some fantastic stops and backs. He was really stepping out backwards in a way he doesn't tend to do in the snaffle.

In equally exciting news, Brian had another great ride on Bear in the new saddle. We checked for kinks and stiffness in Bear's back after the ride and found nothing, even though we rode for an hour.


So, I am very encouraged by my largely positive ride in the hackamore. I might end up using it fairly often this winter after all.

And most exciting of all, Brian and I both hit our 100 hour goal today. With weeks to spare, no less.

Ride Time: 1:00
Horseback hours YTD: 100:30

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