Friday, March 30, 2012

Indoor Hackamore Ride

We had a storm last night, so things were mushy out a the barn. We decided to ride indoors today. I've been meaning to use my hackamore again, and thought the quieter indoor space would be a good opportunity to do that. Steen always seems a tad confused when I put it on him (once or twice he's even tried to take the bosal in his mouth) but today he didn't show the slightest annoyance about it, unlike previous rides where he's tossed his head a few times. I think all the work I did softening and shaping it has made it a lot more comfortable.

I find it so difficult to describe the ways Steen feels different in the hackamore, but today most of the issues we've had in the past didn't appear. He didn't stiffen up on me over the course of the ride, and he didn't seem to have the same difficulty understanding pulls to the side.

I spent the whole ride trying to be gentle but also militant about asking for the soft feel. Every time I asked for a downward transition, I left (light) pressure on the reins until Steen gave. This is hard when he does things like give me a really excellent stop without ever softening. A number of times we'd end up standing there for a minute and Steen would tuck his head into this collected frame but still not give to the pressure. Then I could see his brain start working, going, "Hmm, no release yet. What haven't I done?" Then he'd dip his chin and I'd give him a release and some pets.

What is cool about Steen lately is it seems like he's starting to think more about what I'm asking. He's learned release always comes, he just has to find the right answer to get it. I also think it helps that I am becoming better at using my legs to steer. I rely less on the reins in general, so the different headgear changes a smaller percentage of our communication.

The whole ride was good, but the best part was the loping exercise Brian and I do sometimes. We lope a lap, then walk a lap, trying to stay half an arena apart. Steen was great for this. He picked up the lope when asked, stopped when asked, and walked in between. Some of his stops (particularly towards the end) had some serious effort behind them.

The thing we were the worst at is the leg yields, but while they weren't awesome, he was trying. So I think I'm going to start trying to work the hackamore into my routine on a more regular basis. It was so interesting to use it the first time around and discover where all my weak spots were. I think I've done a decent job patching those. So now I guess I'll keep using it until I find other glaring errors I somehow overlooked in the snaffle.

Horseback hours YTD: 27:00

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