Monday, October 14, 2013

Slimming Down

The title is not actually referencing me, or any of our horses. (Most of them are putting their winter 'padding' on, so are doing rather the opposite.) No, I'm actually talking about a bosal.

Brian and I got our first hackamore two years ago. Brian gave it to me for my birthday, and neither of us had ever seen a bosal in person (much less ridden in one) so it was a bit of a crapshoot in terms of knowing what to get. While it's a nice bosal, over time I have come slowly to understand it is not a great fit for Steen -- physically, or in terms of how it communicates. To sum up, it gaps at the edges of his nose, and it's stiff for him.

I've known this, but I haven't precisely known what to do about it. Lately, though, Brian and I have been talking about moving Steen into the two-rein. This is a tricky decision because I know he's not ready for it, but I suspect I won't know entirely how to get him ready until I try. Poor Steen is my eternal guinea pig. I have not ridden in a two-rein now any more than I'd ridden in a hackamore two years ago. We're learning as we go, and you gotta start somewhere.

Anyway, long story short, we've been drooling at two-rein stuff on the interwebs, and a week or so ago we came across a lightly used 3/8 bosal and mecate on ebay for a song. We couldn't resist. We bought it (to someday go under Steen's two-rein bridle) and of course, I had to try it out.

The new bosal is considerably thinner than the old one. It's also roo hide up top, which makes it much, much softer. It fits Steen like a dream, since it's soft enough to conform to his rather narrow nose.

Fitting is one thing, but I honestly wasn't sure how Steen would respond. Holding it in my hands before the ride, it seemed like nothing -- so soft, so flexible. Since Brian was riding Zoey in the outdoor arena, that's where we had our first ride in the new gear.

It turns out my reservations were ill founded. Steen loves the new hackamore. I have never felt him so light, so soft, so willing to collect, to move off pressure. I knew the old bosal was too harsh for him, but I didn't fully realize what it would be like to be able to communicate with him without that block between us. After a few calibrating laps, he settled in to the new set-up and was clearly just happy.

He was relaxed at all three gaits, happy to go, happy to stop, and when he backed, it was like nothing I've ever felt from him before. He rocked back on his haunches and pulled from behind.

After I rode around for a while, Brian got on. And although Steen was a little keyed up at first (because, you know, Brian isn't me), he settled in and before long, was giving Brian many of the same soft responses I felt.

Today, I wanted to try the new hackamore again, and in a less controlled environment. I went out alone and rode in the tree pasture. We had another great ride. I tested the limits in terms of how much Steen would feel at higher speeds, but even when I let him rocket from one side of the pasture to another, he was there and able to come back to me when I picked up on him. It's also so much easier to work on holding collection for longer periods, as I can encourage him into a deeper frame without causing him any discomfort.

So, definitely a better all-around response than I expected. I'm very curious to ride in it a bit more and see what happens as the newness wears off.

Horseback Hours YTD: 156:45

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