Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More rides in the hackamore!

Well I've had four rides in the hackamore this week - yay!

My first two rides were in the arena - the first one doing walk work only. The second ride I set up some cavaletti and after doing a bit of ground work over the cavaletti (trot circles), I used them in my walk warm up. You'll see in the photos below how the cavaletti were set up, and I did a "cloverleaf" pattern over them.

I think the bosal fits Mac's nose better since using the shaping block, but I didn't get as good a tie-back of the hanger as I should have in this ride.

I did video myself on the second ride where I trotted in some circles, but it is too choppy (as I spent half the time out of the view of the camera) to show you, so you'll have to settle for some pictures, instead. Here we are just walking.

And trotting.

I got some advice about working in the hackamore. One piece of advice is to let him get used to the equipment before asking for too much, which is kind of like "duh" but it was a helpful reminder, since the action of this is different from working in the snaffle. I was told that the horse needs to learn to find the balance of the bosal and to find a "neutral" position where he'll carry it naturally, then when I signal him, picking up a rein will actually mean something.

Here's Mac at the halt (you can see the cavaletti set up in the background - we used these in our warm up - there are lots of fun exercises you can do).

The other good advice I got was to take him on a trail ride in the hackamore so we can just walk along on a loose rein (that neutral position) and he can get used to it and we won't have to turn all the time like we would in an arena. I will admit I was nervous because I don't really feel like I have a lot of control with it because I'm not really educated on how to use it. But then I reminded myself that I've ridden him bitless on the trails plenty of times and many times I'll just loop the reins over the horn and not use them at all - plus, he's better on the trails than he is in an arena.

So we went on a trail ride yesterday. We mostly walked but did a little trot and canter and some leg yields and bending - it was a lovely ride! Because he was great yesterday, it gave me confidence to go again today. I worked on focusing on that "neutral" position and then noticing when I needed to use an aid and then trying to use my legs first before hand. If you didn't know anything about riding and you saw me you'd think I was just chillin' out on a trail ride, but there was a lot of thinking going on!

Here's another cute picture - this is after we were done at home the other day.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

New saddle pad!

What could be more exciting? ;-) Well, lots of things, actually. I love the pad I got from Riding Warehouse, but was of course intrigued by the same pad with "ultra-cell" inserts, so I bought a Coolback pad with the inserts. My arena has finally dried out enough that I could ride in it (although there's still a big puddle at one end) so today I did!

Here's Mac's new pad.

As eager as I am to try the hackamore again, I thought that it is better to be safe than sorry and since I haven't ridden in two weeks, I'd go for the safer bet of doing a bit of ground work first and then riding in the snaffle. Ground work was good, we did about 15 minutes of checking in with walk and trot circles, figure eights (love that exercise - thanks to Bryan Neubert for teaching it), head lowering, backing, and me asking Mac to just look to one side and then the other with just a suggestion of movement from the lead rope (while I was standing facing him).

Got on and had the usual warm up with circles and moving the haunches and then the shoulders, then moved into the trot. For some reason, Mac really wanted to walk through the big puddle at the end of the arena. We did it once, but then I had to actually pull him away from it after that!

Did some trot circles, some shoulder in to haunches in back and forth, had some great canter work, trotted some cavaletti (and after our SI/HI, he was so supple that we could really to a narrow turn in a balanced fashion - fun!), and finished with some nice transitions. It was a surprisingly nice ride - I was prepared for some antics, but he was perfectly behaved. Could be because it was pretty warm today and he's shedding his winter coat so didn't want to act goofy.

Or, it could be my new saddle pad!

Maybe I'll be brave and try the hackamore tomorrow.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Shaping the bosal

As I mentioned in my last post, Mac's bosal needs to be shaped to his head. It should fit like a hat - not tight, but with even contact all around and snug enough that it wouldn't just fall off his nose if there weren't a hanger there.

I took a romex wire and measured the shape of Mac's nose. Then I traced that shape onto paper. You can see how his nose is narrower than the bosal.

I laid the bosal over the tracing for a better view.

Being the wonderful, fabulous husband that he is, Colin took the tracing and shaped a wooden block for me.

You can see where the gaps are on the sides. Colin was also kind enough to lend me one of his hockey skate laces, which are very long, to tie the bosal to the block. The requisite cat inspection is evidenced below.

It has been a couple days now, so I'll untie it tonight and see how it fared. Unfortunately (or fortunately, because we are in a drought), we've had so much rain that I haven't been able to ride since last time (well, that's an obvious statement) - almost two weeks now. I've got a few days off from work coming up so hopefully the weather will cooperate and I'll get back to my training!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

First ride in the hackamore!

Last week I got my horsehair mecate and so thought, what the heck, and after a fun trail ride with friends on Sunday, tried Mac in the hackamore on Monday.

I didn't know what to expect and was a bit nervous about it. I've ridden him in a bitless bridle before and he's been very good, but this piece of equipment is so new to me that I'm afraid of 1) ruining the lovely piece of art that is the bosal, and/or 2) ruining my horse. But, I'm so eager to at least try that I thought I'd do just a short 20 minutes or so of just walking and playing around.

After getting the mecate tied on, I took Mac out to the arena leading him with the rope halter and bringing the hackamore along so I could do some ground work first. Mac seemed in a fine mood, so I put the hackamore on, made a small adjustment to the length of the hanger, and then walked around, leading him. He was very responsive right away. Hmmmm...interesting. Then something in the bushes got him going a little bit and I had a quick decision to make. Whereas I may usually get those feet moving so he can both blow it out and I can get his attention back, I didn't want to do that with the hackamore. There's really not much holding it on his head, we're both not used to it, and I didn't want to get into any trouble. So I quickly decided that I'd focus on my own energy, talking to him, and asking him for little flexions with his head and lowering his head from pressure on the poll. It worked and he mentally came back to me. We walked around a little more, did some more flexions and basic leading exercises, and since he seemed to be in a good mood, I decided to hop on.

We pretty much just did the same thing under saddle as we did from the ground. Small circles, flexions, bending, transitions, change of direction, moving the shoulder/moving the haunches, and finished with a little backing. In all, we worked for about 20 minutes.

The bosal needs to be shaped to his face, as there's too much of a gap on the sides, as you can see here:

But he looks pretty handsome, doesn't he?!

I ordered him a black saddle pad that has inserts so we'll see how he likes that. Lots to update in the coming week!