Well, I did it! I rode in my hackamore today! I figured before I came that as long as I was coming here I might as well bring my hackamore because it would be a great opportunity to get some pointers, and/or be told that I'm not ready yet. Yesterday I used my snaffle and Mac is being really good with all the commotion, including the mares that he loves, so after hearing Buck comment about the hackamore yesterday and today I decided to go for it.
I have a friend who is riding in the other Horsemanship 1 class and she asked him about trying the hackamore on her horse and he said it would be fine. He said you don't really know how it is going to go until you try it and if you're not ready or you find some holes then you go back to the snaffle and then try the hackamore again after you get some things shaped up. And maybe you go back and forth between the snaffle and the hackamore for a little while, but that's the way the progression goes.
He did list a lot of things that he wants the horse to be good in in the snaffle before moving on to the hackamore, and we've got a lot of those things down, so I thought I'd give it a go so Buck could at least tell me that I'm not ready, or if things look okay then he can give me some pointers.
Some of the things on the list are:
- walk/trot/canter on a "soft feel" as well as on a loose rein
- solid at simple changes
- lateral work (leg yields, shoulder in, haunches in, side pass)
- small circles at the canter (in balance, of course)
- cow work
- backing in circles
And so much more that I don't even remember right now.
In the other H1 class he's got Reuben in a hackamore (very early in it) and so he did talk a bit about using the reins and the progression of how you'd use them on a horse who is new to the hackamore with the goal of how you'll eventually use them. I asked him about using the reins and he said to start with wide hands and eventually you'll work toward keeping them in a smaller "box" or "rectangle" and the horse will bend around the rein vs. the rein being used as an opening rein, so to speak (like a snaffle on a green horse where you start with wide hands for basic steering and then eventually you bring your hands closer together and your aids get less and less visible). Sorry for the crappy picture but I only had my phone and I was far away.
So Mac was really good! We worked on flexions, getting the soft feel at the walk, shortening the walk steps and lengthening, the 180/180 exercise, serpentines, backing. He did give a tip on the second 180 in the exercise because a lot of people weren't getting it (front end moving over is the second half - after the back end moves over). Actually, a couple tips. One is that you start by bending the horse and moving the hind legs away from the inside leg (outside leg is off) - the tip here is that the front feet need to be still and your elbow of the inside hand needs to be at your hip. Then to move the front feet around the hind feet, you let the inside rein slide through your hands so that your hand is at your hip (where your elbow was) and you open your shoulder to the new direction, while bringing the outside rein to the neck and the outside leg is on the horse and the inside leg is off. I think I got that right. The hand position and the stopping of the front legs really made a difference for me.
I'm happy that I was brave enough to give it a try! And Buck didn't tell me I was not ready or that I should put the snaffle back on!
In other fun news, I also ordered custom chinks (the vendor was there this morning after all and had some made that mostly fit me except they were a little short and I didn't 100% love the color so I decided to order just what I wanted - bad news is they'll take 7 months!). And I bought a rope! Can you believe it?! I said I'd never get a rope and here I am with one. Buck was talking and demonstrating all of the groundwork things you can do with a rope and so I got one. And I did play with it a bit with Mac in his paddock where no one could see me. Mac was good - I got the rope around his belly (with the free end, not the looped end) and had him walk around me with it. I got it around his butt (looped end). I got it around a front pastern (looped end) and moved the leg and put it down. I got it around a hind pastern (unlooped) and had him give to pressure. Then I took him back to his stall and as we were walking I threw it out in front of him and dragged it behind me and all that jazz. I couldn't think of much else to do and I didn't want to drill him anyway so I called it a day with the rope. I'll have to practice throwing it at home first on my own on the ground, but then from the saddle! But you heard it here - I won't be doing any actual roping!